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Readers: Seven ways to make the iPad better for education

“I want to monitor students’ reading comprehension, math skills, and problem solving progress,” said one reader.

iPad adoption in schools is growing at a phenomenal rate, as we reported last year, and some educators call the devices a game-changer.

But besides its sleek style, portability, and access to apps and the internet, is the iPad efficient for teacher and student work—more so, say, than other tablets or mobile devices? At the current cost of the iPad, one would hope so.

We recently asked readers: “If there was one feature/app/design spec you’d like to see on the iPad (or any other mobile device) to help you teach in the classroom or make your job more efficient, what would it be and why?”

And though there are many mobile devices on the market, our readers were like the coach who picks on the star player to make him or her even better: Most commented on how the iPad could be better for education. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most readers focused on functionality and compatibility with other software and hardware already within the classroom environment.

Do you agree with these suggestions? Have any of your own? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

(Some comments edited for brevity.)

1. Show some Flash.

“It would be great if iPads were compatible with Flash! We are rolling out a [one-to-one computing program] in August with our sixth grade. It has been so difficult to try to work around the inability to play Flash content. Many software companies are creating their resources in HTML 5 format, but there is still so much out there that won’t work on the iPad.” —Angela Woolsey, technology integration specialist, MSD of Mt. Vernon

2. Make it collaborative.

“I’d like to see more apps and opportunities for multiple children to work together on one iPad.” —jhartman

“Concept Board: This application allows whiteboard/verbal/visual communication in real time among members of a learning group. Seems at first glance to be like sitting down with a student with a piece of paper between you to explore understandings.”  –Linda Saleski

3. Have more control.

“An app lockdown and presentation system would be nice; that way, the teacher could pick and choose what apps and sites would be seen and go next in the lesson, synching to all the other designated iPads in the room.” –L. Wesmen

4. Make the tracking of progress easier.

“What is most important to me … is the ability to monitor and track student progress and performance in a given program. In addition to using the creativity features of the iPad, photos, video, and audio recording, for student projects, I want to monitor students’ reading comprehension, math skills, and problem solving progress. In my current experience as a classroom teacher, and as a computer resource teacher in the past, I find progress tracking in computer programs has been deficient. Programs must be effectively designed so that students can manage use on their own, and the teacher reporting features should be simple enough for a teacher to monitor progress easily.” —Sarah Zykanov, fourth grade teacher, San Pedro Elementary School

5. Hook it to an interactive whiteboard.

“The one app that would absolutely make my day, as well as that of all educators, would be a Promethean app that would enable interactive function of the iPad with the Promethean board—i.e., turn the Promethean board into a giant iPad. That way, I, or any teacher, could work from the board to do iPad stuff.” —Linda Waskow, MLIS, Ed.D., media technology specialist, Beaufort Elementary School, Beaufort, South Carolina

6. Get it in the gym.

“I teach middle school physical education and sports to very active and computer-savvy kids and would personally love an app or program that teaches the intrinsic, step-by-step movements associated with the various sporting skills. This goes for all kinds of sporting activity, from swimming [and] track & field to all ball games. I would love my kids to study and analyze these movements, practice them, do peer teaching based on the various steps associated with each skill, analyze their peers’ movements, look at rate of success in each skill executed, mistakes/faults, and how to correct these mistakes. … This could be extended to research work on body types, muscle ratios, adaptability, and fitness levels as related to sports, including how games are played, their basic rules and regulations, and do’s and don’ts of games.

“Finally, I would love my kids to be able to video tape their colleagues performing a skill—be it the butterfly stroke in swimming or doing the Fosbury Flop high jump—and super-impose the recorded movement on a perfectly executed display of the skill, where they can analyze both movements, prescribe actions to correct mistakes of their peers, etc.” —Woenya Kofi Agbo, Summer Camp Director, MYP Physical Education, Lincoln Community School

7. Instructions would be nice.

“One feature needed on the iPad is a tutorial of how to use the iPad, of course. The manufacturer leaves you pretty much in the dark with how to get started with the thing, other than how to turn it off and on. But finding apps, opening and closing them, saving simple documents, using eMail, deleting unwanted apps? You’re on your own, bud. They seem to think it’s all intuitive, but it’s not for us PC users. You can find tutorials by others out there on the web, if you hunt for them, but why doesn’t the manufacturer do this?” —John S., University of Illinois

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