Hacker News has a discussion about the Simple English Wikipedia, which uses easier vocabulary and less complex sentence constructions than the regular English Wikipedia. This is great for mid-level readers and this year I’m going to start directing students to use this version during research projects.
Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it’s never going to work on a device where you don’t have a keyboard-type input. Students aren’t there just to read things. They’re actually supposed to be able to write and communicate. And so it’s going to be more in the PC realm—it’s going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive.
I agree with the first part of his statement because the curriculum and pedogy need to change to make any technology worthwhile. However, he is wrong about the need for keyboards. My middle school students have done complex work on our iPod Touches, such as creating documents that use desktop publishing skills involving typing, creating charts and inserting images. Due to Apple’s intuitive software design, students are quickly able to get past the lack of hardware keyboard. Moreover, they don’t necessarily see the lack of keyboard of as a limitation. Since a third of their lives have been dominated by touch devices, they don’t see keyboards as a prerequisite for using a computer.
I love this new iPad 2 commercial. From my experience with iPods in the classroom, getting technology out of the way increases time on educational tasks. My students don’t spend ten minutes watching the computers login, then another 30 seconds for an application to launch. Instead, they get right to work with a device that is barely noticeable in a room full of learning.
Writing for Slate.com, Linda Perlstein recently proposed the Laura Ingalls test. Imagine if this prairie girl were to time travel to the present day and consider how she would respond to modern-day technology. If you brought her to an Apple Store or handed her a cell phone, she wouldn’t know what to make of it. Yet, if you brought her to the nearest 5th grade classroom, she would immediately recognize it as a school, something nearly unchanged from her time. Perlstein then asks her readers to describe the ideal modern-day classroom. Their ideas are recorded as comments to her post.
For our first day of winter vacation, my wife and I spent some time in my classroom bar-coding and labeling my iPods. We also labeled each slot in the cart.
That process went fairly quickly, but I also wanted to upgrade all of the iPods to iOS 4.2.1. That took much more time because I could only do one device at a time. However, by following these directions from Fraser Speirs on how to save the update file locally, I saved close to 10 minutes each device.