Technology has one primary function, to make life easier for human beings. However, innovations and technologies are not just meant to make life easy, they are meant for enhancing the human experience altogether. Technological advances help humans in almost all walks of life. Computers are a field of technology that have had a ground breaking impact on the way daily life works. They have completely changed every aspect of human lives, from business to learning etc. Added to this their decreasing size has made it easier for people to use and carry. Teaching is a noble profession that tutors and prepares young minds to become balanced and responsible citizens in the future.
Use of technology, especially computers has impacted the way teachers teach their students as well how students learn today. Researches and classes are done majorly through computers these days and teachers and students find it easier to operate. However, when it comes to teaching students who are between the age of nine and eleven, mostly fifth grade students, it becomes tricky even with the help of computers. Fifth grade students are high on energy and are very curious. However they get bored with routine text books and lectures. Technology can have an answer to this problem in the form of a miniaturized hand held and user friendly computer popularly called a tablet personal computer (Table PC) known as the iPad. The iPad is a smart electronic product of the company Apple Inc. and has been in use for academics for quite some time now. The following paper is a discussion of how iPads can be used by teachers to create interests in fifth grade students towards studies and learning.
Children are kinesthetic learners (Johnson). This means that they learn better by experiencing things, by moving them, controlling them and watching them react to their touch etc. However, it is not possible to provide tangible experiences for subjects, for example general sciences like biology, chemistry and physics, history, sociology, social sciences, communication skills etc., that teach generalized theories. These concepts are not tangible in real life or are too big to be made tangible to students. Different forms of media must be employed to help students understand and learn subjects like sciences etc.
Computers, especially tablet PCs, have the power to make this possible. Computers have the drawback of being rigid and immobile. However, tablet PCs eliminate this drawback as they can be moved anywhere and could be used in setting. Tablet PCs can be used to simulate reactions of different objects to shifts in gravity, to depict historical events through video and animations, explain complex natural processes like the water cycle in step by step comprehensive slides and animations. Tablet PCs can be programmed to provide content directly to students and teachers, heling teachers in assigning home works and getting timely submissions from students. Using a tablet PC becomes more advantageous as students can explore topics through their own curiosity by connecting to the internet.
The iPad takes the tablet PC learning experience a step further. An iPad comes with an added feature of providing only featured content too its users through its applications or “Apps” (Apple Inc.). This means that there is an app for any and every topic related to learning. Students can learn, research and review articles assigned to them on iPads, and even submit home work through them. They can search facts specific to topics related to the subject and get information related to all the aspects of the subject without the interference of other elements of the internet. In other words iPads make the use of internet more secure for students and manageable for teachers. Also, teachers can use certain apps to circulate information specific to the students and never worry that the information did not reach the student on time.
A complete model of a class activities can be fit into an iPad application. For example a teacher explaining the concept of force to students can use iPads to show how various objects can be moved through the application of force or how force can modify the dimensions of an object, or how friction helps a person walk or write. In the same example teachers can distribute students with streaming notes related to force and other physical entities related to force as she writes them on the board or on the iPad itself. This way students would never miss out on the notes and references that the teacher may use in class. Also, with such dynamic, learning students could be open to deep learning as they experience and observe the phenomenon as it happens in minute detail and then relate to events in their real lives that may be examples for the phenomenon under demonstration. Teachers can also take a quick refresh through slide shows and distribute notes to students without ever needing to write them down on paper and hence saving a lot of time in creating notes.
In another example an art teacher can provide hands on painting experience to students without ever needing to worry about the mess that students may create with colors. Although a tablet PC may not exactly help produce masterpieces but it can bring confidence in motion, hand movement and sense of coloring in art students. Students can create their own artwork digitally and upload them to their instructors for evaluation over provided networks. Also it can be a rich source of information for both students and teachers as they explore and share new forms of art through applications built for this purpose. Music students can also have a complete experience through both visual as well as auditory sensation as they develop an understanding of the instruments that they will practically play afterwards. Although an iPad cannot replace a musical instrument it can help students to recognize and understand the basic significance of each instrument, helping them to choose the instrument of their choice without even buying one first. Also, it can help students to develop concepts like learning by ear as well as decoding musical notes and learning great musical classics developed by musicians like Mozart, without requirement of actually going to a concert to listen to one of the songs play.
There are various practical advantages of an iPad (Johnson). First and foremost is its portability. An iPad is light and highly mobile and can be easily carried by any child. The second advantage is that even though the iPad is very light and portable it has a lot digital space in it. Teachers and students can preload a large number of books and reference material without ever needing to carry the burden of holding them. The added load of paperwork is reduced to a bare minimum and a lot of paper is saved as well, making iPad or any tablet PC for that matter an eco-friendly solution The third benefit is that it can help students and teachers stay connected, as it gives teachers the power to manage and schedule events like tests, demonstrations, assignment submissions etc. Apart from this teachers can maintain various records of students in real time, helping them in evaluating performance of students (Apple Inc.). Another advantage is that an iPad can be used as a platform for interaction and entertainment in class giving teachers a chance to understand the behavioral patterns of students.
However, like everything that has advantages has disadvantages too, iPads have some disadvantages as well. An iPad is highly sensitive gadget and must be handled with a lot of care, otherwise they may get easily damaged. Therefore students especially children in fifth grade should only be allowed to use iPads or other tablet PCs in the supervision of their teachers or instructors. Continuous use of the iPad screen may be strenuous to the delicate eyes of children as screens may cause eyes to fatigue easily.
Although iPads are highly secure, applications are paid and sometimes subscriptions are for a limited time period (The Learning Guild). Also iPads need to be connected to a network top allow information transfer during interactive class sessions. This makes the implementation of iPads a complicated affair and is not cost effective in the beginning. Apart from these, new applications may not run on obsolete hardware and old iPads may require complete replacement as iPads do not come with easily replaceable parts and it is more economical to buy a new iPad than to repair an old one. The disadvantage here is that it adds to the electronic waste. Therefore, an implementation of iPad or any tablet PC enabled learning must first be thoroughly considered and evaluated before being implemented at all.
An iPad can be a complete learning experience for students both for its aesthetic appeal as well as its kinaesthetic utility (The Learning Guild). Children learn faster when they can actually interact with the object of study. The iPad screen becomes a book for the student as he or she tries to understand and experience the lesson it has to offer, it is a smart alternative to handling lengthy schedules on paper for teachers as well as an ecological and economic way to reduce the wastage of paper in school curriculum (The Learning Guild). Even though it is a delicate device, it is robust, flexible and versatile and can be used for learning multiple subjects as all books would fit into one screen. Teachers and students can connect easily over a network and exchange information like records, notes, books etc. over secured networks. This could help teachers to manage their lessons as well as provide classes to students with more effective communication and clarity.
Apple Inc. iPad in Education. Apple Inc. 2014. Web. Accessed on 5 Dec. 2014. < https://www.apple.com/in/education/ipad/>
Johnson, B. Teaching and Learning: Using iPads in the Classroom. 31 Oct, 2011. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. < http://www.edutopia.org/blog/ipad-teaching-learning-apps-ben-johnson>
The Learning Guild. Why the iPad Is a Learning Tool. The Learning guild Website. 2014. Web. Accessed 04 Dec. 2014 <http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/545/why-the-ipad-is-a-learning-tool>