We already know that there are hundreds and hundreds of free applications for Mac OS X that have changed the way computing happens, but sometimes technology is used in unexpected ways. For example, the iPad in teaching environments, things become much more interesting and counterintuitive.
This post by Estelle Shumann shows how the use of iPads is revolutionizing education the world over. She writes for a website about online schools, and maintains much information about people interested in studying computers in a way that can help them innovate and develop new spaces in the world of technology.
While the iPad has been criticized as a glorified toy, students and teachers alike have found the tablet to be an exceptionally effective tool in academia. Like the iPhone before it, what makes the iPad a truly adaptable device is its support of a market of applications that can be created by anyone with the ambition and innovation to fill a consumer market. For K-12 teachers, college professors and students of all ages, this has led to iPad use for every facet of education, from reading online textbooks to note taking, graphing, and modeling. [The iPad] allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls, says Larry Reif, an English teacher at Roslyn High School on Long Island, which last year handed out 47 iPads as part of a pilot program for utilizing the device in the classroom. If there isn't an app that does something I need, there will be sooner of later, said Mr. Reiff, who currently utilizes an application that includes all of Shakespeare's plays.
Most major textbook publishers have been hesitant to offer digital versions of their content due to concerns over quality, but the interactivity and intuitive use of the iPad is quickly winning them over. This year, Apple has begun to actively push the iPad as a replacement for textbooks by selling electronic versions of many standard high school books on Biology, Algebra 1 and Chemistry, as well as starting iBooks Author, a tool allowing publishers to create new content specifically for the tablet.
To date, thousands of textbooks have been published using iBook Author. For example Learn Piano by Mahalo.com, a company that believes you can learn anything, can teach users to play the piano or My First ABC by DK Publishing is a tool parents can use to teach their children the fundamentals of the English language.
For students, organizational applications include Evernote, an application that allows users to link to-do lists between many different devices so they always have access to the lists, and Bamboo Paper, an application that allows users to take notes in their handwriting using a stylus, have proven to be exceptionally popular. These applications are especially useful for students who are often busy, or on the go, and may not have time to type something out and are not organized enough to keep track of the scraps of paper that are traditionally used as to-do lists. Both are designed to intuitively create, curate and capture notes on iPads. Advancing technology has also allowed for applications like Goodreader, an iPad application that allows users to import and view any file type, from text and audio to movie files.
Perhaps the most welcome application for long term students is EasyBib, an application that enables users to create accurately sourced MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations simply by scanning the barcode or typing in the name of the book. This app has saved students all over the country hours, something that can come in handy as many students have slightly less time than they need to complete a paper. The only regret for many students working on their graduate or doctoral thesis may be that these applications weren't invented years ago.
The power and mass appeal of the iPad for students and educators have led some cautious parents and scholars to speculate that schools are investing in the technology before a wide array of research is available to prove their efficacy. However, the results of several recent studies are suggesting that iPad use in the classroom often correlates to enhanced student motivation, quality of work, achievement, and collaboration. Furthermore, in Auburn, Maine, 266 kindergarteners issued the iPad 2 scored higher on literacy tests and were more enthused about learning, and a small-scale study of students at Riverside Unified School District found that algebra students using iPads tested at 90% proficiency, up from 60% among their peers.
Though academics have already found myriad uses for the iPad, perhaps the best argument for its effectiveness is its ability to inspire students to continue thinking of future uses for it. There is a large demand among students for more sophisticated programs on photography, editing and animation, writing assignments and test taking, and science applications. In the near future, backpacks overflowing with textbooks, pencils and papers may be replaced completely with small, understated satchels containing a single, unassuming tablet.
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