I've been thinking some about the iPad and the classroom. My bet is that it would be a better book reader than the Amazon Kindle for two reasons:
But the other aspect of the computer-in-the-classroom is student usage during a lecture or seminar. Laptops are highly problematic. As a teacher, the "screen up" position blocks my ability to observe student faces, and those faces are focused on their laptop screens, not on me, my slides, or the board. In other words, students may not be paying attention. Students will tell you that they can multitask, but my experience has been that students who pay attention do better. Computer science, like the teaching of literature, which I did for years and years, frequently requires high-speed "checking" between the lecturer and the students to verify that people are "getting it." With the laptop screen up, this channel is somewhat blocked; it's lower bandwidth.
So, at first blush, the iPad might be an improvement. Because it's flat, students are more likely to keep them down on their desks. They may still be focusing on the screen, but at least I can see their faces.
Now that the iPad is down on the desk, how will students interact with it? Apple's promotional material makes much of the virtual keyboard, but I'm skeptical of this user interface for the classroom. It's hard to touch type on a virtual display. Again, the student's eyes are drawn to the screen.
And what if students want to draw a copy of a diagram from the screen? Use their fingers? I don't think the capture resolution will be precise enough. This is a place where pen input can be a godsend. On my ThinkPad tablet, the pen really works. Indeed, on the ThinkPad, it is possible to switch dynamically between pen and voice input, which is surprising effective. Some students will say that they don't need to take such notes, because they can always re-watch the recorded lecture. But this is problematic, because now they have to go through the lecture twice. It's not as efficient. This is why I'm always skeptical of students who want to do audio recording. Audio for what? Re-listening to the lecture? What about paying attention, and taking great notes. It can be done. (To be sure, students with language deficits in English may need the audio copy, but I digress.)
So, in sum: My prediction is that the iPad will be a good reader device in high education; I'm not so sanguine about it as a note-taking machine.comments powered by Disqus