One of the most challenging lessons for schools to learn in implementing iPads is that the iPad is not a laptop. The conversation can sometimes get bogged down around the device, trapping schools in these definitions as they lose sight of the central reasons to use technology:
To enhance teaching and learning
To differentiate instruction
To personalize the learning experience
To solve authentic problems where technology must be used to solve those problems
This is not an easy lesson. It requires a paradigm shift in teaching and learning.
iPads vs. Laptops
It’s worth noting the different features of laptops and iPads and to see the benefit of both devices.
While the laptop is heavy, takes a long time to boot up, and is often used as a word processing tool with typing and keyboarding being paramount, it’s also a powerful device for computer programming and accessing Adobe Flash-based simulations, particularly in the sciences. And the laptop is not bound by the app store. Many adults often prefer using a laptop over an iPad. And many students feel the same way. The laptop is often the default go-to device, full of power and possibility.
The shift to iPads over laptops does not have to be a zero sum game. The ideal setting, being adopted by many schools, is moving to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs to allow for flexibility and for students to work on their own devices. And BYOD also shifts the conversation away from the device and toward the learning experience. In other words, based on the learning experience, which device will best allow students to achieve the learning objectives? It might be a laptop or a tablet — or even a smartphone.
It’s morning assembly, and Form One students at Pui Ching Middle School, have their iPads ready. It’s the same story in their English and Chinese classes. As they listen to the news, read poems or watch other media on the screens in front of them, the students are preparing to put forward their thoughts via projector linked to their devices.
They are a pioneering group in a school already at the forefront of e-learning. From this autumn, the use of iPads will be rolled out to Form Two and Form Four classes. The school already has its own online learning system with various teaching materials and activities, and its students chat with one another on Facebook or the online course management system Moodle.
But it could take a while before Hong Kong schools use e-books extensively. That is despite the government initiative launched in November, which encourages 30 publishers to digitise their textbooks. The E-Textbook Market Development Scheme, which involves 88 schools testing the e-books under a Partner Schools Scheme, is spending HK$26 million for publishers to produce about 30 e-textbooks, which are expected to be available for use in the 2014-15 school year.
With their interactive touch screens, easy portability, and quick boot-up time, tablets are increasingly becoming schools’ classroom computers of choice. And while many schools have invested in Apple’s revolutionary iPad, which started the whole tablet computing craze, a number of other suitable options have emerged to give school leaders more choices.
Last month, for instance, both Microsoft and Google unveiled new tablet computers. Microsoft is positioning its 10.6-inch tablet, which attaches to a removable rubberized keyboard and runs on its latest operating system, Windows 8, as better than the iPad in terms of productivity. At $199, Google’s new 7-inch device, the Nexus 7, is more of a competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Fire than the $499, 9.7-inch iPad—but it will have a front-facing camera and will run on the latest version of Google’s Android OS.
With so many options at varying price points and with different educational capabilities, choosing the right tablet can be overwhelming. Besides the new Microsoft and Google devices, here are seven other iPad alternatives to consider—three of which were designed specifically for schools.
The LMS was once the undisputed center of the digital learning ecosystem. But on many campuses, the situation has changed such that the campus online learning environment might be better viewed as a continuum, with the LMS at one end and a student’s own collection of applications, tools, and websites at the other. This proliferation of tools has created a more robust and varied teaching and learning environment, one that is frequently managed actively by students or by faculty who are seeking alternatives not offered by local IT. The value may extend beyond students’ relationship with technology, helping them become better organizers and more savvy consumers as they assume more responsibility for their own learning.
The “7 Things You Should Know About…” series from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) provides concise information on emerging learning technologies. Each brief focuses on a single technology and describes what it is, where it is going, and why it matters to teaching and learning. Use these briefs for a no-jargon, quick overview of a topic and share them with time-pressed colleagues.
This bulletin provides an overview of the current state of mobile learning in higher education, speculates on future directions, and suggests questions that educators might ask of themselves and their institutions in preparation for the onset of mobile education. Ignoring mobile learning is not an option when it has already begun to show a strong potential to disrupt existing pedagogical infrastructure, including that of online education. It is up to those in higher education to adapt this freewheeling trend to best serve the core mission of educating students.
Citation for this Work: Rick Oller. “The Future of Mobile Learning” (Research Bulletin). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, May 1, 2012, available from http://www.educause.edu/ecar.