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Mobile Computing | CT 2011 Coverage

Teaching with the iPad (and Angry Birds)

For some, the jury is still out on the potential of Apple's popular iPad tablet device as a learning tool. Not for Jenna Linskens, Kristi Shaw, Robert Wagner, and Marian University, the small Catholic and Franciscan school in Fond du Lac, WI where they all teach. Marian offers a three-credit course to masters students in the graduate school of education on the iPad. Although that class is primarily attended by grad students, it has also become popular with local K-12 teachers.

"We teach them how to use and implement iPads in the classroom," explained Shaw, who's an assistant professor at Marian. "The device is just amazing."

What makes the iPad amazing as a teaching technology, besides its category-defining form factor, is the exploding selection of apps that run on it, said Linskens, an instructor in Marian's education technology department--including those specifically designed for educational purposes and those that started out as something else.

"I know of a teacher who's using 'Angry Birds' to teach physics," she said. "So go ahead, download that game if you want to. Even if you don't find a way to use it to teach, it'll help you get better at using the device."

Shaw, Linskens, and Wagner (who directs the educational technology component of Marian's masters program led two packed sessions at the Campus Technology 2011 conference, underway this week in Boston. The presenters regularly work with K-12 teachers across the state of Wisconsin, and they shared their iPad expertise and a lineup of tools they argued offer excellent opportunities to support and boost learning in the classroom.

Most of the attendees brought their own iPads to the hands-on session and joined in as the presenters demoed some iPad basics, iTunes U, and a number of free and nearly free apps, including news and information applications, library and reference programs, Web browsers, course management systems, digital books, social media, productivity apps, database systems, project organizers, and project creation apps.

"There are more than 500,000 apps out there for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, so we'll just be giving you a tiny piece of a very big picture," Linskens said.

Linskens has posted links to dozens of iPad applications with educational potential on her Web site.

The presenters also went into the rather iPad-savvy audience for suggestions, as well as to ask how they might be implementing iPad at their schools. An attendee from Morningside College in Sioux City, IA said that her school recently purchased 30 iPads for a pilot program. An attendee from the Thunderbird School of Global Management reported that his school's executive education program is also implementing an iPad pilot program. An attendee from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York is giving all second year medical students iPads "starting this morning at 9 [o'clock]." An attendee from Villanova University said that school's nursing program has a "pretty extensive" pilot program running in its second year and small beta programs among groups of students.

"We're not yet seeing campus-wide adoption of the iPad, but mostly rollouts in small bits and pieces," Linskens said. "But that's not surprising, or a reflection on the iPad; adoption of new hardware and software is a slow process."

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication. As the reader noted below, the Marian University referenced in this article is in WIsconsin, not Indiana, as previously reported. [Last updated July 27, 2011 at 9:55 a.m.] --David Nagel


About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Mountain View, CA.

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