Friday, March 23, 2012

All in all it's just another brick in the wall

One frustration with trying to exclusively use an iPad is that everyone else around you is not doing the same. This is having a very bad impact on my social life. Or rather, if I had a social life, this would be having a very bad impact on it.

As it is, my colleagues' and students' lack of iPadness (iPadity? IPaditude?) inevitably forces me to steer every conversation towards an exhortation on the wonders of the device. I mean, I must do so, right? How else will they learn how great this thing is? It's a public service.

Oddly, people now seem to run the other way when they see me coming, and mysteriously finish their lunches when I sit down in the cafeteria. Must be a coincidence.

The fact that everyone else doesn't exclusively use the iPad is also leading to another frustration, besides my iPad induced hermitage. I can see the potential of it in the class but so much of what I can see I can't realize, because I'm the only one using it. One of the changes I can envision is partially illustrated by this (very poor quality) picture of a picture:

This is a quick photo I took of a Keynote slide during a presentation at a tech conference--thus the crummy quality. The red circle shows kids sitting around a table with laptop computers. The green circle shows the same set-up, but with iPads. It is shocking (or it would be, if you could see the picture fully) how isolated the laptop kids look compared to the iPad kids. The simple removal of the "screen as barrier" makes for an inviting collaborative space.

This is something that I don't hear iPad proponents or detractors talking about enough--the physical/spatial change that an iPad (or, to be fair, ANY brand tablet) can bring to the class. Standard computers, by their very nature, close us off to others. We Ed-Tech proponents like to say that computers are really just another educational tool, like whiteboards, calculators, and pens. But I'm not sure that's always accurate. When I look out at a class with screens up, I see students with walls in front of them and Pink Floyd starts humming in the back of my brain. It's an emotional response, but that does not make it any less true.

Tablets, on the other hand, have the potential to be there on the desk without cutting a kid off from the class. Sure students will be distracted by it just as they would by a laptop, but at least it is less physically intrusive.

The physicality, if I can call it that, of the iPad is a big part of why it impresses me so much. I wonder if resistance to iPads in the class might be coming because its detractors focus too much on what it doesn't do "computer-wise" and don't appreciate what it does do aesthetically. Teaching is an emotional and aesthetic endeavor as much as it is a logical one, and we need our classroom tech to reflect this.

Thus, if the revolution is to come, maybe we need to start it by putting some art teachers on computer adoption committees.

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