iPad Flips Learning Process

iPad Flips Learning Process

The iPad is figuratively and literally flipping the learning process. For decades Apple has been established player in the education market but the developments of the last few years are staggering.  According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the company has a sleeper hold on the education tablet market, controlling 94%. This comes at a time when Apple is slowing down in the tablet market writ large, yet the education sector represents potential profits of approximately 1 billion dollars. According to Edudemic, when one looks at the supporting evidence, it’s hard to write off that billion dollar projection as a PR song and dance.  First, Apple has sold twice as many iPad tablets as macs to the education sector. Second, currently 2,300 school districts implement iPads in the classroom.  Third, iPads are integrating seamlessly into the pre-existing digital offerings in education. The titans of education publishing, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson, are selling or plan to sell, digital versions of their textbooks. Finally, iPads have connected with students. Approximately 90% want iPads in the classroom. If understanding market forces really is as simple as supply and demand, then statistics indicate  a clear demand for iPads in education, but what is driving this desire? What desire are the tablets fulfilling?

Education writer Tina Barseghian, identifies three trends in education. Modern education is collaborative, tech-driven, and blended. Teachers are implementing group project schemes and using social media resources such as Facebook, Twitter, and Edmodo. In addition, wikis  allow teachers room to experiment with research projects driven by peer review, while allowing educators themselves to participate with a soft (or heavy) hand. Intuitive, tech-driven applications are  redefining the scope of classroom projects.  Ten years ago, the notion students could record video, create animation, and publish their own videos on the history of Thanksgiving was, at best, a clunky and probably expensive endeavor.  Now all you need is the right application from the iTunes store and a YouTube account. These developments are giving rise to blended classrooms. Learning laboratories that are part old-school brick and mortar classroom,  with the freedom (both physical and intellectual) fostered by a wi-fi environment.

It’s in the hybrid classrooms the iPad is part of the flipped learning process. Flipped learning isn’t just a sticky catchphrase, it’s a movement, a new theory on how to teach. Classroom time is spent on projects and individual assignments. Students use the period to make their wiki page on NASA or tasks  that might otherwise be classified traditionally as homework.  Teachers use the time to make sure group efforts run smoothly and offer students one-to-one help.  There is an added time management benefit here as teachers are free to prioritize their efforts; they can focus on the students who need help the most, allowing advanced students to work with little oversight.

Lectures, quizzes, tests, are now done outside of school. For example, an Educators records a lecture on Apollo 13. It can be watched on YouTube or Kahn Academy. Websites like Knowmia give teachers the power to design presentations in Google Docs and import them to the Knowmia tablet app.  From here educators can add images, graphs, pdf files, their own voice, and links to astronaut interviews.  Afterwards, the teacher can require the student to take a quiz through a secure website via Desire2Learn. Although the movement is only a few years young, there’s evidence suggesting it is effective. Clintondale High School, located in Detroit, adopted a flipped model in 2011.  The freshman pass rate increased by 33%.

The process has its bugs as well as features. Teachers find their work is front loaded. More time is spent preparing and designing materials in the off hours, while there’s less logistical and bureaucratic work done during the school day. Also, as with any model driven by net-based technology, there’s an issue of access. If students don’t have wi-fi access outside of the classroom, they could run into serious issues or end up doing their homework at McDonald’s, which raises a whole new set of ethical questions. Clintondale, which services a low income community, must show videos at the beginning of class to ensure everyone has an opportunity to see it.

In other words, the iPad is successful in the education field because it thrives within the paradigm of flipped learning; it’s symbolic of the movement.  They provide students with portable devices that allow for an interactive experience, create group projects, and allow them to carry their lectures and quizzes anywhere. Teachers are free to customize the devices with the educational software that best suits their needs and lesson plans. By reversing priorities, turning lectures into homework and homework into classwork, educators are finding they’re more effective at budgeting time and effort, and students, just importantly, remain engaged in the learning process.

By David Arroyo


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