THE LONGEST THREAD in Ireland on Google Plus happened today and it involved more than 50 comments about teaching and learning with the iPad.
It's a cautionary tale and not the one you'll read in the Irish broadsheets. Instead, the thread involved Irish and American educators, interested parents, bloggers, and fanbois of several colours meeting to discuss a line of questions posed by Dermot Casey.
1. Is it smart to tie into a specific piece of technology instead of trying a cross-platform solution that leverages apps, PDF files or HTML textbooks?
2. Can students pass on books to younger siblings or sell them second hand?
3. Have we thought about what we give up when we read only in an electronic form?
4. Wouldn't it be smarter to put the effort into other educational opportunities such as immersive environments, game-based learning or high-quality videos?
As the accompanying photo suggests, I've had many enjoyable hours using the iPad and I have seen several remarkable breakthroughs in my third level classrooms, thanks solely to the flexibility and capability of the iPad. However, I am also well aware that only a small percentage of my third level students can afford to buy an iPad, even if Ireland negotiated a bulk purchase that put the tablets below the cost of an iPhone. So my interest remains in converting my learning materials to several formats and in showing students how they can download them onto small screen mobile phones and large format tablets. I do not want to engineer a process where the technology I embrace actually cuts out student participation.
After months of running an iPad next to a Kindle, while reading on smaller iPod Touch and Android screens alongside the Amazon's Cloud Reader on my laptop. The multi-platform Amazon service fits my needs best because I can send content wirelessly to my phones, to my laptop, and to my Kindle. I have authored epub content for mobile phones and intend to have my first set of course notes inside both the Kindle and the Nook this autumn.
I imagine a world some day when Irish libraries can offer that sort of platform-agnostic service to students with a simple swipe of a handset or wristband across a Near Field Communications point.
For as much as I am addicted to the iPad, I cannot countenance a State-subsidised scheme where my course notes, essential textbooks, and audible files can sync and play only on iOS. That's the kind of system a pilot programme running in County Mayo could produce and I think it needs the spotlight of serious peer review. At the moment, it's getting glorious press coverage with none of the cross-talk that surfaced on Google Plus today.
Carissa Casey -- "The Brave New World of e-Learning Has Changed the Game" in the Irish Independent, August 9, 2011.