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Towards a Pedagogy for Tablets: From Consumption to Curation and Creation

Tom Daccord and I have recently published a new ebook, iPads in the Classroom: From Consumption to Curation and Creation, from the newly formed EdTechTeacher Press, immediately available on Amazon and soon to be available through iBooks. The first chapter of the book, which sets out some of our vision of the challenges of education in the decades ahead, is available for free here.

Our take is that tablets like the iPad present a kind of fundamental dilemma for teachers. In its original conception, the iPad was a device to be used while "leaning back." Steve Jobs sold the device as a terrific platform for consumption, for reading magazines and watching movies. Now, there are certainly times in schools that we want kids "leaning back" and enjoying the pleasures of books and media, but more often we want them "leaning forward," engaged in some kind of process of activity and creation. The best uses of iPads in the classroom often involving pushing and hacking against the original design of the device and the culture that has emerged around it. 

In our observations, the most inspiring use of iPads and tablets in the classroom have been as portable, internet-connected, multimedia creation devices. The device is small enough to move around for taking pictures and recording, allows input from keyboards and fingers, and still large enough for media editing and moving files about. It probably has about the same media production and publication capacity as my entire high school had in the mid-90s. Students can use it to take notes in science class, but also to film and photograph their experiments and collaboratively create and share multimedia lab presentations. For schools that have invested in tablets, making the most of them means thinking about what the devices do best. There are all kinds of tasks for which a laptop or computer is still superior (at the forefront of the list is learning how to program a computer), but we hope that the book makes a contribution by trying to identify the places where the iPad is a great fit for particular learning activities.

The challenge for tablets, as with every new generation of technology, is helping teachers imagine new possibilities for new devices and innovations, rather than simply extending existing practice. In writing the book, we've followed insights that go back to Judith Sandholtz's research on the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow Project: that teachers who have access to new technology often need to go through a developmental process that start with adopting new tools for old purposes before developing the proficiency and competence to imagine new possibilities. So we've structured our book as a similar developmental process, from using the iPad as a device for consuming content, to one for curating resources and ideas, to serving as a platform for creative expression.

We tried to strike a balance between the big picture and the bric-a-brac, between setting out a vision for powerful learning and then trudging through the new skillsets and workflows that are needed to bring these visions to life. We've drawn many stories from the various educators who have attended our iPad Summits over the last few years, and we hope to collect more ideas and inspiration from folks at our next iPad Summit in Boston in November. We're grateful to all the educators who shared with us to illustrate a vision for using tablets in schools not to substitute for textbooks and notebooks, but to imagine new ways for students to develop and demonstrate their understanding.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

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