More and more things are making me want to say “damn the expense,” run out and buy an iPad. This is one of them. It’s about the future, but the things the iPad can do right now are pretty amazing.
Mark Pesce, Australian writer, researcher, and teacher, on the iPad’s potential for what’s to come in education:It’s not clear that computers as we know them today — that is, desktops and laptops — will be common in a decade’s time. They may still be employed in very specialized tasks. For almost everything else, we will be using our iPads. They’ll rarely leave our sides. They will become so pervasive that in many environments — around the home, in the office, or at school — we will simply have a supply of them sufficient to the task. …. You will be able to pick up any iPad and — almost instantaneously — the custom features which mark that device as uniquely yours will be downloaded into it.
Now let’s imagine them in the hands of students everywhere:No student, however poor, will be without their own iPad — the Government of the day will see to that. These students of 2020 are at least as well connected as you are, as their parents are, as anyone is. …. This is a world where the classroom walls have been effectively leveled by the pervasive presence of the network, and a device which can display anything on that network. This is a world where education can be provided anywhere, on demand, as called for. This is a world where the constructivist premise of learning-by-doing can be implemented beyond year two.
Need some concrete examples? It happens:Where a student working on an engine can stare at a three-dimensional breakout model of the components while engaging in a conversation with an instructor half a continent away. Where a student learning French can actually engage with a French student learning English, and do so without much more than a press of a few buttons. Where a student learning about the Eureka Stockade can survey the ground, iPad in hand, and find within the device hidden depths to the history. iPad is the handheld schoolhouse, and it is, in many ways, the thing that replaces the chalkboard, the classroom, and the library.
Before closing, Mark reminds us that — just like children — we too learn by exploration. “The joy we feel when we play with our new toy is the feeling a child has when he confronts a box of LEGOs, or new video game — it’s the joy of exploration, the joy of learning. That joy is foundational to us. If we didn’t love learning, we wouldn’t be running things around here. We’d still be in the trees.” It took about four weeks for me. But as an iPad junkie myself (Uzu! Google Earth! Flipboard! Reeder! NPR!), I couldn’t agree more. I’m addicted to its possibility. Consider the classroom in your hand. Now go play.