Since the day it began to be sold on April, 3 2010, the iPad has revolutionized the way that people communicate, follow the current events, but also how they learn because the iPads are now more and more omnipresent in our classrooms. The iPad are, as you know, a line of tablet computers marketed by Apple. It serves as a platform for media such as music, movies and books. Basically, if you want to do various things with your iPad, you have to install Apps from their store: iTunes. Much like all the Apple devices which include iPod, iPhone, you will only be able to run programs approved by Apple on your iPad which will limit your access to some App. The iPad is designed to allow you to connect yourself on the Internet or on the network of your house, but also everywhere else where you have access to Internet which include schools. In this blog, we will see the pros and cons of having this technology in our school system.
First of all, the iPad allows students to have access to multiple resources. Having an iPad in their hands give them the opportunity to be helped by multiple Apps that will, at the end, provide better school grades. Instead of having to go to a computer lab to search for information about a specific subject or how to write a specific word in English, you only have to use an App on your iPad that will tell you instantly. Having access to information will also help the teacher to include cultural references during his courses. Like it is specified in the “Instrument de développement professionnel” of the government of Quebec, the teacher has to act as professional, a critic and interpreter of objects of culture in the exercise of his duties. If he has the opportunity to teach students with an iPad, he will become more efficient because he will be able to guide his students towards cultural things and events that will bring a questioning in their head. In a survey about the use of iPad by Quebec in class, half of the teachers admitted that “it opened up better access to information, 40 per cent cited the easy portability of the devices, and about a third said it allowed for greater collaboration”. Having an easy access to information will put the focus on the content of the activity and what is being learned and not on how it will be possible to have information about a subject. Having the possibility to put your finger on a screen and instantly get information about the current events or historical events because you have the App of “ABC”, “Discovery channel” or “The New York Times” is a wonderful perspective.
Secondly, the use of iPad will also motivate students to learn. Let’s be honest, reading a book is not as cool as going on a tablet to get the same content. Our job as teachers is to get students involved in their learning. If a student, because of the iPad, is excited by his learning, our goal is reached. All the studies say the same thing, a student who is motivated is a student who is going to learn. It is now their technology and they learn better when they use it because it is a common thing for them. Like Coleman Kells, principal of Amelia Earhart Middle School says, “the iPad seems to help students better connect with the content at hand. Students’ interaction with the device was more personal. You could tell students were more engaged. Using the iPad was more normal, more understandable for them.” A text or a story on an iPad will definitely get their interest which will take their learning deeper.
Thirdly, after the presentation of Mark Miller in my Computer Apps class, I realized that iPad is a perfect tool for video creation. Using an App such as “Educreations” will help students to learn because of various reasons. For example, as a future teacher, I can already see myself explaining a lesson on Educreations and then share it will all the iPad in my class, so every time they have a question about the use of plural, they can go back and see the video that I did. I can also ask them to do a presentation on draw that they did on Educreations and explain it. The students who always stress out when they are in front of class will be able to reach their highest potential because they will only have to record their voice with their iPad. I know that we have to get the students able to speak in front of a class, but I think for some project it is useful to give the same opportunity to succeed to more shy students. Sandra Williamson-Leadley of the University of Otago College of Education in Dunedin, New Zealand says that the three main benefits of using Educreations in a classroom were that “the students were motivated and engaged, that students and teachers could use the recorded student assessment to promote dialogue by ‘going back’ and ‘going forward’; and that students could choose to “jot down” their thinking onto the iPad screen when problem solving”. Creativity is another competency that students have to develop and I think that iPad is perfect for that. Like I said before, they can decide to draw or to create anything on an App like Educreations, so sky is the limit when you ask them to be creative. For example, a thing that could be done with first grade students is asking them to build a rocket with different shapes and then ask them to describe their rocket with all the colors of the items. It will ask them to be creative, but also to improve their oral skills.
Fourthly, there are some drawbacks related to the use of iPad. The first one is obvious and it is the price. I really think that schools could invest their money in laptops and it will be a better investment, but if they are sold on the iPad that’s fine. My major drawback is the fact that students from elementary school to college, if not extremely supervised, will be distracted by this tool. If, for example, you ask them to use their iPad to do something with their iPad without clear instructions and rules, what do you think they will do? They will go on Facebook or play flappy bird. That’s the reality. Like I saw in my stage I, a pencil case which fall off a desk will get my grade 5 students distracted. What do you think an iPad could do? The study about the use of iPad by Quebec students stipulates that “the greatest challenge for the teachers, who found it a major headache, was that the touchpads provided distraction for the students. They enabled the students to do something other than listen to the teacher, and perhaps too easily so. Even at a young age, the students soon discovered the iMessage and networking functions that diverted their attention so frequently”. I really think that when it doesn’t add anything to students’ learning, iPads should not be used.
As you see, iPad, when used appropriately, can be a wonderful tool. The teacher only has to use the right Apps on it and when it is appropriate to do so. The iPad really reaches all the goals of an ESL classroom which are stimulating and motivating student’s learning.