iPads and Classroom Essentials

This is a wonderful walkthrough by Fraser Speirs on how his school (Cedars School of Excellence in the UK)implemented an “iPad for Every Student” initiative and some of the resulting reflections the school has made.

I’m prodding my beloved Spartanburg Day School to do the same (at an annoyingly daily rate, I’m sure).

However, I was arrested for a moment when I came to this passage in the post…

An iPad for every child | Tablets | Macworld: “We are now at the stage where the iPad is embedded in the way we do business at the school. When we first started, we thought we could guard against misuse by threatening to take away the child’s iPad for a day or so. It turns out that doing so would now completely break the school day for that child. We might as well make them sit in the hallway and face the wall for the entire day. I did not expect that we would reach that point so soon.”

I hadn’t really considered how integrated a tool like an iPad could become to a classroom or a school. I have a “class” iPad that we use but we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of its possibilities and being that there’s only one to go around, it’s more difficult for students to dig deeper than note taking or quick reference searches with the device (although more and more students are getting iPads and bringing them to school).

However, I’ve purposely gone half the year now without renting the “laptop carts” which carry 18 white Macbooks for class. I have a very liberal policy when it comes to technology in my classroom (allow iPods, earbuds, iPads, mobiles… and even Androids to be used at a student’s discretion), but I don’t want the students to feel as if the laptops are a crutch to fall back on when we need to find material, make a connection or prove a point.

I guess that’s the same reason I keep a “mimimalist” look to my classroom with as few things on the wall etc as possible. It’s a science lab, but we’re just meeting in that room temporarily. I don’t want my students (or myself) to get fooled by the notion that the room itself is where science happens. Instead, I want them to look out the window at the beautiful dogwood just outside my classroom and realize that is their true classroom where all the lab supplies lie.

Everything in my classroom is very modular and utilitarian. The laptops could certainly serve as part of that utilitarian design, but I’d rather let student discretion and need drive the decision to use the web or an IM or a text message rather than saying, “Today, we will use the internet!” for a lesson.

I’m moving to a larger room next year with proper lab tables, gas lines, a chemical closet (and even an office). It will be interesting to see if my thinking changes then.

Regardless, I wonder if/when my dream of having iPads deployed across our school happens if we’ll have the same sudden realization about their essential nature to our character as a school. I also wonder about the ramifications if that does happen?

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