The Ipad Phenonemon

More and more schools are adopting the Ipad as their preferred 1-1 tool going forward, some in the Ipad trolley model I talked about earlier and some taking the decision to replace their traditional (how funny that sounds now) notebook program with an Ipad 1-1 program. It seems to be particularly happening in Queensland for some reason, whereas I think Victoria has formerly led the way in Australia with 1-1 notebook programs.

Redlands College has an Ipad portal, and there’s a detailed blog post here about their thinking on this.  I like the detail and depth of the thinking and that they’re clearly not simply following this as the latest fad, but see key advantages in this approach. It sound careful and logical and structured; and that’s how change and innovation should be managed.

The iPad trolley

I know it’s somehow inevitable, maybe even a good sign in some ways, but I was also kind of sad to see this ad in a teacher magazine today: the iPad trolley. Coming soon.

Surely of all the 1-1 tools we’ve yet seen the iPad is the most personal and personalisable device? Surely this s a device that students might actually own? Rather than be rolled out on special occasions to ‘do’ technology. A bit like the ‘education revolution’ promised? (sighs)

Nice trolley though.

Writing on the IPad

Had my first experience of using the iPad in a real life writing session this week in a longish briefing on the Australian Curriculum. Three hours or so in an uncomfortable little seat all squashed up I was pretty glad I wasn’t balancing a full sized widescreen Dell or something and was interested to see how the iPad would go.

The answer was, pretty well. Battery life wasn’t going to be an issue meaning I didn’t have to fight the early arrivers who’d already camped on the four power points available. I used to do that I thought smugly!

So I got settled and got ready to take my notes and suddenly thought, what am I going to take my notes with? Evernote? A bit clunky for note taking. IA Writer, nice distraction free app but no formatting. And no formatting either for Notesy, which I finally decided upon, and which worked well and was happy knowing it would sync with Dropbox in the background. Don’t know what app others would recommend bit k did go home and buy Pages that night, for the formatting options. Would have loved an app for OneNote, which is where these notes were heading in the long run anyway. Not that I could actually get my notes off the ipad when I got back to work. For all the talk about the cloud and anytime anywhere computing, Windows networks don’t play well with other tools. I got the notes on to my computer finally when I got home to own little network.

Oh, and four phones went off in the meeting with each of the recipients doing that mock-sheepish thing where they hurry out of the room trying to look simultaneously embarrassed and important, but all the time actually taking the call as they go. If it was a student what would everyone be saying about those young people and their technology?

Ipad Vs Notebook Computer

Since I blogged a little while ago about how I didn’t see the Ipad as a primary learning tool in a senior classroom (say Year 8 upwards?) I just keep noticing educators who say it can be just that. Some of the most recent schools I’ve seen taking this approach are right here in Australia, in sunny Queensland.

Ipswich’s West Moreton Anglican School has a terrific, energetic blog explaining how students should use their ipad, including an enthusiastic reference to my favorite cloud tool, Dropbox. Here’s a screenshot of their blog today:

They also have a section of their web page where they make the case for ipads. They say:

iPads are a new kind of ICT device that is designed to complement rather than replace desktop or laptop computers (though for some uses, iPads supersede desktop/laptop computers). The Apple iPad:

• is a touch screen device

• uses a wireless connection for networks

• automatically saves files, which can be shared via the internet and wireless networks

• connects to Windows or Mac computers using iTunes (which is free) to sync and back-up

• Apps (software) are purchased/accessed and installed via the App Store

• uses the iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) to open, edit, save and export Microsoft Office files (other apps for accessing Office file formats are available).

For more information about iPads, visit: http://www.apple.com/au/ipad/.

Why has WestMAC selected the iPad for our
1-to-1 programme at Year 12?

The Apple iPad is an innovative, new form of ICT that is particularly well suited to learning environments. Our testing to this point in time suggests:

• The iPad’s compact size, ease of transportability and design means it can be used in almost any learning situation

• long battery life will allow it to be used all day at school without recharging

• it is instantly on, simple to use and manage, and very easy to read

• files are automatically saved and can be stored in the ‘cloud’ and shared in various ways

• the operating system and apps promote collaboration

• the level of interactivity and highly diverse modes of use will support innovative learning opportunities not possible with other forms of ICT.

In essence, the iPad is the ideal device for anywhere anytime learning.

For these and other reasons, we have selected the iPad as the best tool for 1-to-1 ICT access at West Moreton Anglican College. It should be noted, however, that the iPad is not meant to be a replacement for specialist laptop or desktop computers in schools (nor homes), so other forms of ICT will still be available.

Another advantage of this method for achieving 1-to-1 ICT access, unlike 1-to-1 laptop programmes, is that the iPad will not replicate nor directly impact on family decisions about ICT purchases. Our parent survey conducted in Term 4, 2010 indicated families have already invested in ICT: 100% of respondents had a family computer and 68% of respondents have more than one household computer. In addition, 93.8% of respondents indicated that they believed it was ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for their children to engage with technology and online learning opportunities. iPads support this requirement and connect with any modern Windows and Mac computer using iTunes (which is free).

