How to Set Educational Objectives with iPads in the Classroom

To utilize iPads effectively for education, you must consider classroom iPads within the framework of educational objectives and learning that address the needs of our rapidly changing society. Simply adding a dose of technology to the standard educational mix may not be enough if that technology is used to reinforce outdated educational objectives and practices.

Old models of content delivery and frontal teaching (lecturing from the front of the classroom) don’t address the evolving needs of a society where information is available freely and instantly, and constantly changing. If you are utilize iPads in your classroom, consider these educational objectives:

  • Replacing rote memorization with real skills such as critical thinking, communication, and creativity. After all, the vast majority of content can be easily accessed within seconds on most mobile devices. What do you do when you want to know something? You “Google” it!

  • Learning to navigate the information jungle: Today, content and expertise are abundantly available online. There’s so much information available that new educational priorities are needed to help students navigate the vast volumes of content. Information literacy skills help students access, organize, filter, evaluate, and use the enormous amount of information available online.

  • Working in groups (because there’s no “I” in teamwork): We live in an emerging global society, and the development of collaborative skills — the ability to work effectively in teams — outweighs traditional demands that students sit still, listen, and work only on their own.

  • Incorporating multimedia literacy: Text remains an important medium for conveying information, but multimedia is becoming the language of new generations, and its use should be encouraged in schools.

  • Saying goodbye to the 30-pound backpack: At higher grade levels, most courses are still delivered and structured around the use of a single textbook — often, one that was printed several years ago. That’s a stark contrast to a world where news and information are always up to date and available from a wide variety of sources and perspectives.

  • Reaching beyond the school walls: School is still the central hub for learning, but technology now enables us to be constantly connected. The old model of learning within the physical confines of a classroom or school campus is being completely redefined. In the age of the Internet, learning can occur anywhere and is available on demand.

  • Staying flexible: Instruction and curriculum need to constantly adapt to new information, technologies, and interests.

  • Differentiated instruction and assessment: Some students are great auditory processors. Explain something once to them, and they get it. Others need to sit and read. Many students lean to more visual modes of learning. Technology offers options for differentiated instruction and alternative forms of assessment, which frees us from a “one size fits all” teaching model.

  • Limiting frontal teaching: New technologies placed in the hands of students empower them to research, explore, and create. Use of technology can and should move us from frontal, content delivery models of education to more student-centered, discovery-based, and interactive learning practices.

Our objective should always be to develop students who are independent, lifelong learners who can continue to thrive in a society of continual and rapid change. The iPad is well equipped to meet this educational challenge:

  • Learning on the go: An iPad weighs less than a pound and a half, and is well suited to the goal of “anytime, anywhere” education. Plus, with up to ten hours of battery life, you can simply charge your iPad overnight, and it’s available all day long.

  • Kicking back and relaxing: Use your iPad any way that feels comfortable — sitting, standing, or lying down. There aren’t any annoying upright screens forming a barrier between teachers and students. It’s easily passed around when used in a group setting.

  • Turning on, tuning in: The iPad turns on with the simple tap of a button. You don’t wait long for it to start, and you don’t have to log in to use it, so it can be integrated effortlessly into any activity inside the classroom or outside. Access any website, look up any information, jot down notes and appointments — all within seconds.

  • Touching and swiping is as easy as A-B-C: Children take easily to the iPad’s multitouch interface. After all, we grow up manipulating the world around us by directly touching objects: We pick them up, move them, open and use them. A computer that uses direct touching of its interface is a natural extension of that process.

  • Accessing the library at your fingertips: You can purchase, download, and read e-books right from within iBooks and other book-reading apps on your iPad. Change the display to meet your taste or reading preference. Highlight or underline text, make notes, look up a word definition, and search for anything in the book . . . even use the VoiceOver feature to have the book read to you.

Apple’s iBookstore now also includes digital textbooks with interactive and constantly updated content from major publishers.

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  • Empowering students: iPads enable students to research and analyze information, connect to people, develop and collaborate on solutions to problems, and express knowledge in a variety of media . . . in short, technology empowers students to develop independent learning skills that are essential for success in today’s society.

    With features such as VoiceOver reading and the capability to change interface colors, fonts, and size of text, the iPad offers a custom and differentiated learning environment that can bend to the needs of individual learning styles. In addition, several apps are specifically designed for people with special learning needs, such as those with limited vision or motor skills.

  • Focusing on student-centered learning to garner out-of-the-box results: The power of using iPads in education is revealed when they’re put in the hands of students and we loosen the educational reins. The magic of using technology in education is when students are given opportunities to use it innovatively to produce creative results that we never predicted.

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