iPads in schools! They just play games!

20th Century pedagogy + iPads = Gaming

So, you’re in your classroom and annoyed that the kids are playing games on the iPads. You have devised a strategy and at random intervals, you ask them to double-click the ‘Home’ button to see the last apps used. Great! Well done on controlling the situation so they can get on with:

  1. writing their notes;
  2. Reading their e-textbook;
  3. completing their essay or
  4. ‘Researching’ on the Internet.

The only step forward you’ve really seen is the ability to use that Shakespeare app or Dissecting Frog app. You are also worried that the iPad’s ‘distracting’ tools and games are removing rigour from your teaching process.

The parents too, have complained that all they seem to see is game playing and maybe your school is considering limiting the apps allowed on the devices.

Well done on introducing iPads. But it’s teacher-centred pedagogy that encourages gaming, not their maturity level.

Now you have introduced a radically new and powerful learning device, you need to update your pedagogy to match it. The iPad is revolutionising education, not because it is replacing paper & textbooks or offering new gadget-style apps, but because it:

  1. returns power to the student to personalise the process;
  2. offers tools to collaborate quickly and smartly;
  3. allows for mobile, continuous learning;
  4. can bring about faster feedback;
  5. widens the possibilities with how to approach any task;
  6. Is a productive and creative device and;
  7. is unobtrusive to any learning space.

Why are these issues the most important?

Like the iPad, learning is personal

As I have previously mentioned, you can’t encourage the idea that learning is a lifetime occupation, if you centre your education delivery around the teachers. If you need to have a teacher to learn, then your learning must stop at the end of the school day. I have witnessed a number of classrooms and teachers having problems with iPads. In every case the classroom was teacher centred and generally students were reading issued text, making notes from lecturing and definitely all working at the same task in the same way. In these teacher-centred environments, any iPadding at home will consist of mainly gaming as only a teacher-issued piece of structured homework could possibly indicate that home was a place to be productive with an iPad.

This is not what the iPad was designed for. Even outside the realm of education, the iPad was only designed to be personal and this should be the only approach when considering how one learns with or even without an iPad. Any approach where the iPad is a paper or textbook replacement, within these traditional teaching methods, wastes 98% of the iPad’s power to reinvigorate education for a new century.

Solution: Stop asking the class to do the same thing and you’ll (nearly) remove all gaming.

I’ll cover the potential for gaming itself to advance learning in a future post, but for now, you need to

  1. Only consider the specifics of what you want your students to understand;
  2. Pose questions that demand the students link aspects together;
  3. Set challenging work that asks for all the required detail but;
  4. Offer almost complete freedom in how they prove their understanding; (see Student apps)
  5. Encourage creativity & fun in all student output. This will result in genuine rather than imposed engagement.
  6. Often encourage the production of a “learning product” that their classmates  might utilise in the future.
  7. Issue the learning objectives to engage and inform peer assessment. This makes assessment against the original objectives more meaningful.

When students are working on a creative project of their own design that will prove to the teacher just how powerful the iPad can be, then genuine engagement in learning not only takes place in the classroom but returns home with the iPad and will often continue. Tactics like these, readdress how the student views the iPad’s capabilities and in doing so, reduces the desire and time for gaming.


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