Epiphany of Experiences - #iPads in the Classroom

Adapted from Image Source at http://goo.gl/u9GYd

As I've spent more time on an iPad, I'm continuing to have problems imagining what iPad-shifted instruction would look like. iPad-shifted leadership is different and easy to imagine. My concept of the two hinges on my role now--as a technology administrator rather than a classroom teacher--so I wonder if that's the disconnect. To alleviate that gap, that's why I'm looking forward to attending the iPad Palooza in June, 2012, in the hopes of seeing how teachers are embracing iPads in the classroom. In a twitter conversation earlier tonight, I referred to this lack of vision as elusive.
"How can we better articulate what iPads are being purchased to accomplish in schools? It feels so elusive."
For me, this tweet gets to the heart of the problem I'm having with iPads in schools--simply, I don't get it. I want to explore why "I don't get it--iPads in schools" for a simple reason. It's not because I'll be working on an iPad deployment, or because I want to justify the 64gig WiFi iPad I just purchased for my own use as part of my education consulting. It's because a part of me fears that my past experiences with technology are interfering with how I use technology in the present and future. Does that make sense?

I tried to express this with a follow-up tweet:
elusive...prob because I'd rather have a netbook running Linux than an iPad, but non-techies would rathr hv iPad.
The reason I see a netbook/Macbook running Linux/Windows/MacOS as more valuable is for the following reasons:
  1. The netbook is more functional and provides features that have become established as necessary in computing world--word processing, spreadsheet, database, image design/editing, video creation and editing, server setup/management (if necessary). Or, as 
  2. The netbook provides greater value than the iPad because you can do a lot more of the traditional computing activities. Of course, if you don't value traditional use of technology in schools, then the netbook value lacks worth. 
  3. The netbook allows for greater management and control from those trying to support multiple devices on the network, as opposed to an iPad which is a "do your own thing" kind of device that requires you play according to its rules, and reshape your support practices around it.
Part of the concern is the idea that an iPad is not a laptop replacement...it's a different animal altogether. But is that difference a game-changer? Or do we just want to think so due to the coolness factor? When I use an iPad, I have to "agree to not do certain things." For example, writing a blog entry is do-able but involves changing my work patterns. I have to capture images first, edit them ahead of time, and then develop the blog entry and embed it. To put links into the blog entry, I have to switch to html view and type the code. In fact, the experience reminds me of composing blog entries in the old days of Around the Corner using Thingamablog, a java-based blogging tool.

The process on a laptop is a bit different. On a laptop/netbook, I'll write the blog entry, then open some new tabs in the browser, grab a few images that I think are relevant to the theme of the blog post, and embed them where appropriate. 

While the blog process is a bit different, doing this on the iPad feels crowded, like I'm maneuvering in a space that's too small, having to sequence my activities rather than be relaxed. It's a personal experience and I relish the differences because they invariably result in a different product. It may not look like it, but the differences yield feelings that vary from my "stock" blogging experience.

It's this experience that suggests to me that "old ways of doing things" are getting in the way of new ways of doing things. Maybe my interpretation of what's happening is wrong. For learners who don't have a traditional way of approaching computing--such as the requirement of a desktop getting in the way of adopting Chrome OS on a Chromebook, the lack of a desktop immediately turning my daughter off from using Chromebook--does the iPad allow them to develop new patterns of usage that result in experiences that are more productive, whatever the heck that means?

You know, this idea that the device leads to new productivity is one that's haunted me with my own children. A few years ago, my wife and I saved up and bought them each Dell computers. I remember the exact moment when I asked myself, did I make the right choice of computer? That moment was when I watched a video from a colleague sharing how his two kids at a teacher conference were creating videos at the same age my children were. My kids were using their Dell computers to play games, word process, create slideshows...those kids with Macs were creating videos that resulted in a qualitatively richer experience. It's easy to ask, What are your learning goals for the classroom, your own learning, for your organization? but less so to imagine what those changes will be when the technology you buy, the impact that technology will have on your patterns of experience lies unknown in the void.

