You do still sometimes hear people saying the iPad is only good for content consumption, not for creation. But it’s heard less often these days, and generally not from people who spend much time working with children using iPads.
The drill and practice apps will always have a role to play because it is fun, often cheaper, sometimes more challenging and occasionally a superior learning experience to work through drills and educational activities on the iPad that traditionally were done with real manipulatives such as dice, counters, cards and measuring tapes. That’s one of the reasons why I think there is little harm in devoting the occasional lesson or part of a lesson to playing Math Bingo or the app version of the games that come with various mathematics schemes the world over (and I have to confess to a slight addiction to EDM’s Baseball Multiplication in my weaker moments!)
Such apps and such an iPad deployment model also represent a comforting entry level accessibility for teachers (generally students don’t require this) who are taking their first tentative steps into using mobile technology in the learning space. The familiar content is simply delivered in an unfamiliar setting. Most of us can handle that – and we see the same thing going on in (can we be honest here?) countless classrooms where the IWB is used exclusively as an expensive projection screen with scant or no attention paid to its possibilities as an interactive device.
What this leaves out is the iPad’s incredible scope as a content creation tool. Many of the apps now used daily by the teachers in ACS Cobham’s lower school are designed to help students create new work, not simply consume the content the app developer has put there for them. Students are writing using StoryBuddy (and frequently writing using PuppetPals HD too); they are making movies using the inbuilt camera and editing them using iMovie; they are creating mood boards in … er … well, in Moodboard; they are mind mapping in popplet; creating ePub documents using Pages, making soundtracks using GarageBand and baking real cupcakes using CupcakeCreator Lite.
OK, I made that last one up (but how long will it be?)
The release this month of iBooks Author for the Mac and iBookcreator for the iPad promises to give a whole new lease of life to one of the most intuitive members of the content creation apps family. Where before it was necessary to create a document in Pages and then publish it as an ePub (making sure that all the images were aligned, not floating, and dealing with page divisions that suited the program rather than the author) budding writers can now look forward to writing and designing an iBook with text, images, movie footage and interactive features in one smooth app workflow.
To be fair, this isn’t entirely new; students were able to design impressive ePub documents using existing tools such as InDesign CS5 and other similar programs. But iBookcreator and the (at time of writing it seems) even more impressive Mac app iBooks Author promise to put this capability in the
hands of much younger and more inexperienced students (and teachers), and even to have their creations displayed and distributed via the iBooks store. This is an exciting prospect and one that holds great promise for increasing the motivation of young writers.
It’s early days yet, and the reviews of iBookcreator show that it is a long way from the finished product yet (but what app can ever claim to be that?) Some teachers at ACS are sticking with StoryBuddy for now, but iBooks Author and iBookcreator represent a very good start on a new chapter in content creation using the iPad.