1. Mobility and Transparency
A popular catch-phrase about educational technology is that it should be like oxygen - “invisible and omnipresent”. Technology shouldn’t be an add-on activity that requires moving to a lab or wheeling in a cart of computers. How easy would schooling have been in the twentieth century if we had to move students to a “writing room” every time they needed to take notes? Technology has become an essential aid to learning and mobile devices such as iPads and smartphones can be accessed and used at any moment.
The instant availability of technology empowers students and changes the dynamics of education. Device use is a natural, transparent part of the flow of learning as students use devices to search for information, connect and collaborate with other learners, or snap a photo.
2. Content Creation
Ironically, iPads were initially criticized for being devices that were designed for consumption but with limited capacity for content creation. As the app ecosystem matured, users were given a rich and expanding range of options for content creation. With constant access to a camera, microphone and a host of content editing apps, students use mobile devices to become prolific producers of a wide variety of content. Learning processes now encompass tasks such as taking photos, making movies, creating stop motion animations (Animate It), producing green screen videos (Green Screen), recording screencasts (Explain Everything), designing eBooks (Book Creator)… even producing interactive, augmented reality exhibits (Aurasma).
3. Communication of Knowledge
All these content creation options gives users a wide range of alternatives for communicating knowledge. There’s a lot of (justified) talk these days about personalizing learning. However, we still ask students to express themselves using the same uniform text formats - despite the fact that we know that many students struggle with verbal expression and written composition. We also know that communication standards are changing rapidly and personal media production is rising astronomically. Visual and media literacy is becoming a vitally important skill. Mobile devices gives educators and learners simple tools to create, edit and mix different media formats to craft their messages.
One area where the use of iPads has excelled is within special education. Traditional education is designed to be a “one size fits all” solution. Technology brings the ability to customize students’ experiences and accommodate their specific needs. The accessibility features of iPads can personalize the way information is transmitted and received. Visually impaired students can change text sizes, color schemes and magnification. VoiceOver features can help students navigate screens and process information. Hearing impaired can adjust the audio output or use subtitles and captioning. Guided Access helps students focus on an individual task.
Education has always required “connecting” - connecting to sources of knowledge and to other learners. Technology has simply torn down the walls of our physical classrooms. The information and people we connect with today can be anywhere in the world. With a mobile device in hand, communicating with people online can be as simple as turning and speaking to the person sitting behind you. Collaborate on content. Publish blogs, images, and video. Create and share portfolios of your work. Offer feedback and have discussions about other people’s work. You’re always just a tap away from a world of knowledge.
Sure, it hasn’t always been rosy. Device management continues to be problematic. The lack of a keyboard can be difficult when long form typing is necessary. Overall however, the use of mobile devices in education is helping frame a vision for technology use that brings us closer to our “invisible and omnipresent” target where - whether you use an iPad, Chromebook, laptop or any other device - technology is an indispensable learning tool that empowers every student to take greater control of their own education.
Sam Gliksman is an educational technology author, speaker and consultant. Sam is the author of several highly acclaimed books including “iPad in Education for Dummies”, “Creating Media for Learning” and “40 Simple Ways to Inspire Learning”. Contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SamGliksman