Thursday, February 16, 2012

iPads and School Technology Adoption

Photo provided by Temari 09 on Flickr.
It seems that every week I'm hearing about another school buying iPads and other tablet devices, changing their policy about cell phones in the classroom, setting up a 1-to-1 device classroom, or taking some other major step towards increased use of technology in school.

This article, from a publication for district administrators, focuses on three schools in Ohio, New York, and Texas using technology in different ways. The schools have noted a modest increase in state test scores, increased engagement, and more high school students completing their homework.

As a student, I remember being more engaged when the teacher used film strips. As I got older, film strips became boring and I would take a nap when the lights went out. As a teacher, I remember how much more my students paid attention when I showed a video via a VCR and TV. Unless a teacher is known for making good choices when selecting videos, I expect that a TV doesn't provide the same level of instant engagement as a computer.

Technology, especially when it is new, has always been great at getting students' attention, as I've discussed before. But I think the introduction of iPads, tablets, and more robust smartphones has caused a shift.

Think about how long we've had smartphones. They were first introduced in the late 90s. The original smartphones were limited to PDA-type applications. It wasn't until the iPhone made it to the market in 2007 that smartphones started offering a greater range of applications. But, an iPhone is a major commitment. In addition to the expensive price tag, it requires significant monthly payments in order to use the web features.

It was also in the mid-2000s that tablet computers and iPods started becoming more widely used.

Just two years ago, the first iPad was sold, and it is just in the past couple of years that I've seen an exponential increase in technology in the classroom. Schools are buying on to iPad use more quickly, it seems, and it greater number than any other previous technology.

Before the iPad, the technology device that received the most attention in schools was the interactive whiteboard. It took a long time for them to take hold and, even now, they appear in classrooms with teachers who don't/can't/won't use them. Now that interactive activities can be projected from iPads and other small devices, companies like Smart and Promethean are trying to determine if they still have a place in schools.

If the introduction of the iPad and the increase in technology in schools is not a coincidence, how did iPads change the way school administrators and teachers think about technology in the classroom? Of course, I can't be certain, but I have my theory du jour.

Apple has always been able to make intuitive devices that are fairly easy to start using, on some level, right out of the box. Combine this with the portability of the iPad and you have early adopters spreading their love of the device easily and often. Also due to its ease of use, teachers started bringing their own iPad to school and using it with their students. The iPad doesn't have the commitment the iPhone, or other smartphones have. Teachers could buy the version that doesn't require a monthly fee. reducing the need for special funding for a single teacher to try one in the classroom.

The low cost, the ability to buy and test the feasibility of just one, and the ease of use create the perfect scenario for an instant pilot. Other teachers and administrators have front-row seats to the unfolding of events as a teacher incorporates the iPad more fully in the classroom. With each new app and creative use of that app driven by the teacher, excitement grows.

When they first came out, many people did not see the iPad as a game changer. I think we are starting to see that it's the pebble that started the ripples that, from this vantage point, looks to become the change in the tide of technology adoption in schools.

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