Friday, February 8, 2013

“You can put down the iPad…”

OR.... “The Right Tool for the Job.”

 Here are two great tools.  You can accomplish a variety of tasks with either tool.  However, for some jobs, neither the hammer nor the pliers is the right tool.  You can’t paint a wall with either one – that requires a different tool.

 The same idea holds true for any classroom tool, they may or may not be the right tool for every single learning goal we set forth in our classrooms.  You probably wouldn’t use blocks to teach spelling just as you likely wouldn’t use magnetic letters to teach geometry.  So why then would we pull out iPads and try to apply them to every activity in our classrooms?  The answer is:  we wouldn’t.  These are the scenarios to consider when using iPads:

  • Sometimes iPads will be the right tool for everyone

Think about the Substitution level of the SAMR model created by Ruben Putendura. 

Everyone in your class might be on iPads to do research, to write papers, etc.  This shouldn’t be the most common scenario however.  It brings to mind images of students lined up in desks, plugged into computers, consuming rather than creating or collaborating.

  • Sometimes iPads will be the right tool for some
 This is where differentiation stands out and really helps your students with varied learning styles.  Consider your students when designing projects and offer options for the finished product.  It’s really the learning that happens during the process that counts after all.  Allow students to make a movie, create a cartoon strip, record an original song, make a book, etc., to demonstrate understanding.  

  • Sometimes iPads will be the right tool for part of a project            
We love to combine paper/pencil, iPad, manipulatives to investigate an idea or deepen our thinking.  This might be a project that involves creating a book about a math concept.  Students might use a math app or watch a math video (think Flipped Classroom) to get some background content.  They might then use math manipulatives to practice/demonstrate understanding and to find complexity.  The next step could be to choose how they articulate their thinking centered around this project – some might choose an iPad path, others might choose paper/pencil.

  • Sometimes iPads might not be the right tool for anyone or any part of a project

In the end, as with any learning goal you have, it is really all about your classroom culture.  What makes sense for your teaching style?  For a given group of students? For the subject matter? For any particular project?  Consider the types of thinking/learning you wish to have your students do: consider different viewpoints, find complexity, deepen understanding, make connections, create, imagine, question, observe, or investigate.  Consider how the iPad can add a dimension to your students experiences that they would not get any other way. (redefinition, SAMR)  And then, give yourself permission to let your students find their own individuality and their own unique way of articulating their thinking/learning.


  1. Denise,
    This is an important blog post for everyone to read, especially those who remain unsure about how teachers are using and can use iPads in their classrooms. It seems to me, iPads have inspired many teachers to take a good look at their teaching practices and learning goals and been a catalyst to delve deeper. Many teachers are taking more risks and becoming more flexible. They are moving away from being so teacher directed towards empowering students, and realizing schools are communities of learners made up of both students and teachers! Thanks for your leadership.

  2. That might be possible. You are telling people practically.