Why (Not How) We Should Use iPads In Education – Greg Kulowiec


Last November, Justin Reich, our co-founder at EdTechTeacher, wrote a piece on his Education Week blog, If You Meet an iPad on the Way, Smash It. The piece came out the morning of the first iPad Summit in Boston and put iPad use in schools into perspective. As Justin explained in the piece, “If the nitty-gritty details of iPad use distract us from our larger mission, then we need to smash them. If we get too lost in the “how” of iPads in classrooms, then we need to stop and ask ”why?” Why iPads is a critical question that must be addressed, and the schools that are making the decision to introduce these devices into the classroom are hopefully examining the why before the how.

The ‘How’ Question

Edudemic-GregOnce the why question has been addressed, and once the devices are in hand, the how question needs to be solved. On a basic level, there is one concept to keep in mind that does not involve technical know-how of apps or an iPad. “Verbs not nouns” is the mantra that can keep the iPad classroom from turning into a classroom about iPads rather than a classroom with iPads. In a recent discussion on #1to1techat, @8Amber8 posed this idea that immediately caught my attention:

The Important Thing To Consider

The concept Amber presented resonated with me, because it not only neatly encapsulated where many classrooms go wrong but also how to right the ship. While the how question is critical, and requires a basic understanding of the apps being used in the classroom, the device itself is never as important as what can be done with it, or in many instances what can be done without it. The critical idea to keep in mind is that the focus should be on the action, not the app or device itself. In many ways, the “verbs not nouns” concepts aligns nicely with Justin’s perspective on smashing iPads.

Answer This:


But what can teachers and students actually do once iPads are in place, and it is time for students to create, demonstrate, collaborate and publish? There are endless list of apps available online, but only a handful focus on the verbs, on what students can do rather than on the app itself. AtEdTechTeacher, we have created just such a page to help teachers in iPad classrooms keep the verb in mind. Organized by what students can do with iPads, the iPad As…page places the priority on tangible ways that students can create, demonstrate and collaborate.

I still thoroughly enjoy the discussions and debates about the why: they are healthy and necessary. However, I increasingly find that I enjoy the how question a bit more these days. At the upcoming iPad Summit in Atlanta, I look forward to learning from educators from around the world to find out their answers to these how questions.