First day of the school year consisted of a trip to the Book room. Here, you were issued with a stack of textbooks, piled ever higher, that you would need over the coming year. Peeking over the top of the pile, staggering slightly, we each made our way home, whereupon you would fashion new covers out of whatever came to hand: brown paper and wallpaper being two of the favourites. These covers would see the tomes through another academic outing, before being returned to the store and recycled for new students.
Today the news that a school in Bolton has done away with textbooks altogether in favour of iPads. Well, no surprise there really: i mean, it’s been on the cards for a while and the prevalence of high quality eBooks means it makes perfect sense, but i’m quite interested in what it means beyond the physical form. Will students learn better from iPads than they did from paper books? Is the very experience of learning changing?
The iPad, for me, enhances my capability: it’s not just a tool for consumption (although i do use it to read a lot of things on), but rather also a tool for production (135,000 words for the blog alone last year) and, crucially, collaboration.
Production, consumption and collaboration. These are engaging activities. The closest i came to collaboration with my pile of school books was to read the scrawled notes and graffiti in the margins and to sign my name in the front.
Learning is about more than just reading, more than just absorbing facts: it’s about processing that information and refining our schemas and concepts in alignment with new information. To learn is to change and that change involves both consuming new knowledge and sharing your learning, reflecting on how you’ve changed as a result.
So a move to equip students with iPads is just the first step, it’s just providing them with infrastructure to learn within. Seeing how it liberates their behaviours, seeing how they produce content, understanding how they consume it and seeing how they collaborate, that’s where the real learning and benefits will come.