Less than a year ago, my initial infographic (compiled from info from various blogs and articles on the topic of what the iPad can and cannot do) consisted of this very debate: consumption vs. production. Many of the first iPad lessons that I created were written to use the iPad for consumption: research, collecting data, writing prompts, virtual tours, and inspiration for upcoming projects. The suggested final product or writing assignment was to be completed with a Web 2.0 tool or available peripheral.
Flash-forward (pun intended) ten months or so and the iPad2 with camera and video capability as well as an ever-evolving prolific store of apps (which I get lost in for hours a night) has rapidly morphed the way I use my iPad and how I promote its use in the classroom. Yes ArounderTouch and Tour Wrist are phenomenal apps for virtual 360 tours, but why not create a tour with Photosynth or DerManDar. There are thousands of ebooks and interactive book apps available for all ages, but now you can create your own with Calibre or by simply saving a document as a PDF or ePub and dragging it into iBooks. You can watch a puppet show about Tortoise & the Hare or a 60second Recap of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but why not create your own with Puppet Pals or Sock Puppets.
I will say that I am biased (being a Mac User, iPhone Geek, and iPad enthusiast… yes, I own and often appear in all of these Apple-related fashion items) towards the iPad as the tablet for education because I do find it to be so intuitive and I have some brand loyalty. Above and beyond that, whatever tablet or device you choose to implement needs to be used as a learner-centered tool for communication with multimedia and as a global consumer. After reading much of the lively discussion on iPads in Education and how they are used in the classroom, I believe many of the contributors would tend to agree that it is truly not about the tech but the teach:
- What are we asking students to do with the device?
- Has our pedagogy changed?
- Are the devices being used to foster learning and innovation while providing a platform for differentiated instruction or are they being used as a lighter version of a textbook?
- Furthermore, are we teaching digital and media literacy and producing critical consumers?
- Are students able to evaluate the information they consume?
Stepping down from my soapbox, I am confronted with another issue. The campuses I support have not initiated a 1:1 ratio and the iPad was never truly intended to be a multi-user device. While it is sometimes appropriate to have students surf the internet to research a topic, launch an app to track earthquakes, or reshuffle their deck of vocabulary words in iCardSort before the next user, it often presents an issue when you desire to have students produce rather than consume.
While I use my iPad to produce videos, photos, and mindmaps on a regular basis, logistically this presents a hurdle when you want to mass produce these products class period to period.
- Image Products: If you are using free apps (which I am inclined to do so due to the VPP being a tad bit convaluded and time-consuming for educators), you may only be able to create one product at a time like in Popplet Lite which means students will need to either save the image to the photo library or email it. If you have enabled the email feature, how did you create the email? Is it a school email or a department email? Who will be responsible for checking it (especially if this is not a class set of iPads and is meant to be used on a revolving basis with the department, grade level, and/or team)? If you intend to pull the photos off the devices at the end of the day, who has the syncing computer and will it be an issue that students will have access to other students mindmaps or products in the photo library before creating their own?
- Video Products: Most video products are either saved to the video library on the device or must be uploaded to YouTube. Again, will teachers wait till the end of the day to pull off all of the video products when they sync each device or will they allow students to upload products to Youtube? If students are uploading to Youtube, who’s email account are they using and is this process highlighted in the Acceptable Use Policy for the district?
- Annotations: I love the idea of annotating PDF’s and books. However, this process was meant to be done as a single-user. If you highlight and take notes in a book in iBooks in period 1, the same notes will be available to the user in period 2. If this were to be an ongoing project or the annotation process was to be similar for each class, this presents an issue. While you can email the notes, is it realistic for each student to do this each period as the notes will compile and be duplicated? Do we open a PDF in Doodle Buddy instead? Or do we morph the project to accommodate the device? Will one class period highlight and annotate based on character traits, another on theme, and another on setting and imagery? If so, this is a welcome change, but a change nonetheless to how we deliver instruction and how students communicate.
Though I find it easier to use a Neo2 with Google Docs capabilities in conjunction with the device or a Google Docs account on the device for word-processing and collaborative writing, other products do not have such a simple solution. I am in no way trying to be a Debbie Device Downer or trying to deter teachers from implementing the devices in their classrooms. On the contrary, I want to encourage and promote the use of the devices to fundamentally better pedagogical practices, instruction, learning, and education at its core but at the same time I think this is a worthy valid discussion:
- What are the logistics involved with using the iPads as multi-user devices in schools for production?
- How are the devices managed?
- Do we connect them to a wireless printer, create email accounts, set up class Dropboxes and YouTube accounts?
- How do we manage the submission of products at the elementary and secondary level?
- Will/should the plan differ from elementary to high school?
- Does every product have to be submitted or can teachers deploy another way to grade and evaluate student creations?
As with anything, I am sure that my qualms will be distant post as soon as the iOS 5 and iCloud capabilities are launched and fully realized. But in the meantime, it is worth pondering as we integrate these devices into our daily life and classroom.