Written by Ronald Lye
The iPad is transforming the way we teach and learn. The educational system is no stranger to revolutions, having fostered close and symbiotic ties with technology advances. In the not so distant past, classrooms used VHS cassettes to play videos and add variety to textbook-dominated learning environments. When personal computers became a commodity, educators took advantage by integrating traditional classroom elements with powerful e-learning processes. Students could download notes and lesson plans from e-platforms, submit assignments and take tests online, while some universities even offered degree courses solely based on distance e-learning. The introduction of iPads and tablet PCs promises to usher in another paradigm shift. Apple recently announced that 20,000 educational apps have been built for the iPad, a remarkable figure considering that the iPad was only launched three years ago.
Such is the simplicity and intuitive nature of the iPad that even pre-schools are adopting it as a teaching tool. There are some wonderful apps for pre-schoolers, such as Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, Feed Me, Draw and Tell, and Fish School to teach them basics like shapes, numbers, and picture recognition. Introducing technology to young children is still a somewhat controversial topic, as there are parents and teachers out there who believe that children are better off participating in traditional activities like writing, drawing, painting to refine motor capacities, instead of staring at a screen all day. While their argument has merits, it would be foolish to completely neglect the interactive and stimulating opportunities provided by the iPad. Moderation is key; a mix of technology and traditional activities is the ideal way for children today to flourish.
Credits: Cult Of Mac
The iPad has also provided innovative ways to engage children with special needs. The Apple Store has a Special Education section featuring apps for communication, emotional development, language development, organisation, and many more. Many of these apps add fun elements to learning, making them a crossover between education and games. For children with special needs, this is essential to provide them with motivation and interest to learn. Research has been done which shows that children with disabilities have made tremendous strides through app therapy with the iPad.
iPads are also becoming more prevalent in universities. Obvious benefits include less constraints on space (textbooks take up lots of room), cost-effectiveness (textbooks are expensive), environmental friendliness (university students print lots of notes). Here are some other ways schools are utilising the iPad. Instead of printing thousands of brochures and direct mails, some schools have developed iPad apps for prospective students, allowing them to learn about the campus, view photos, and download admission forms. University sports teams are using iPads to share scouting reports, draw up strategies, and watch performance videos. Some universities have even gone the “iPad-only” route, and have removed pen and paper from lecture halls. If only we can be students in this iPad era, we’ll probably enjoy our university experiences much more than we did.
The Bottom Line
Can the iPad completely replace real-life learning interactions and experiences? Of course not. But it can definitely enhance current practices and provide more effective learning opportunities. This means that the teacher’s role in the classroom will evolve, from a conveyer of information to a facilitator of lively interactive technology-centric lessons. By working together, teachers, governments, Apple, and parents can help pave the way towards the next level of education.