Paper vs. iPad.



I’ve been using iPads in my English as a Second Language class for the past year now. We switched from all students having laptops to iPads almost overnight. There are days when I talk with students and ask them the best activities of classes. Answers include when they learn something to teach with Explain Everything and writing scripts instead of essays to be filmed with iMovie.

Yesterday I could sense some frustration with a task that included group work on the iPads including, among others, Adobe PDF reader. I asked around and for the next activity I asked my students if they wished to complete the next activity on the iPad or paper. There was a unaminous “paper” back to me.

Whilst I printed and photocopied, I thought about what happened. Students were preferring paper than the iPad for this activity. The activity was a simple substitution activity (as described on the SAMR framework) and maybe therein lies the key. Students have always completed activities like the one I was giving on paper. They have always been educated like this. There’s always people, like me, who grew up reading books and we always comment that reading an e-book just isn’t the same as reading a book.

I am also teaching students who are high school graduates. Generally they have spent 12 years using very little technology and mostly paper-based materials. It is a part of their educational history and culture. Switching them to a purely digital environment may be misguided and that we should be combining a number of different modes of learning. Now if we are talking about 6 years olds, then they might be different. But we must look at the cultural and contextual DNA of the class and plan accordingly.

Getting a balance and a mix of teaching and learning is important. There’s the joke that blended learning is when you use the iPad alongside a paper-based activity. I think that my students aren’t ready for completely digital learning environments. The Ministry of Education is implementing iPads within secondary schools now so in a few years they may be more ready. For now, I must find that balance of using the iPad for creation and production based activities but to also respect students’ culture.


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