Recently, viewers were both intrigued and appalled when a father posted a video of his one-year-old getting frustrated at a magazine that didn’t work like the iPad did. In the video, she taps and swipes at the pages to no avail, and ends up screaming in frustration.
Scores of educators, particularly those who help children with special needs, gravitate toward iPad use. Why? The iPad has many features that teachers know help students learn. It’s multi-sensory, which means it includes sound, touch, striking visual images, and even kinesthetic interaction. Students can drag objects, tap objects, scroll, and even tilt and shake the device. Furthermore, when students practice skills on the iPad, they get immediate feedback about whether they are right are wrong, and can even win special rewards for dedication and improvement. The iPad can be a great educational tool.
Apple has always been a friend of education, offering student discounts and volume purchase programs for schools. Now, the initiatives are even more powerful. With iBooks and multi-touch textbooks, learning becomes interactive on a whole new level. Don’t know a vocabulary word in Great Expectations? Clicking on a word might bring up the definition right there and then. Don’t remember the Pythagorean theorem? Watch a video with someone solving a sample problem.
Still, quite a few parents scoff at the idea that their tiny children are enamored with these devices. If their children get so engrossed in the technology, they wonder, what will it do to their developing brains? Will they lose interest in real books? Will they forget how to have personal interaction? Will so much “screen time” be bad for their eyesight? Furthermore, many parents don’t know how to use parental controls correctly, and so their kids could end up watching inappropriate videos or obsessively playing Angry Birds instead of doing their homework.
To widen its audience and provide a safer alternative, there are rumors that Apple is planning on launching an iPad mini to rival Amazon’s Kindle Fire. This might be a cheaper version more suitable for children.
So before rushing to eschew the iPad, remember that change and progress are the way of the world, and at every step, we seem to fight them before we accept them. In the beginning there was the chalkboard. Then there was the whiteboard. Next came the Smartboard. Some day, perhaps, every student in class will sit with an iPad in his or her lap, and the old folks will nostalgically talk about the time when they used a “note pad” and a “pencil.”