WE NOW live in a totally wireless world. As the Horizon Report quite correctly predicted back in 2005:
Looking further down the road, as more people carry cell phones with an increasing array of features, ubiquitous wireless will become more valuable as a means for connecting people and providing instant access to information.
There are three kinds of wireless that provide this connected, mobile world:
- Bluetooth. Limited range (1-5 metres) so links devices closeby. Relatively low speed of data transfer.
- Wi-Fi. Local area network. The range is 20 metres, but coverage is extended by using multiple overlapping access points. Intermediate rates of data transfer.
- 3G /4G. High data rates over a range 1-30 kilometres. The phone coverage is enabled because of a cellular network.
It’s estimated that 75% of the globe is now wireless enabled.
Consequently, there has been a dramatic change in the way we relate and conduct our affairs. We can access the Internet, communicate with other people, transfer any kind of data and determine geographic locations, from anywhere (that is wireless enabled).
The iPad is the epitome of the wireless device. It enables mobility, accessibility, connection, media tools and a vast array of applications. It’s revolutionary appeal is that it’s lightweight, stylish, tactile and combines all digital media facets into the one masterful device.
It is a device therefore that has appeal for educators who can see its transforming potential. Most fundamentally, that learning and assessment need no longer be fixed to a permanent space (eg classroom).
Victoria seems to be the leader in Australia in trialing iPads in schools. In 2010, the Education Department provided 700 iPads for 10 different schools across a range of year levels, including specialist schools.
The results and case studies from this trial indicate a reasonable level of success, particularly in the primary and disability contexts, where the iPad apps are a great hit with students.
What most case studies provide is a list of apps that can be used in different teaching environments. This is a good start, but will not sustain a curriculum. It has to be more robust than this. The iPad is used here simply as a replacement or supplement to books and other resources that have been traditionally provided in the classroom.
In order to release the productive power of these mobile devices, it requires a shift from teacher-centred learning to learner-centred learning. Despite promises to the contrary, when teachers encounter this technology, they lapse back into traditional instruction modes of delivery, as Tzu Chien Liu discovered in his study Teaching in a wireless learning environment: A case study:
[The] inconsistency between instructional beliefs and practices resulted in the teacher being willing to apply wireless technology but unable to bring it into full play.
The elements of the teacher-centred and student-centred approaches are compared in his table provided below.
So, we have all the tools at hand, to connect the student and trainee into 21st century world, but it’s pedagogy that must change before this real world connection in education channels.
The problem is where do teachers go to really understand how to adopt a different pedagogy and integrate these tools profoundly into their teaching practice. Where is the professional development? Who is responsible for it?
In the Victorian Education Department’s <a href="http://asp-uk.secure-zone.net/v2/index pop over here.jsp?id=639/684/1625&lng=” target=”_blank”>iPads for learning: 21 steps to 1-1 success, Step 10 suggests, “develop teachers’ understanding of integrating ICT into learning and teaching”. But this just begs the question.
In this context, teachers will most likely view the introduction iPads in the classroom as an intrusion rather than as assistance, as they will be expected to learn the technology, familiarise themselves with the recommended apps and guide the students’ use, all with little additional educational benefit.