10 Important Questions To Ask Before Using iPads in Class

| October 15, 2012 | 17 Comments
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Lenny Gonzales

By Terry Heick

When it comes to deciding how or whether to use iPads, schools typically focus on budget issues, apps, networking logistics, check-in and check-out procedures, school and district tech-use policies, hardware precautions, and aspects of classroom management.

But it’s also important to think about instructional use, and to that end, consider the following questions.

1.   What are the goals for iPad implementation? Engagement, access to digital textbooks, access to digital environments, primarily media consumption, media production, or a blend of everything?

2.   What can the iPad do that is not possible–or is clunky and cumbersome–without it? That is, what learning problems does the iPad solve?

3.   What sort of instructional planning are you using–traditional units, project-based learning, game-based learning, or something else? That is, what style of learning are you expecting the iPad to actuate?

4.   How should your instructional design and lesson planning be revised as a result of the iPad? What “fail-safes” should be built into activities to ensure learning is possible when the technology misbehaves and doesn’t do what you ask?

5.   What is your own comfort level with technology? What digital, physical, and human resources are available when something is needed?

6.   Will the iPad’s use always require special, specific planning? What changes could you make to allow the iPad’s application in the classroom to be more organic and fluid?

7.   What is the role of learner in iPad use? Can they choose which apps they use to solve a problem? Suggest better apps for better problem-solving? Switch between tasks, assignments, and activities freely, or a follow-only approach?

8.   Is the learning environment you design and manage technology-centered, standards-centered, data-centered, or student-centered?

9.   How can you experiment with new instructional styles to take advantage of mobile learning devices in the classroom? For example, quick, open-ended, digital problem-solving competitions that utilize quick bursts of higher-level thinking skills in individual and collaborative arrangements.

10.   How committed are you to overcoming unforeseen challenges?

Also worth considering: How can parents, families, and local businesses be involved in procuring, managing, or integrating iPads in the classroom? Is BYOD (Bring Your Own iPad) possible? How successful has the curriculum and instructional design been in the school prior to iPad deployment? Further, how is “success” defined in the school–authentic projects, creative thinking, or standardized-testing proficiency? What are the “terms of deployment” in the school? 1:1 or 1 per class? Do students have open access based on need, or teacher planning?

These kinds of questions can help you get the most out of the iPad’s use in your classroom.

This post originally appeared on TeachThought, where Terry Heick is the director of curriculum.

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  • gericar

    hummm…. a few questions seem to be missing… 1. who pays for it, 2. who pays for the replacements, 3, who maintains the insurance… oh oh that’s 13 questions a rather unlucky number….of course there are other questions.. who makes them and at what environmental and personal cost. There is always the question who is policeing what kids are doing with them in the classroom.. or where is the research that says exactly what kids do with any electronic device at school and what is the actual contribution of the device to the kid’s learning. We are making some pretty heavy and expenssive assumptions here and we already know that college students have an inflated idea about how much they accomplish using any electronic device.

    • Brian

      Funny thing is you can’t be looking for the research that indicates what kids are doing with any technology in the classroom BEFORE that activity and evaluation has taken place. It is important to ask ALL these questions before starting any mobile device initiative or integration (for that matter, with any tech integration). You can’t read the research about how kids are using tech before we’ve let them actually use it and educators have evaluated the outcomes. Schools should be evaluating what mobile devices can do in the hands of their students to help prepare them for their world, not ours. As tools for communication, creation, collaboration, they are fantastic. But, it needs to be part of a larger plan to shift curriculum towards a mobile/tech infused set of outcomes. That’s what has made tech use in schools successful in many other nations whose educators don’t have this fear of integrating tech (S.Korea, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries come to mind).

      • gericar

        Unfortunately once you are “ready to evaluate the outcomes”…the cat is out of the bag and we will not be able to have classrooms that are not wired or kids that are not plugged in, ever again. This isn’t going to be like taking away the car keys. We will be stuck with trying to mitigate the damages. Don’t forget that there are MANY unknowns here and these are commercial gadgets. There will always be a better, new and improved model that we “have to have.” and… once the novelty wears off… what do most of us actually use all that capacity for… email, games, facebook and ebay… Really…

  • thatguy

    Great questions. Instead of giving everyone the shiny new device and allowing “Tech Envy” to dictate the use of district funds, everyone should start with questions about how this will benefit students and their overall achievement.

  • Marge

    I really wish people would just stop saying iPads and say the blanket term tablet. Is Apple a sponsor of this website or am I missing something?

  • Allanah King

    We are building the plane while we are flying it here, team. Changing one thing changes everything. I don’t think you can isolate one particular tool and say this is it. This is what has made a difference. Learning is messy. Learning grows ecologically not in linear fashion.

    Some things you can’t get good at before you start doing it. Just do- take a leap of faith that this is the way we are going and it is going to be better because you can take the learning to the child with a mobile device- you don’t have to take the child to the learning. That has got to be better.

  • http://twitter.com/shanepilkie Shane Pilkie

    It is really important that pedagogy and practice are key considerations when purchasing technology for education.
    Logistics and device management should become a secondary consideration. (I know this statement is going to upset ‘the IT managers’ that read this.) Education needs to be the main reason for purchasing and using technology.
    All too often, technology purchases are based on trends (School X has iPads) and the ability to control (read lock down) devices under the guise of protecting our students. This is evident in comments below with terms such as ‘policing’ used to describe classroom management.
    Let go, relax and build your classrooms with effective and engaging pedagogy Engaged students don’t need policing.

  • http://twitter.com/JoanLBailey Joan Lambert Bailey

    Great questions! Technology can bring some excellent advantages to the classroom, but only if used correctly and effectively. I recently went to the national Japanese Association of Language Teachers conference here in Japan, and many presentations were about mobile technology (and perhaps too much about iPads). However, it was mostly “Here are some ideas for iPads,” and very little information about useful, practical uses in the classroom.

    I’m in my second year of teaching my students at Asia University how to use their smartphones, primarily with spaced-repetition flashcard systems, to become independent, mobile learners. Luckily, I was able to present about it at the confernce.

    I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned via my website at http://www.teachingwithsmartphones.blogspot.com.

  • Rich Bailey

    Whoops! That last comment was me, Rich, not my wife, Joan. I didn’t realize that the iPad was logged into her twitter account. Darn technology…

  • http://twitter.com/Johnadamdrew John A. Drew

    Better to seek out software that all students and adults can use on any platform than to saddle your school with hardware that may or may not be used for anything except as a paperweight…

  • http://www.facebook.com/joel.josephson Joel Josephson

    This research paper goes very far in determining the elements required for the implementation of technology and ALL the other elements required.Key Elements for Developing Creative Classrooms in Europe (Joint Research Centre
    http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC72278.pdf

  • http://twitter.com/dagautier dagautier

    Thanks for this post.
    I use it and translate a part of it for my blog
    http://dagautier.tumblr.com/post/34123957617/tablettes-en-classe-pensez-y-avant

  • Monica

    I think that these are great questions worth considering! I love using iPads with my students – check out my blog using iPads in
    the classroom: http://www.ClassTechTips.com

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  • http://twitter.com/mathycathy Cathy Yenca 

    I think there are some great questions here, but I think having definitive answers to them all BEFORE implementing tablets isn’t feasible… as many questions result in more questions, and technology is changing by the minute! If we wait until teachers and students are “ready” to infuse mobile technology in classrooms, we’ll be left behind. Jump on, ride the wave, and be a willing learner (this advice goes to teachers as well as students). To see how I’ve been riding the wave this year, check out mathycathy.com/blog/

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