Shiny hardware is just half the picture. You need something to run on it, and, with the iPad, there is no shortage of Apps to do the job. There are in excess of 425,000 Apps in the Apple store at the moment, so even at a conservative estimate, it would take me well beyond lunchtime to complete them all.
Many of these Apps are first footstep applications. They are from developers with an idea, or businesses with a service, who are just keen to establish a presence. They are rapid to market tools which aim to build developer knowledge and lay claim to a space. Many are excellent, some less so, although the stringent Apple procedures tend to weed out some of the more radical or weaker offerings.
Some are incredible. Even in the earliest months of the hardware being rolled out, some great Apps were being developed, not just ‘content on the Pad’, but Apps that were innovative and built on the actual form factor of the device itself. The opportunities that the tablet devices, with their touchscreen interface, mobile connectivity and interactivity present are significant for learning and development applications.
A friend has just returned from a trip to Kenya, where he did some work in a school, and commented on the fact that the children were great at learning by rote. This sparked a conversation about just how far learning methodologies have developed over the past four decades, with resultant changes in teaching styles. We no longer value rote learning in education, instead preferring exploratory activities and focusing on the ability to synthesise new learning onto existing knowledge. Analytical skills are pushed to the forefront, with actual ‘knowledge’ taking an increasingly minimised role.
Good Apps take this one step further. They can put knowledge literally right into the hands of the learner and allow the individual to manipulate it in hitherto impossible ways. Apps that allow you to dissect a frog, to journey through the heavens, to delve into historical battles, all immersive and creative in both scope and depth. Apps that allow us to access evidence and base decisions upon it, Apps that allow us to record data and process it, Apps that awaken the imagination.
The onus is upon us, as learning technologists, to heed this call to arms and revolutionise what we do. We need to look beyond the mere processing of facts, beyond the mere rote learning of old, and look at how we can use the technology to facilitate innovative and creative learning experiences.