Think different. When I bought my iPad, or a Macbook Pro for my daughter, I made a decision to reach for that elusive experience that I don't quite understand, but hope that the device will help shift my patterns of use in a direction that will result in a qualitatively richer experience. . .help them achieve that epiphany John Seelye Brown talks about.

I'm not sure. I've taken a risk. It's not unlike the risk my father took when he bought me an Apple //e and gave it to me, never having worked with computers himself, and that he never touched or tried to use in his lifetime. Can we make the same sacrifice for our children, to provide tools we might never understand, so they can achieve their epiphany of experience?

Or, am I just plumb wrong?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Jason Kern said…
I think the idea that you have to let go of some of your/our assumptions to see the real power is well stated. I'm finding it hard to harness the power of my multiple devices since I am comfortable doing certain things with one over the other and haven't necessarily found the most efficient way to switch from my PC to my Mac to my iPad to my iPhone. As I read your post, it made me think that it is because I am tied to my current "workflow". Thanks for making me think.

I hear those same concerns from teachers when they talk about devices in class. "The iPad won't let them turn in through our website". "The desktop won't let them work in groups as easily". "The laptop screen puts a barrier between them and me". At some point we have to make a decision based on a prioritization of needs and make a new workflow even if we can't see all the possibilities now.
Unknown said…
I appreciate your reflection. I read the word "traditional" a lot in your post. It made me think that maybe that is what is hindering your work with the iPad. It is not traditional computing. We are living in a time where technology is changing at an incredible pace. If we can not change, adopt, and adapt we will forever be left behind. As an educator, I don't think I ever want to live in the times as being "traditional." Abandon your netbook/desktop/laptop for a few weeks and I am sure you will see the light!
Unknown said…
We're going the iPad 1:1 route starting next year. There's so much to do between now and then and I know this process has been tough on our technical staff, but we needed to do something. I appreciate the idea of a netbook with Linux, but is that more of a techie pipe dream than reality?

As much work as the iPad implementation is, at least there are resources to call, engineers to help, plans to work from. I'm don't know much about Linux, but I would imagine that support is more of a social network/community like in nature. I think at the end of the day administrators and managers like to have someone to get on the phone and yell at if things get sideways.

I'm not saying one way is better than the other or our approach is the way to go. I'm just wondering in text if the challenge of using a non-corporate OS is doable for overworked, understaffed tech departments?
@Kern, thanks for the feedback! The idea of a new workflow is definitely worth considering...only time and experience will wear new grooves into the grey matter.
@Melissa Scott, you know, I appreciate you pointing out that I used the word traditional. As I reflect on that word, I found it the thing I did NOT want to be. "Traditional" conjures up a stodgy gentleman with mutton-chop whiskers, a bulging stomach hemmed in by a tightly buttoned, maroon vest with the last button missing.

I've done my best to blog from my iPad, but eventually gave in to use my laptop. I can't wait until I can post my notes, pictures from Evernote straight to blogger, resizing images, etc.

In the meantime, I'll keep trying!
@Nathan, the choice between netbook with Linux and iPad is not the one we must focus on. Rather, I'd like to focus on the functionality to accomplish traditional computing tasks vs what we can accomplish with an iPad.

As to your question about overworked IT depts handling non-standard OSs, I have only to point to Jim Klein's and Ben Grey's work with linux netbooks to enhance writing instruction with measurable, successful results. Find out more about that at Ubermix.org and read my blog post:

Best wishes,
Unknown said…
Thank you for the comment and openness to trying something that is new and different. I too struggled with my iPad in the beginning..not really "getting it". The epiphany came when I abandoned my MB and used my iPad as my creation device. Oddly enough, my MBA is now mainly used as my consumption device. Kuddos to you for not throwing in the towel and sticking with it. You are more than welcome to come visit my school if you want to see a whole lot of creativity happening with a 1:1 iPad program.

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