Recently the Geekdad writer on Wired (who I follow regularly) posted an interesting article on whether the iPad is the death of creation.
The article can be found here:
I agree with his concerns and I think he has raised a valid point. I think it's quite possible to come to the conclusion that Apple users have now become sheep who avidly consume all content which appears the App store. I myself am a case in point as I spend a fair bit of time working on Angry Birds levels. The new Motorola Xoom tablet ad shown during the Super Bowl in the states alluded to this as well showing automatons blinkered from the world quite literally through their hoods but also their headphones. For anyone who missed the Apple allusion the main character was reading 1984 on his tablet.
As a teacher working on the problem of iPads in education the issue of consumption versus creation is a thorny one. I would certainly not want to suggest the use of tablets if they were only consumption devices (eg the Kindle which is a pseudo-tablet) but rather if they were used regularly as creation devices. The Geekdad writer acknowledges that there is some content creation aspect to the iPad but it merely abstracts the nuts and bolts of the technology. I'm not sure what he is getting at but perhaps the following outline of how to approach the iPand and creation versus consumption may help.
I would propose that in assessing the iPad for school one would need to look at three aspects:
- Consumption of Content
- Content Creation
- Assistance with Content Creation
1. Consumption of content
This has to happen regardless of how you view the iPad. One aspect of education itself is being able to make sense of the reams of information available to one and if your device can help you make sense of that then fantastic. The ability to use the iPad to access information in the form of ebooks, websites, RSS readers etc would be a great way for a pupil to harness what they have available to them. Doing it using a form factor which is engaging and simple (no keyboard getting in the way) to use is a plus point.
2. Content Creation
Admittedly this is an area which could grow a bit more as the freedom of full desktop applications such as programming or graphic design applications may not be as readily available for the iPad but as the device grows in power and capability this may change. Certainly there are applications like Brushes which allow for full scale drawing on the iPad and this is a start.
Where I feel the iPad wins is its ability to allow pupils to easily add straight forward written content on social networks and blogs. Does this turn it into a glorified typewriter? Possibly but when you consider that these contributions to social networks and blogs open up the avenue towards collaboration with other pupils in not just their own school but other schools as well the iPad becomes a lot more powerful.
3. Assistance with Content Creation
This aspect I am still thrashing out as I only came up with it in response to the article! I have seen pictures of iPads being used in various lessons like Art and Drama or being used as a storyboard utility for pupil film editing. This I feel is a prime example of how the iPad could be used to assist pupils in creating content and work outside of the iPad which has been enhanced or made easier through the use of the iPad.
In conclusion I would say the iPad does have a way to go before it becomes a must use utility in schools. I am wary of schools which have simply rolled them out and hoped the educational usage will come to them after that – I think that is an irresponsible way of doing it and could probably put off staff and pupils if managed badly. School's need bullet proof plans for rolling them out especially if one looks at the cost not just of the devices (I can't even afford one yet) but also of the support systems such as Wi-Fi.
Effective and critical questioning from parents such as the sentiments expressed in this article are valid and necessary in being able to see a way forward for iPads. I hope we get there at some point as I think they are brilliant devices.