I like the clarity of the thinking and they include a page of links to web sites about ipads in education. It doesn’t mean I actually agree, but it’s great to see some schools challenging the orthodoxy of the thinking around the best tools for students.

St Hilda’s School on the Gold Coast in Queensland, has taken a similar approach, adopting Ipads as the critical tool for students and making a case for e-books in the process.

You can read their full list of IT FAQS yourself, but their key argument for the ipad, put together by Geoff Powell is below. It’s interesting that they see the Ipad working in partnership with a computer at home.

Why should I get an iPad and not a laptop?

We have spent a considerable amount of time testing the iPad in school situations and we are convinced it will achieve all that we require (and more) in regular class situations. For example the iPad will access the Internet, School Email and our Blackboard Online Curriculum. It will allow you to Word Process, create Spreadsheets and complete Presentations.

The iPad is very light, only 660gm, and has battery life in excess of 10 hours, it will last all day on a single charge. In addition to this, the iBook feature lets you keep a number of the books and resources needed for school on the iPad, we are moving towards eBooks in a number of areas. You can also run all of the apps from the iTunes store – these apps wont run on a laptop.

To sum up, all the staff we have had testing the iPad, and the students we talk to that already have an iPad, are very happy with the way it does what they want it to do at school and at home.

Why would I need to use eBooks?

There are a number of advantages in having books loaded onto the iPad. If for example, we put the Maths book, Science Book, Dictionary, Thesaurus, Atlas, Bible and the odd English novel onto an iPad for Year 7, 8 and 9 students, we decrease the weight of the school bag by several kilograms. Students will always have access to all those resources in class, and perhaps most importantly, we have negotiated with our text book suppliers to ensure that eBooks are significantly less expensive than hard copy books. We will also be using eBooks in Years 10-12. You can read these from a laptop, but it is much easier to use an iPad, and the iPad is lighter, and the battery lasts all day.


Will I use my iPad for all my school computing?

We envisage that for 90% or more of your time, the Pad will be the device that best suits you. In specialist areas for example, such as, but not limited to, Music, Visual Art, Engineering, Creative Media, Maths or Accounting that use specific software such as Sibelius, Photoshop, Auto CAD, Final Cut Pro, Graphmatica or MYOB etc – the school will provide access to computers that will complete these tasks. We have banks of laptops in the library and other classrooms that are used for specialists’ areas. Students can also borrow these overnight or work after school in the library.

At home, for typing up larger English or History essays for example students might use their home PC or Mac, then transfer those files to their iPad to take to school. The advantage of the iPad is that it is light, portable and will last all day on a single battery charge. As a personal example, I have a MacBook Pro laptop, and I also have an iPad. I find that I now prefer to use the iPad for the majority of my mobile computing. When I need to use specialist software for video editing etc, I use my MacBook. However, I always take my iPad to class with me, rarely do I take my laptop. This is exactly the situation we are envisaging for students in the classroom. When you need specialist software, we will supply it. All other times the iPad will be more than adequate.
Summing up

We have put a lot of thought and research into this decision. There are a lot or rumours out there about what an iPad will and won’t do. Ironically most of these seem to come from people who have not used an iPad for any length of time, if at all. Many of them are incorrect. Realistically, we would be very foolish, indeed negligent to recommend a computing device that did not achieve what we wanted it to in class. The iPad will save, you can print, it is fully compatible with Office, it is a terrific eBook reader, you can surf the Web, check your Email and access Blackboard. You can also load any one of the thousands of apps from iTunes, many of which we are yet to investigate, and I am sure there are many more yet to be created. We feel that once you get your iPad, you will come to appreciate what you can achieve with it as much as the staff and students that have them already do.

Pretty compelling arguments, and it has made me think again. I’m going to be interested to see how this platform develops in education. And, if you’re like me and fascinated by lists of apps, here’s a direct link to St Hilda’s 2011 App List.(PDF)  I’m exploring some new ones as soon as I hit submit!

Travelling with technology

Now that the tapas bars, Gaudi extraganzas and wide open squares of Barcelona and Madrid are already fading into memory, pushed aside by the blunt reality of the school day, I thought I should reflect on what it was like to travel with an Ipad for the first time,  and the kind of technology I found useful.

It was the first time I’ve gone more than a couple of days without a ‘real’ computer and I’ve gotta admit that I did miss the keyboard at times. However, for email, twitter, surfing the AGE website for news on the footy and even for the occasional blog post the Ipad was more than adequate. That, and it  fits into the airline seat storage in front of you, the ten hours battery life, the instant-on etc. It worked well and I used it in various ways beginning with using a little app called Plan-Pack-Go to get myself organised.

