Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Do Your Expect an Improvement in Learning with iPads?

Jay Ashcroft asks "Why so many schools fail to get impact from iPad?" (Learn-Maker, 23 February 2015). But how does Jay expect that just providing an iPads, or any other tablet device, on its own to improve education? My primary class was the first at my school to use ball point pens. This was a step up from pencils, with color! But I doubt that the teacher, or anyone else, would expect this change to improve student's learning. Similarly, if you give a student an iPad, but leave the teaching methods unchanged, you can't expect an improvement in leaning (I would expect a drop in learning). What is needed is to use the Internet and the iPads to teach teachers how to teach using iPads.  Apart from being slow and expensive, the old fashioned approach of train-the-trainer sessions misses the point about the change taking place in how education is delivered.

There is a new One Laptop per Child tablet/laptop in development (the XO-infinity). It is specifically designed for school students and has interesting modular features (I would like to see USB dock and mSata docs added). But the previous OLPC devices were not shown to have improved learning and I do not expect this device to either. Jay suggests several days training for each school, with a core team of teaching doing the training. But curiously they don't suggest using the iPad itself, or the Internet, as part of the training. Insrtead this is all face-to-face teaching, which I suggest is missing the point. 

ps: The Xo_infinity is intended to have user upgradeable modules. This is a good idea in theory  (several of the laptops I have had included this feature). But I suggest basing the modules on existing interface standards and form factors, to lower the production cost and widen the choice. In particular, I suggest having:
  1. USB dongle bay, : This would be a recess in the base of the case with a removable cover and containing widely spaced USB sockets. Memory sticks, WiFi, 4G, TV and other USB devices could be plugged in.
  2. mSata Bay:  Make a plastic case which clips around a standard size mSata board, so this then can be slid into a slot in the computer case. This way custom electronics does not need to be manufactured, just the plastic case.

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