Growing up, we’d always receive a list of school supplies that needed to be purchased. It included things like notebooks, folders, crayons, pencils. As I progressed through the school system, the list expanded to include calculators and then the oh-so-expensive graphing calculator. And I wasn’t even good at math.

The iPad may be the next supply on your kids’ school supply list.

Last month, Converge Magazine ran a piece on iPads in K12 schools — examining various pilot projects. The article outlines uses, strengths and limitations of the tool as a learning device. Advantages? Touch screen, predictable user experience, long battery life, no cords needed and fabulous for browsing/book reading. Some of the disadvantages? It’s not a tool that really can be shared simultaneously between students, and it’s not a great tool for typing long documents.

{{Insert sarcasm: when did it EVER occur to someone that an iPad was an appropriate tool to type a long document?}}

Admittedly, some times new technology is purchased and integrated before we fully know how to harness it effectively — and purposefully — in the classroom. We oftentimes get tangled up in the “cool” factor. Or we try to adapt new tools to old methodologies (i.e. using the iPad to write long narratives).

This ed tech mom believes that we need to develop technology tools that engage our kids in deeper learning — core content skills and knowledge with complex cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem solving.

We all have used our iPads or iPhones to entertain our kids (admit it, if you’ve got one – – you’ve done it!). Here are a few ways the iPad can engage our kids in deep learning:

  • iThoughts: Have you seen this fabulous little tool that allows you to concept map (or mind map) with your iPhone or iPad? Being able to organize and visualize thought processes is a critical strategic thinking skill. The iPad can bring that to life — and allow our kids to save, store and digitally retrieve them.
  • Multimedia Creation/iMovie: No one disputes that the iPad is THE perfect browsing solution for digital video and photos. The iPad is a perfect way to create multimedia. I believe that multimedia creation is an excellent way to synthesize thoughts, which allows children (well, all of us actually!) to construct meaning and share that knowledge in an authentic context.
  • On-Demand Video Browser: If your child is interested in a certain topic, they can browse and view videos right from the device. Virtually anywhere.
  • E-Books/Interactive Books: The iPad allows for educational developers to create learning tools that are interactive. So rather than just reading a text book (I’m not a complete convert — still love to crack open a book myself!), our children can be fully immersed in a learning environment that lets them click on hyperlinks to more information, access data in real time, manipulate 3D illustrations and more.
  • Tactile development: You all know I have a toddler at home. The iPad allows her to simulate activities like finger painting or letter tiles because of it’s touch screen capabilities. I’m definitely NOT for giving up the messy art activities, but sometimes it’s not always practical to have a painting free-for-all (which it inevitably ends up being). This is a great tool for those times!

So – – weigh in. Do you want your child bringing their iPad to and from school?

Technology Thursday is a joint project of Classic Play! and (cool) progeny. Each week, both blogs will be taking on a family-technology-related issue. We invite you to join the conversation!

Recent discussions in this series:

It’s all in the Apps
Rules for Facebooking
How much is too much?
Do you take your coffee with a splash of Smart Phone?

… and more! Just search “tech thursday” on either blog!

Image Credit: Today’s iPhone