I had a Skype conversation from the apartment in Barcelona at one stage, which was seamless (wireless connectivity through most of the place we stayed in Spain were better than Melbourne) and bought a camera connection kit to import photos from my Canon into the Ipad at the end of each day. That way I could email someone a photo directly from the Ipad photo application and also had two copies of the photo: the one on the camera card and another on the Ipad. I could also upload photos to Picasa with a great little drag and drop app called Web Albums.

Of course I also had my Spanish Phrase Book App, and my DK Top Ten Guides Apps to Madrid and Barcelona, as well as some handy offline maps on the OffMaps app.

I used world weather apps Weather Watch and the international version of PocketWeather to check the daily weather in key cities and used the Ipad app for Tripit to access details of the trip I’d previously loaded into that website.  WorldClock was also handy as well as the XE Currency Converter. I put key documents like passport details, travel insurance details etc. into GoodReader so that I’d have access to them whether I was online or not. I also put the PDFs of my camera manual and my GPS manual into GoodReader and was glad I did.

For the first time I read an e-book, all the way through. I bought three books from Amazon and read them using the Kindle app on the Ipad. I didn’t find it too bright and in the bit of the trip where I was seated next to a sleeping baby (:-} I found that reading on the Ipad was less intrusive to people around me than having the overhead light on and reading a paper book. Of course, with airlines getting stricter on weight limits of bags, it was nice to have as many books as I wanted and not worry about how I’d carry them. In fact, I took 2 ‘dead-tree’ books with me as well, and left them in Spain somewhere after I’d finished them, because I couldn’t be bothered carrying them. I loved the way that I could highlight and annotate with the Kindle app and those highlights and annotations are available on my Amazon web page to copy and paste late on.

The thing about reading I found was that, if the book was good, after about 5 pages or so you were just ‘reading’. You weren’t thinking any more about the nature of the physical object you had in your hands, but you were in the story. I also liked that I could buy more books from Amazon if I wanted (and finding English language material in the brick and mortar shops was a challenge at times) and after I heard about Washington Irving’s books on his travels in Spain and downloaded a couple for free from the Itunes book store when I was in Seville. The generic Ipad reading app is just as natural as the Kindle app I think. I also made sure that I’d been regularly saving interesting looking articles from the web into Instapaper so I always had a ready supply of shorter reading too.

I did a bit of writing too, mainly using Documents to Go, but also playing around with MaxJournal as a travel journal app.

I did find it tricky to listen to the Grand Final but found a great little app called ooTunes Radio which allows you to tune into pretty well any radio station in the world. So, I heard the Grand Final over breakfast in Barcelona. That was fun, and it was an exciting game!

I’ll always have a computer, but I’m convinced there’s a place for a different kind of device too now.

I should end by saying too that at times I was totally amazed by the technology in the architecture, the water and sewage systems, the defensive planning in medieval palaces and gardens we saw.  And the beauty of it too. There were moments when I wondered whether ‘technology’ has really improved at all; I can’t imagine too many Ipads still hanging together after eight hundred years!

Travelling around

It’s been fun travelling around Spain for the last few weeks and trying out an iPad for an extended time as a laptop replacement. When I get back I plan an extended post about what worked, and what I struggled with, but overall it’s been a pretty good experience. I’ve stayed in touch, managed my photos and even done some banking and wifi in Spain has been surprisingly consistent,

Bit I’m too busy enjoying the last few days in Barcelona to write more now!

Bye bye books

Interesting to see news.com.au today talking up the ipad for students, and there’s been two or three similar positive articles on this bit of technology from the normally conservative side of the press. It’s interesting the take on the ipad too; that it will replace books, and that kids won’t have to lug a giant bag to school (see kid in background)

But is the attraction that students will remain receptive and non-participatory too perhaps? This is a content consumption tool, not a content creation tool and, like the Interactive white board, nothing much is disrupted by students having all their Maths and Chemistry books on the ipad screen. All is as it was.

Ipad as a tool for students?

Of course I’m going to get myself an ipad sometime in the forseeable future and enjoyed StephenFry’s piece on this new tool in TIME last month. Maybe for me it will be the second generation version, when the bugs like wireless dropping out have been fixed, but I must admit I wasn’t really seeing the ipad as a tool for students in the classroom.

As a long time proponent of the 1-1 computer version of learning, I couldn’t see the point in giving kids a relatively under-powered device that lacked the content creation facilities of a decent notebook computer. Our students get the full version of Office, large chunks of the Adobe Master Collection including Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat Pro along with a suite of other software like Inspiration, Photo Story and some tablet-specific things like Ink Art. We’re looking at flash drive based machines running Windows 7 that start up quickly and can multi-task with ease, as the students can too!

But I was talking to an educator yesterday who was pretty enthusiastic about the Ipad as a learning device, particularly for younger students. And that was something I hadn’t thought about, concentrating as I was on students like my senior Literature class who have been using OneNote as their note-taking tool and collaborating on multiple wikis.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to this post by Will Richardson, which has a video conversation with NY TImes columnist Warren Buckleiter, who talks enthusiastically about the potential of the ipad for younger students: the power of its tactile nature and the growing range of possible apps. The conversation is here: