• Prose and Purpose

    After 25 years on the job, a former provost examines the world on campus and in higher ed.


No Strings

Watching an iPad band.

May 19, 2013

Last Tuesday, I attended the middle school concert, which included my younger daughter who is a clarinet player in the band.  The band section of the program was second on the schedule and I was hoping that the first part of the program would be brief.  But once the players started playing, what came second in the program was no longer the major focus of my attention.  It turned out that the first part of the program was the middle school IPad band and they were great.  Their selection was Sunshine of My Love by Cream and it was as well performed as I had ever heard it.  Ten middle schoolers with IPads and a mixing board had redefined what constitutes a band performance.

For both my daughter in middle school and my daughter in high school, being assigned IPads.  The instant access to up-to-date information and the books available in the palm of your hand, are both tremendous steps forward.  A calculator, dictionary, thesaurus, and so many other helpful learning tools are always right there whenever you need them.  I would have loved this convenience when I was going to school.  In my time in school, just getting a hand held calculator was in my opinion a major step forward.

What I haven’t liked is that the IPad allows for the playing of endless different games and also allows free access to social media and therefore too much time spent on social media. The same criticism can be leveled against the smart phones that so many kids in middle school and high school are totally reliant on.  In a meeting earlier this week, the presenter noted that 25% of the high school students looking for information on colleges and universities access that information solely on hand held devices (smart phones).  I think we all realize the days of glossy brochures are ending but for many of our potential college students, the days of using a computer to access information are also ending.  The desired level of portability just isn’t there even in a laptop and our students, our potential students, and our children want the capability to always be at their instant beck and call.

Even with the sense that IPads are a mixed blessing, I am pleased that my kids are working with them in school.  On a continuing basis there are more and more school related applications and assignments that make use of the IPads.  IPads provide adaptive technology when needed, including  large type, the ability to dictate and the ability to print. More textbooks are available on the IPad, and the access to information has in my opinion also led to an increase in our students’ knowledge base.  Personalized assignments are next.  These assignments reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the student and provide ongoing information to the teacher and ongoing feedback to the student.

There is a downside to being among the first to implement a new learning tool.  The implementation isn’t instantaneous and there are issues yet to be resolved.  On balance, I’m glad that they are working with IPads.  All of education will be utilizing tablets as we move forward and my kids will greatly benefit from having experience incorporating this technology into their learning.

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