There were three reasons that I thought the iPad would be the best device for us as a school.
1. We would all have common apps that we could use for projects.
Of these three, my biggest shift in thinking has been around number one. This became even more clear to me yesterday at a meeting of the AISNE tech directors. I thank Jeremy Angoff for helping me to expand my thinking here. I wrote in an earlier post that I felt the iPad was getting ahead of the pedagogy and that the learning should come first. Rather than thinking about our projects as defined by the tool, I should be defining the project by the goals and letting the students find the best tool for the job.
For example, my goal with my Explain Everything project was to have students create a movie illustrating one of the Greek myths that we study. But this doesn't have to be done with Explain Everything (as awesome as that App is). If we focus on a goal of creating a 2-4 minute video that explains the key points of a myth, the students can decide on the best tool for the job. I think we can still offer suggestions and support, but I know that students will also do that for each other and for their teachers.
From a technology perspective this approach gets kids thinking about the goals of the project and forces them to find the tool and figure it out. Those are key skills that we all need to have TODAY (see my earlier post on the term "21st Century"). In addition, it frees the teacher from having to know the tools, which is particularly helpful for our less technically comfortable faculty. Because each device will have a different set of options, the choices students make will be more varied, and perhaps even more interesting and creative.
2. The iPad has a low profile, making it less of a barrier to class discussions around a table.
Almost three quarters of my students have chosen to purchase a keyboard for their iPad, thus making this benefit moot. Admittedly the screen is still smaller than a full size laptop, but it still gets in the way.
3. The iPad touch screen and size allows for reading and annotating books and articles.
I don't have an answer for this one. The iPad is still better for annotating and reading. I would imagine that some students will choose to have two devices, an e-reader of some kind and a laptop (If they can afford it). Other students will read the old fashioned way and annotate using a highlighter and a pen.
We aren't quite done with our pilot. We are taking one more year to make this decision. It will be interesting to see where we land. At some point the plane is going to run out of fuel. (Couldn't resist the metaphor ;)