Understand when to reach for the tablet (or the laptop)

Occasionally you come across a kind of theological divide in EdTech around whether to focus on learning through the  iPad or via the laptop. Which is like wondering whether to have fish or vegetables for your dinner. Both are fine, but they don’t fill the same need.

The problem with seeing the laptop/iPad issue as an either or is that they can complement each other, not replace them. Effectively, you should see one as an instrument of consumption and one as an instrument of creation.

So, budget allowing (and recognising that is not a trivial issue), schools should look at how the iPad can encourage the consumption of content, especially that which is ‘native’ to the hardware – content which encourages an almost physical interaction – using the fingers to zoom in on detail or to rotate or swipe. It’s that tactile element which is especially important for younger pupils.

The iPad (or, indeed other tablets, the brand here is shorthand for tablet) also enables students to create their own media – take pictures, record audio, and video, and to do so on the hoof, telling multimedia stories that demonstrate their understanding of a subject in ways which the old-fashioned essays never could.

Which is fine – but the old-fashioned essay has its place. Long-form writing is still the way many students will be assessed in many subjects and the serious research and creation of full-length projects is still better suited to the laptop. Try tapping out a few thousand words on a tablet. If you want students to do the hard yards and create work of complexity then the iPad skims the surface too much, it feels too frivolous a device. And if your workflow for home assignments is based around creation documents in shared formats and uploading them to a shared environment, then the laptop is the only way.

For convenience, and creativity, reach for the iPad. To draw it together in some serious work, flip open the laptop.

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