An Apple that teachers as well as students are appreciating — the iPad
During the coronavirus pandemic, teachers across the globe have been expected to flip the switch to online learning and clearly this is turning out to be a year unlike any other with educators, students and parents attending virtual classrooms shaped by an unforeseen situation. While some teachers are reviving computers that are on their last leg to get through a few months, some have to share devices with others at home and then there are those who believe in a smartphone-only existence.
There is no straightforward answer to when the pandemic would go away but one thing is for sure — Internet-driven education is here to stay and it will continue to supplement what a student learns at school, in person. There are a lot of choices for teachers and students when it comes to buying a device for education needs — laptops, tablets and desktops — but different people like to work in different ways.
The challenge is to find a machine that is properly balanced to meet its user’s needs and will last long enough to justify the cost. Though not an exact science, the idea is not to saddle low-end devices with the cost of high-end processors or having a high-end device with little memory and storage space.
This is where the Apple iPad comes in. It has turned out to be the gadget during the pandemic and with its bigger screen, excellent processing power and a huge app ecosystem, the iPad can be at the heart of education. No, you don’t have to go for the most expensive option. Yes, there is a range of iPads to choose from.
Further, Apple has created a suite of comprehensive learning programmes exclusively for educators. They’re designed to take educators from foundational skills to integrating iPad and Mac into everyday lessons to the newest techniques in classroom innovation. Apple has also gathered a series of helpful tips, real teacher stories, and how-to videos to get educators started.
“The iPad is a good medium as it is larger than a phone so there is more screen space. It also allows simple creation with its built-in tools, like iMovie and Pages and also Keynote that allows you to quickly create and deliver lessons. The iPad is definitely a better source of apps for education as a lot of companies seem to target the iPad,” says Lawrence William Hartnett, former principal of The Assembly of God Church School, Calcutta, and The Kindergarten Starters, GEMS, Dubai. He retired as director (managed school operations), West Bengal, GEMS Education, India.
Going on a virtual field trip
For a teacher or a school student, the toss up can be between the iPad and the MacBook Air. “Although both seem to win equal points in terms of portability and flexibility, iPad seems to win an edge over its strength as an all-in-one device. From a student’s perspective, they need access to camera to capture evidences from their real time learning, document the same, do necessary research and can easily add multimedia sections to their work in the form of audio and video. The lightweight design makes it easy on their backpacks,” A. Lakshmi Priya, physics teacher at TRIO World Academy in Bangalore and an Apple Distinguished Educator, tells us.
The iPad is an additional tool to easily integrate learning skills. “Project works are best to teach collaboration and creativity skills. iPad allows great collaboration features through iCloud. Currently augmented reality apps being tapped into education segments has changed the dynamics of how we teach and learn. Going on a virtual field trip to any part of the world to study civilisation, architecture, ecosystem or even land ourselves onto any planet of solar system is feasible with this technology. Apps like WWF Rivers, allow us to study the fauna and flora around a river, how it affects the ecosystem, economics and geography of a location. A few other examples are BBC Civilisations, Froggipedia and Hologo,” she adds.
Helping the cause of the iPad is its touch-based input, which makes it super-easy to learn to use a new app. “The time required to gain moderate proficiency in any app on an iPad is significantly lesser than a comparable Windows or macOS based computer. Plus, it has the advantages of being a powerful computer, and not just an entry-level mobile device. Finally, Apple’s focus on enforcing key user-centric design guidelines for apps, make them so much easier to use and excel at,” says Daniel Herbert, digital coordinator at Anita Methodist school in Chennai.
There are thousands of education apps, books, and courses, so lessons come to life like never before. And the iPad has software designed exclusively for educators, enabling easy classroom management and collaborating with students in all-new ways.
But the iPad cannot thrive on its own. There are Apple Distinguished Schools in India, like Macro Vision Academy in Burhanpur (Madhya Pradesh), which inspire creativity, collaboration and critical thinking through a balance of classroom and digital teaching. There is also Apple Teacher, a free online professional learning programme designed to support teachers around the world.
“On the software/devices side, Apple introducing Apple School Manager (a web-based portal for IT administrators to manage people, devices, and content all from one place) in India a few years ago was a turning point. It is indispensable for us to onboard new iPad devices which our students use, and to manage all 30 student iPads from a single computer wirelessly. Although we use ZuluDesk (Jamf School now) on top of Apple School Manager, Apple School Manager has been indispensable to getting the apps we want onto our managed devices (iPads and Apple TVs).
“On the training/support side, Apple has provided a training session from an Apple Teacher on-campus for all our staff, and much more recently, more intensive sessions with an ADE for five or six staff. Recent sessions have been instrumental in igniting our minds with what can be accomplished with the iPad and really helping us dream of pushing the envelope with respect to how we use the iPad on campus,” says Herbert.
Why the iPad and not another tablet computer? There are a few options out there but most of these devices are generally much slower and have inferior screens. The iPad continues to be cheaper than most iPhone models and has always been a better value than the average laptop.
The New York Times has called the iPad, “the gadget of the pandemic” for no small reason. Technological fads have come and gone in schools but the iPad has held its ground for a long time now, especially among teachers and students. And the iPad is only getting better and more powerful.
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