Wednesday, 11 May 2011

How useful an iPad?

I have been asked - on Twitter - "How useful is an iPad to an ESL teacher?"    A strange question! How useful any device is depends on what you want to use it for…

I should probably first clarify that I am not an ESL teacher, not even much of a teacher these days, but...
My iPad is most used frequently by myself to
    •    check and respond to e-mail and Twitter whilst I am away from home
    •    make notes in meetings, seminars and more
    •    listen to podcasts or videocasts
    •    read from RSS feeds, websites, news and books
    •    play on the Garageband app - current favourite
    •    play silly game apps whilst travelling or wasting time
    •    currently - whilst trying to get thinner and fitter it sits in front of me on my exercise bike so that I can read and exercise - takes my mind off the exercise bit ;-)

My iPad is in demand almost the second my grandson arrives in the house with a "Can I play on your iPad please nan?"
Woody uses it for loads of games, books, painting and music apps - he even investigates those I have downloaded for myself, once he hands it back apart from having a depleted battery (he does like the sound up full)  it has many apps still open. He flits from app to app trying them all out and having a fun time. He will happily play with it or on it whilst the adults are doing the boring coffee and talking bit, until someone offers to play with him!

We have not had a set of iPads in a school situation but there are many similarities with the iPad Touch which we have been using for a couple of years. The web access, apps, instant accessibility and long battery life makes them a huge success in the classroom.

If I was wanting to use mine for teaching there are a few things that I would consider…
  • unless I "jailbreak" it I cannot share it with a class though a projector and screen
  • if I make great use of an interactive whiteboard and have made lots of interactive resource with the IWB software I can't load that onto my iPad
  • I can't share the games or websites created in Flash with my class
  • The camera flash card, USB type of added extra is underpowered - I was not particularly successful at things I wanted to do with it.
Compare with a laptop or netbook - that you can do all of those things with, and lots more…

The iPad is a lovely device with loads of wonderful apps for group work such as making stories, recording narrations, making animations, videos and other things with various different sorts of apps.  It is a delight to use. I consider it a personal device rather than teaching device, if wanted something to use for teaching I prefer a laptop…. but that is just me and my preference others would say otherwise!