Handheld devices in schools - Alex

Handheld Devices in Schools

There has been so debate as to whether or not schools should allow handheld devices in schools. The term handheld devices is rather broad so I have chosen to take a deeper look into the educational benefits of using the new Apple iPad in a classroom settings. I referenced an article entitled, "The Ultimate Guide to Using iPads in the Classroom." You can visit the site by accessing http://edudemic.com/2010/12/the-ultimate-guide-to-using-ipads-in-the-classroom/. 

This article is great because it gives you 47 ways (and tips) to use an iPad in the classroom. Some of the examples about using the iPad are;
  • Read out loud and Share: this slide talks about how users can access interesting e-books (such as the Toy Story ebook) and have students read out loud. The neat thing is the book can read the story to the students while highlighting the words, or the students can actually record themselves reading to the class. 
  • Practice Letter Formations: There is an app called iFontMaker where students trace all the letters of the alphabet and then the app generates the student's own personalized font. 
  • IEP Checklist: There are even tools on an iPad that directly helps the educator, not just the students! It can keep track of all of your IEPs and also record meetings. 
The list of options to use on the iPad are endless. There are apps to help children learn to count, apps to improve speech, apps to assist in reading, and even apps to engage students to work in groups (such as "Pages" which is like Microsoft Word and "Keynote" which is like PowerPoint.) My mom is a teacher and she works with preschool students who have special needs such as autism and motor skill difficulties. She is also the proud owner of the iPad 2. She uses her iPad in her classroom almost everyday. She uses it as a way to have her students utilize their hand-eye coordination by letting them take turns pushing colors and letters. It is a fun way to engage all of her students. They also read books and watch short video clips. She loves using her iPad in her classroom and seeing the students get excited when she brings it out to "play" with. They don't even know they are actually learning!

I also found a video that kind of gives viewers an idea about what the iPad is and also what it is capable of doing for our classrooms. It may be small but it is really packing some great educational perks. Check out the video below, it also has some great background music! (here is the link to the site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFnWoEGWCVY)

There are downfalls to the iPad. They are very expensive. The cheapest iPads usually begin around $499.99. I had heard that there were school districts, such as the ones in Amherst, who are applying for grants to receive classroom sets of iPads. I don't think that is realistic for most school districts. However, even if there were just a set of them for teachers to use, I could see the benefits in that. The other downfall to the iPads is that they are all touch screen so they are quite fragile and must be handled with care. It would be very difficult to watch students at all times to ensure that the iPad is not being handled to roughly. Also not all the apps are free so there is more money to be spent in the app department.

There are pros and cons to the idea of using iPads in the classrooms. The only flaw that I really see is the price. If there is a way to work around the price, then I think the iPad is an amazing asset to a classroom. Kids really do love to use them. My daughter does nothing but beg to play with my iPad and we spend a lot of time searching for more educational apps. There are so many great apps out there that it is almost overwhelming to try and choose. I can think of so many uses for the iPad and the link provided above easily gives 47 ways to use it. I can probably add at least 20 more uses to the list. I think that if a school can afford to invest in some iPads that they should jump at the opportunity!