With the announcement of the iPad 2 from Apple, it is expected that the next generation of computing is here. Tablet computing has become so popular that many people carry Kindles, iPads as well as the other tablets with them whilst on the go. I recently purchased an iPad and have used it in a learning context as well as in the classroom with my learners. At most, the iPad can organise my reading material for my MA, allow me to browse and download articles from journals, and give me access to twitter whilst in the classroom. My tutor is constantly referring to my iPad as the future of teaching because of the possibility of streaming course books and lessons with iPads.
So are iPads an expensive toy, or are they a useful tool for learners and educators alike? In order to answer this question, I will look at my personal experience with the iPad and its potential use with commercial and free applications available in the App Store.
Electronic Pictures in Class
The first time I attempted to use my iPad in my teaching class, many students were very engaged and interested. I was actually undertaking a professional development course and was being observed when I used the iPad for the very first time. I used the iPad to display pictures that would introduce and elicit vocabulary.
The iPad is incredibly useful in that it allows me to browse the Internet, search for images and download them. This saves using a desktop or laptop and printing the images out for use in class. I can save all browsed images and group them into categories (food, transport, sports, etc). I no longer have to visit the school cabinet and look through folders of pictures to find the right one. Furthermore, the iPad is large enough for students to see in class but light enough to keep in my teacher’s bag. One more thing is that you can setup a slideshow on the iPad: a teacher can arrange a slideshow with 20 pictures, show this to students and then have them try to remember each picture shown. It is especially useful for recycling vocabulary, particularly nouns. Finally, a student can be shown a picture on the iPad and attempt to explain what it is to his or her classmates, who then have to draw pictures. This becomes a useful dictation activity.
Videos in Class
During one lesson, I used the iPad to show a short clip from YouTube to start the lesson. Obviously, you will need WiFi access should you wish to show a YouTube video in class. However, there are Internet applications that can be used to download YouTube videos as MP4 files compatible with iTunes and the iPad.
There are other ways to use the iPad with video that I have not yet exploited. Some of these include choosing one student to watch a short clip with headphones – an advertisement, for example – and then the student has to explain to others what he has just watched. This is a useful reformulation exercise. A similar exercise could include playing a short clip but only allowing students to listen to the video. The instructor would then ask students what they think the video is about. Finally, the screen capture available on the iPad can capture stills of video clips. One activity for students could include showing several stills from a video clip, and students would then have to put them in order and explain what they think would happen in the clip. Students would then compare their ideas with the actual video.
Internet on the iPad
If you are lucky enough to have a small group of students (2-4 learners) or teach one-to-one, you could get learners to use your iPad in class. If your learners are fortunate enough to have their own iPads, this is even better. You could get students to work in groups for a web quest activity and then present their findings to the rest of the class. It is incredible that the Internet is “in your hands”, as Steve Jobs puts it, and that tablet computers (especially the iPad) require no boot time. Students could present to the class with their iPads if they have presentation software such as Keynote installed. Should your school have the latest technological facilities, you may be able to connect the iPad to an overhead projector for the presentation. Students would be able to connect to social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook and interact with the world.
Voice Recording on the iPad
On the iPhone, Voice Memos is included. I have used it to record seminars at the University of Sussex. However, while the iPad has a microphone, Voice Memos is not included. There is, however, one great free app available called “QuickVoice”. It is just the same as Voice Memos on the iPhone. You are able to export to your PC or Mac, replay on the iPad and record in class. This offers great potential to record your students (with permission) when they are participating in a lively debate. Recordings can then be reviewed at a later date. I have asked teachers in my local EFL School to record themselves (in groups or alone) reading from a course book tape script for a listening activity in class. It is incredibly useful having someone act out the tape script at a natural speed for a student listening exercise.
Useful Apps on the iPad
Apart from the productive apps available for the iPad (such as Keynote, Pages or Numbers), there are many free apps available for the iPad which complement learning in the classroom. The following are my five favourite free apps.
1. British Council – Sounds Right
This app is brilliant and you can now refer to it in class. It is an interactive Phonemic Chart for teachers and students. I have used it successfully in lessons and it really engages Young Learners as well as Adults.
I came across this app when I was searching for a useful tool to show images of text and prompt speaking or discussion in class. It is a free app that allows you to capture the screen and show images of thought bubbles in class. It is possible to create a game which includes using music, the thought bubbles and a piece of paper. It is really adapted from “Pass the Paper” by David Deubel.
This app for the iPad is great. You can browse different types of images related to current affairs and capture them by using the iPad’s screen capture. This will enable you to use the images for many activities (describe the picture, prompt discussion, etc.) in class. The good thing about this app is that people can browse images that are currently relevant, and The Guardian stores six months worth of images. In addition, pictures are normally updated daily, thus assuring a constant stream of new and interesting images.
I became aware of this app on my iPhone and have used it in class with learners of all ages and abilities. It is free and incredibly useful. It provides some phonemic spelling for particular words, offers synonyms and helps learners keep a history of words that they have browsed. I would recommend that any teacher get this app either for the iPhone or iPad.
This app is really a useful way to read the newspaper on the iPad. I haven’t used this app in class but I can see the potential for it to assist in language discussion about newspapers, prompt speaking about newspaper articles or look at interesting headlines in class. Like the apps above, it is free and incredibly engaging.
It is interesting to note that technology has become so integral to language teaching. As technology becomes ever more advanced, more affordable and more widely accessed, learners and educators will be expected to use computers, tablets or Kindles to offer a more immersive learning experience within a physical or digital classroom. If used correctly, technology can assist in incidental learning as well as offer teachers or learners additional resources at the touch of their fingertips.
I hope that technology is embraced by other educators and language schools, as the benefits of connecting the classroom to the rest of the world are invaluable. Although it can be very expensive for a school to integrate these new technologies, an interactive whiteboard can be no more expensive than purchasing board markers or erasers over a three-year period for twenty classrooms. It is exciting to think about the future of language teaching, with the potential for digital course books available to students or teachers. On a final note, I have written this blog post entirely on my iPad, which illustrates the point that anything is possible nowadays on a small tablet computer.
This article was originally posted at http://voxy.com/blog/2011/03/ipad-efl-classroom/