Will the Apple iPad enhance learning?


Technology can be a great way to help a learner organize information. The latest fads, though, are not always beneficial and we can see from stagnant test scores in the U.S. that gaps continue to exist between different socio-economic learners; that is, fortunes usually go to children of a rich person.

Technology cannot compete against this variable if it is not used properly. Plus, technology without a significant improvement on serving the learning is simply replacing technology and this is wasted money.

Case in point, authors of The Bell Curve (1976) made it very clear that the use of technology is split. In one group, technology is used to enhance a person’s station in life while the other group uses technology as an addictive substance.

This is the reason teachers must introduce learners to technology and – in turn – show the learner how this particular piece of technology enhances learning. In other words, the teacher is the guide.

The blog On Teaching Matters asked Is the iPad coming to your classroom? Let’s all hope that the answer to this question is – only if the iPad enhances learning.

Let me explain. The approach to the blog post appears from the perspective of the teacher and not the learner. This conclusion is reached from the following section of the posting.

The first problem I have struggled with is how does a K-12 school manage the software (apps) that are on the iPad if everything is reliant on an iTunes account?

The approach to the blog post appears from the perspective of the teacher (and bureaucracy of schooling) and not the learner, therefore, I modified the focus question to Does the iPad enhance learning? I find this question much more pertinent to a learner.

Mayer (a cognitive theory of multimedia learning) suggests learners filter through two separate channels, auditory and visual channels. Both are limited in capacity. A cornerstone to this theory provides a purpose for the teacher to help the learner by organizing the material for understanding. Using this idea, can teachers use the iPad to organize the material?

Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning presents the idea that the brain does not interpret a multimedia presentation of words, pictures, and auditory information in a mutually exclusive fashion; rather, these elements are selected and organized dynamically to produce logical mental constructs – Learning Theories

Excluding applications already available on Tablet PCs, desktops, and notebooks, is there a new possibility with the Apple iPad?

The key may be visually enhanced textbooks that also incorporate a means for the learner to interact with the material. Consider the text The Elements and the inclusion of approximately 500 models of matter. These models help learners actively create mental representations. This text, though, falls short of requiring the learner to use the material and extend the learner’s understanding.

When the anatomy text on Blio was shown during CES 2010, I became excited. The possibilities of a true textbook that is able to serve both auditory and visual channels is mind-boggling.

This style of ereader is what is needed on the iPad. Without this type of learner interaction, the iPad has not expanded possibilities for the learner but is just a replacement for another type of technology. We don’t need replacement technology in schools. We need advancements that enhance learning.