Last week I talked to a Director of Mathematics and Science at a large urban school district. This school district has invested heavily in Interactive Whiteboards and class sets of iPads over the last couple of years. However, the director had some complaints–the IWBs are most often used simply to project a worksheet, and the majority of the math content she’d found for iPads were games without a clear connection to learning.
This is a familiar story, especially at the high school level. These devices have the potential to be engaging and powerful learning tools, but many teachers and teacher-leaders are struggling to find content that will help them make effective use of it. The debate about whether they’re effective learning tools at all is quite impassioned–for example, this typical argument against, and a rebuttal.
Here at Key, we’ve developed interactive content for use with desktop softwares (Sketchpad, TinkerPlots, and Fathom) for decades, but the model of technology use is quickly changing from computer lab or classroom-with-a-projection-device to students being able to actually touch their lessons. Clearly using the new technologies to do what we’ve always done is not taking full advantage of their potential.
We recently came out with an adapted version of Sketchpad for the iPad, called Sketchpad Explorer. Developing this App was definitely not as simple as replicating Sketchpad on an iPad operating system–when users are able to do multi-touch (rather than a single mouse click), and the UI is expected to be light and intuitive, you simply must modify for the new platform. And no matter what testing you do in development, people will always use tools and curriculum in ways that are different than what you expected or intended! So, this journey to creating effective uses of new devices is a fascinating one. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with teachers and students to explore how to not just play or project, but to enable learning and understanding.