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Getting Physical with iPad Use

In our recent Spring/Summer issue of Digital Directions, we found that much of the burgeoning appeal of the Apple iPad tablet computer is based on its flexibility.

This morning in a session at the International Society for Technology in Education annual conference here in Philadelphia, Gilmer County (W.Va.) High School teacher Adam Osbourne led a mock lesson to show how an iPad could be a teacher's "Swiss Army Knife."

Osborne, who teaches physics, chemistry, and anatomy at the school, demonstrated how students could perform an entire classroom lesson around the physics principle of acceleration using only the iPad, free online apps, and PDF files from the classroom textbook.

Need to calculate acceleration? Just use TouchCalc, a free app that provides a scientific calculator. Want to record actual acceleration? Just shake and wave the tablet, and use the SPARKvue app to graph its acceleration along an axis. Need to show what you've learned? Write a scientific conclusion on the device's default Notes app, then use a Web browser to reach and complete an online quiz Osborne authored. In the sake of fairness, the Osborne also stressed that, while he only used a handful of apps in Monday's mock lesson, there are surely many others that are just as free and useful.

As one attendee noted to me, it's worth pointing out that the iPad is certainly not the only device capable of being used like this. A netbook, for example, could be used to do every portion of the experiment other than the actual physical manipulation of the iPad, which was used to graph acceleration. And in most cases, that netbook would be a couple hundred dollars cheaper.

Yet, as expected, the session was packed with teachers eager to gain some insight into how to incorporate what is arguably the hottest device in education technology.

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