I have been asked the question many, many, many times over the past month; Our school wants to buy some mobile devices for the classroom, should we get iPods or iPads. I give different reasons to different people, and ultimately they come to their own conclusion. However, the frequency of these conversations has led me to this post, and I will tell you where I feel these devices actually fit best into learning, and it might not be where you think…
When I first received my iPad in the spring, I was ecstatic about it. Here was a device that answered clearly many of the challenges the iPod Touch had faced since its inception. Finally we had more screen space for an ‘almost’ full sized keyboard, a built in microphone, no need for constant charging and a multitude of truly ‘productive’ apps that are functional for day-to-day use and learning. So my thoughts started to revolve around the implications for students. I posted 5 initial possibilities for the iPad in education that I felt would not only impact a regular classroom, but also take my mobile learning environment to the next level should I be able to secure some.
Since that initial foray into the possibilities of the iPads, I have continued to expand my posts and beliefs about this device. There are some PHENOMENAL apps now available for the iPad, and the larger screen size often brings added functionality and design to the apps. I’ve done app reviews for some of my favourites, and have been doing consulting for many in my school division and elsewhere around these devices.
Enter the iPod Touch 4G. This little device has changed the game for educational use devices by adding dual cameras and an internal microphone to the rest of the iPod package. These seem like small additions, and there are certainly other tools that have them, but when coupled with the rest of the device, the app store and Apple simplicity of use, the iPod Touch becomes a highly functional device available for only a couple hundred dollars.
In addition, the ‘retina’ display on the new iPod is phenomenal. It seems strange to talk about screen resolution as being a purchasing factor for a device, but the truth is, it will make a difference for your students. Prior to this screen, I did not read for extended periods on my iPod or iPhone 3G. It was too strenuous on the eyes for long term exposure. However, with the new display text reads like printed text, with no blurry ‘screen text.’ You cannot see pixelation, and the words are as crisp as in an actual book (crisper than many academic articles I read.) This new screen does change the game as students can use the iPod Touch as an actual reader now.
So what is a technology specialist, teacher with funding, or administrator to do with these new devices? What is the ‘right’ device for education? I am still sold on students bringing their own devices and making use of them in the classroom. However, my personal feeling is that the iPad, though more expensive, is my device of choice; and here’s why. Many of the apps that are being designed for the iPad are enabling apps. Not only do they provide the same basic functionality as the iPod versions, but they make use of the larger screen size to enhance the capabilities of the app. Even though the iPad does not yet have a camera, it does have a mic and with the ‘camera connection kit’ students can take images with another device and import them directly into the iPad. This is also true when using the camera functionality of the new iPod Touch. Students can take pictures with their touch and use the connector to import the photos directly into the iPad.
I had a student working in my room during a class when the iPods were available, and she asked to use the computer as she needed to do substantive research on a topic, and she needed more screen space than the iPods had. On a whim I gave her my iPad to see what she would do, and she was blown away. She loved the personal interaction, moving through the sites with her fingers, everything she liked about the iPods, but in a form factor that was better suited to the web.
That’s really what the iPad is about, and the part that is hardest to explain to those who have not used one. It is the personal connection to the touchscreen blended with the ability to more easily see and interact with content that makes the iPad such a powerful device. I’m sure we will see more innovations with the iPad when a new version is announced (probably next year.) In the meantime, my vote is with the iPad, but I would purchase several new iPod Touches or digital cameras with camera connectors as a supplement to the iPads, adding extra functionality to projects where possible.
Let me know what you think, comments are always welcome!!
Have a great day, and thanks for reading.