The Essa Academy in Bolton has decided that the best way forward for them is to issue every learner and every teacher with an iPad. Watch this BBC News report on the story.
Now I am sure that they thought long and hard about it before making this choice, but I do wonder if they missed a trick?
The fact that the BBC News item contains the word “bookless” makes me think that institutions that go down the “let’s give everyone an iPad” if they have really thought everything through.
The first questions I would ask are: Is every learner the same? Do they all have the same needs and do they all learn in the same way in different contexts?
Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is a wonderful device, it certainly is my top gadget for the last few years, but I know that though it is possible to do lots of different things on it, it isn’t always the best tool for every job.
I often use a transport analogy to explain what I mean by this.
If I need to get to Bristol from Weston-super-Mare, I have a few choices, I could get the car, take the bus, or catch the train. The three forms of transport each have their own advantages and disadvantages, think of costs, time and multi-tasking. If I had the time and the fitness I could even cycle, but walking is not a real option and flying would be ludicrously expensive! The context is also important, if it was just me, was I bringing the family, what if I was moving house? Then I would need a truck!
Context is really important and just because it is possible to use a particular form of transport to do something, it doesn’t mean that it is the best or most efficient way. I could move house using my car, but it isn’t the easiest way to do it, it would probably involve multiple trips, so would take much longer than either using a removal van, or hiring a truck.
It’s the same with technologies. The iPad is indeed a marvellous device, yes I can read a book on the iPad, but that doesn’t mean it is always the best way to read a book. A learner using an academic book uses it in a very different way that they read a fiction book for example. For many learners having the physical book it self and making notes on the iPad, is probably more effective than using the iPad for both reading and note taking, switching between the different apps. Likewise it is probably more efficient than using two iPads at the same time.
So though it looks all shiny and flash giving every learner an iPad, it misses the context and the possibilities of using other devices at different times. Sometimes a shiny new car is what is needed, at other times you need a truck.