PLAYBACK: What Do iPads in Classrooms Have to Do With Education Reform?


Photo by Kathy Cassidy.

1.7.11 | More schools embrace the iPad as some question the cost and purpose; smartphone apps improve the teaching experience; the future of the book is collaborative; internet now the main news source for people under age 30.

An iPad in Every Backpack: “A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through ‘Jeopardy’-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems,” writes Winnie Hu in The New York Times.

The story sparked a number of critical comments from readers, many of whom called the practice a waste of money (the iPads cost $750 each) and a fad.

Of course, it’s not the tool itself that matters in reforming the classroom and how kids learn, but the content, interconnectedness and active hands-on learning that digital media can deliver. That’s what hooks kids in and engages them in learning:

“It has brought individual technology into the classroom without changing the classroom atmosphere,” said Alex Curtis, headmaster of the private Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey, which bought 60 iPads for $36,000 and is considering providing iPads to all students next fall.

Dr. Curtis recently used a $1.99 application, ColorSplash, which removes or adds color to pictures, to demonstrate the importance of color in a Caravaggio painting in his seminar on Baroque art. “Traditionally, so much of art history is slides on a screen,” he said. “When they were able to manipulate the image themselves, it came alive.”

Daniel Brenner, the Roslyn superintendent, said the iPads would also save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs; the estimated savings in the two iPad classes are $7,200 a year.

“It’s not about a cool application,” Dr. Brenner said. “We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom.”

Plus:: Ewan McIntosh weighs in, arguing that reform is based on how schools embrace change, not devices.

Related: School Library Journal talks with John White of the New York City Department of Education about a new $30 million initiative to bring more technology and individualized class instruction to the city’s 1,600 K-12 public schools.

Top Smartphone Apps to Improve Teaching, Research and Your Life: Unfortunately, these apps don’t yet grade papers, but as Jeffrey R. Young discovered, college professors are finding innovative ways to adapt smartphone software to the classroom setting—from taking attendance and preparing lectures to collecting data.

Some, such as David M. Reed, a professor of computer science at Capital University, in Ohio, who wanted to use his iPhone to digitize roll call, are writing their own code:

He called his task-specific app Attendance and put it on the iTunes store for other professors, charging a couple of bucks (and adding features as colleagues suggested them). So far he has earned about $20,000 from the more than 7,500 people who have virtually shouted “Here.”

Several professors said their favorite feature of the app (which now sells for $4.99) is a flashcard function that helps them learn the names of their students. It literally puts names to faces, if professors add photos supplied by the college. Some professors take pictures of their students on the first day of class and put them in the app. An iPad version takes advantage of the larger screen of Apple’s tablet computer.

Teaching the iGeneration: We mentioned middle school language arts teacher Bill Ferriter in a post earlier this week about teaching with the microlending program Kiva. He’s written a book with Adam Garry that’s worth noting: “Teaching the iGeneration: 5 Easy Ways to Introduce Essential Skills With Web 2.0 Tools.” It covers how to integrate instructional strategies with digital tools to make learning more accessible to technology-savvy students. Best of all, you can download all the pages and tips.

The Social Book: Bob Stein, head of the well-focused Institute for the Future of the Book, tells the L.A. Times that the age of the individual is over. The advantages of digital technology “are so weighted toward collaboration that people will tear down the existing structures and build something new.” 

“Stein’s vision is not a promising one for today’s publishing houses,” writes Nathaniel Popper. “He predicts that electronic books will fall prey to the pirating that has severely damaged the music-recording industry. The value of the text of a novel or biography will approach zero, he projects.

“The best opportunity to make money, according to Stein, will come not in selling content but in hosting conversations around it, similar to the way that Facebook hosts social networks.”

The story is part of a series exploring how technology is changing libraries, the publishing industry and the experience of reading. 

Plus: Spotlight has more from Bob Stein about how the future of reading and writing is collaborative.

Internet Main Source of News for Under-30: A new survey by the Pew Research Center found that the internet is slowly gaining on television as the main source for national and international news in the United States. But if you break down the demographics, the internet is already the main news source for those age 18 to 29. Yet another reason for more focus on digital/media literacy ...

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5, 2010 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that more people continue to cite the internet than newspapers as their main source of news, reflecting both the growth of the internet, and the gradual decline in newspaper readership (from 34% in 2007 to 31% now). The proportion citing radio as their main source of national and international news has remained relatively stable in recent years; currently, 16% say it is their main source.

An analysis of how different generations are getting their news suggests that these trends are likely to continue. In 2010, for the first time, the internet has surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30. Since 2007, the number of 18 to 29 year olds citing the internet as their main source has nearly doubled, from 34% to 65%. Over this period, the number of young people citing television as their main news source has dropped from 68% to 52%.

Over at Mashable, Meghan Peters looks at the numbers alongside the growth of personalized news streams: “Both Facebook’s news feed and Twitter launched in summer 2006 but didn’t catch on until 2007. Both sites have seen explosive growth since 2008. Tweet counts have increased from 5,000 daily in 2007 to 90 million daily in 2010, while Facebook went from 30 million users in 2007 to more than 500 million users today.”

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