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Thursday
Mar282013

Is being the first better than being the best?

In our district, iPads are the zombies of educational technology.

Mindlessly and in numbers uncountable, they are pushing against our school house doors in unending waves, funded by grants, by departmental budgets, by textbook funds, 1:1 pilots,  and, well, by-hook-or-by-crook.

In my 30+ years of education, I have never seen a technology become so demanded by educators, so rapidly. And a surprising number of these devices are actually being used very effectively with kids - as teaching stations, as e-readers, as productivity tools, and as adaptive/adoptive devices.

And it does seem to be iPads alone - not Android tablets (to the dismay of my techology purists), not Chromebooks. not lapttops. Why?

In What It’s Going To Take For Teachers To Give Up Their iPads appeared first on TeachThought, Terry Heick writes:

As more people purchase the [iPad] device, it receives more attention from everywhere–major news media, social media, face-to-face conversations, etc. This in turn creates even more buzz. More are sold, and now to satisfy the demand for additional coverage it’s discussed in more detail—not simply in terms of sales and cost, but its design, its peripherals, its integration, and so on. It’s labeled an inspiration and literally changes what we, as consumers, expect from a product.

In other words, iPads are doing well in schools because of hype? Hmmmmmmm. I think it is more than that, Terry.

First, I own no stock in Apple. I believe I can objectively determine both the usefulness and value of a technology. I recognize many ways the Android OS and the devices that run it are superior to iPad and iOS. But it would take some sort of miracle or cataclysmic event for our district to move to a new mobile hardware or mobile OS. And here's why...

  • Apple was the first to deploy a successful device of this size and functionality. We in Minnesota tend to be early adopters of technology and there was nothing else available when we started down this path two-three years ago - and we all love what we are familiar with. Early adoption by a large number of schools has led to a critical mass that makes the development of management software, charging stations, and other peripherals - as well as task-specific educational applications, potentially lucrative for developers.
  • Educators like the closed-technology biome. That only Apple approved apps run on the devices, that the device can't be "programmed" unless jail-broken, and that the device works best with Apple's online cloud systems is a plus, not a minus as it is for so many "techies." Many technologists share the tinkerer's love of customizing and tweaking, much as some people like souping up cars, making their own clothes, or cooking from scratch. Most of us just want a car that runs, clothes that fit and are easy to care for, and food that is fast, nutritious, and tasty. iPads just work, and work reliably - a far more desirable attribute than customizability.
  • The "closed-biome" also results in a short, shallow learning curve for basic operations. 'Nuf said. A very short inservice is all it takes to get most educators up an running on the basics. Hey, the dang thing only has one button - how hard can it be to use?
  • Educators see positive uses for these devices on a personal or professional productivy level - not just as a tool to use with students in the classroom. Checking e-mail, accessing the weather, reading online news have made these devices useful to adults before they ever start using them in the classroom. This builds a comfort level that extends then to the device's use with kids. A lot of teachers who are parents also have seen how their own children use the device and transfer that use to the classroom. I've always said that technology has to personally empower the teacher before he/she will use it in the classroom. That's still true.
  • There is comfort in numbers. When other districts near us are deploying the same device, we can form support groups, share knowledge and strategies, and do not look like such total risk-takers to our sometimes conservative communities. Call it the lemming strategy of technology implementation. 

Many of the arguments I made explaining "Why we use Macs" apply to iPads as well. Had Google come to the market first and targeted education would we be using Nexus tablets today? I think we would - we're totally invested in GoogleApps for Education - not Microsoft Learn 360 which was late out of the gate.

Sometimes being the first is better than being the best.

 

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Reader Comments (4)

As one of the early adopters of the Ipad for use in my classrooms. I agree and would like to add. I am not personally inclined to be an early adopter of technology...I was dragged into using smartboards, netbooks, powerpoint, flip cameras etc etc. In service training, I usually forgot by the time the technology showed up in my hands. I am not a good sharer. If I have to sign something out, track it down, return it by Friday, clear the memory, ask someone for help, I probably am not going to be a competent nor confident user. I was shamed into powerpoint after it was pointed out to me that I was disadvantaging certain learning styles. sigh.
Our principal had one iPad. Each teacher took it home for 2 nights, 3 days. Each teacher was allowed to load 2 to 3 apps that they wished to explore. (easily, we were give the "school password") The result was a quickly loaded ipad with the "best" educational apps for across the curriculum and grade levels. I got to take the school one to ALA annual. Easy to use , easy to use for teaching, quickly locating information. portable. I was sold. I bought the IPAD 1 and the school bought the two for me a year later.

So yes, there may be "better" more "cost effective" tablets but this one works for me.

March 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Von Drasek

Hi Lisa,

It doesn't seem like your story is atypical of many educators and the iPad. Maybe Apple has figured out some strange hypnotic spell that the machine casts on users?

How do you like Minnesota???

Doug

April 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I wish we (teachers, schools, etc) could be more open minded instead of just doing what is popular. Apple doesn't even have to do anything to sells millions of iPads to schools worldwide. If it's not the best tool, why don't we change tools? Or at least make multiple devices available so teachers & students can choose which device to use for the task (I know, wishful thinking and maybe a dream world).

April 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLissa

Hi Lissa,

I certainly agree that there is no perfect device for all students, all the time. The key to selection is their educational use, of course.

Doug

April 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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