Adapted from Image Source at http://goo.gl/u9GYd
As I’ve spent more time on an iPad, I’m continuing to have problems imagining what iPad-shifted instruction would look like. iPad-shifted leadership is different and easy to imagine. My concept of the two hinges on my role now–as a technology administrator rather than a classroom teacher–so I wonder if that’s the disconnect. To alleviate that gap, that’s why I’m looking forward to attending the iPad Palooza in June, 2012, in the hopes of seeing how teachers are embracing iPads in the classroom. In a twitter conversation earlier tonight, I referred to this lack of vision as elusive.

“How can we better articulate what iPads are being purchased to accomplish in schools? It feels so elusive.”

For me, this tweet gets to the heart of the problem I’m having with iPads in schools–simply, I don’t get it. I want to explore why “I don’t get it–iPads in schools” for a simple reason. It’s not because I’ll be working on an iPad deployment, or because I want to justify the 64gig WiFi iPad I just purchased for my own use as part of my education consulting. It’s because a part of me fears that my past experiences with technology are interfering with how I use technology in the present and future. Does that make sense?

I tried to express this with a follow-up tweet:

elusive…prob because I’d rather have a netbook running Linux than an iPad, but non-techies would rathr hv iPad.

The reason I see a netbook/Macbook running Linux/Windows/MacOS as more valuable is for the following reasons:

  1. The netbook is more functional and provides features that have become established as necessary in computing world–word processing, spreadsheet, database, image design/editing, video creation and editing, server setup/management (if necessary). Or, as 
  2. The netbook provides greater value than the iPad because you can do a lot more of the traditional computing activities. Of course, if you don’t value traditional use of technology in schools, then the netbook value lacks worth. 
  3. The netbook allows for greater management and control from those trying to support multiple devices on the network, as opposed to an iPad which is a “do your own thing” kind of device that requires you play according to its rules, and reshape your support practices around it.
Part of the concern is the idea that an iPad is not a laptop replacement…it’s a different animal altogether. But is that difference a game-changer? Or do we just want to think so due to the coolness factor? When I use an iPad, I have to “agree to not do certain things.” For example, writing a blog entry is do-able but involves changing my work patterns. I have to capture images first, edit them ahead of time, and then develop the blog entry and embed it. To put links into the blog entry, I have to switch to html view and type the code. In fact, the experience reminds me of composing blog entries in the old days of Around the Corner using Thingamablog, a java-based blogging tool.
The process on a laptop is a bit different. On a laptop/netbook, I’ll write the blog entry, then open some new tabs in the browser, grab a few images that I think are relevant to the theme of the blog post, and embed them where appropriate. 
While the blog process is a bit different, doing this on the iPad feels crowded, like I’m maneuvering in a space that’s too small, having to sequence my activities rather than be relaxed. It’s a personal experience and I relish the differences because they invariably result in a different product. It may not look like it, but the differences yield feelings that vary from my “stock” blogging experience.
It’s this experience that suggests to me that “old ways of doing things” are getting in the way of new ways of doing things. Maybe my interpretation of what’s happening is wrong. For learners who don’t have a traditional way of approaching computing–such as the requirement of a desktop getting in the way of adopting Chrome OS on a Chromebook, the lack of a desktop immediately turning my daughter off from using Chromebook–does the iPad allow them to develop new patterns of usage that result in experiences that are more productive, whatever the heck that means?
You know, this idea that the device leads to new productivity is one that’s haunted me with my own children. A few years ago, my wife and I saved up and bought them each Dell computers. I remember the exact moment when I asked myself, did I make the right choice of computer? That moment was when I watched a video from a colleague sharing how his two kids at a teacher conference were creating videos at the same age my children were. My kids were using their Dell computers to play games, word process, create slideshows…those kids with Macs were creating videos that resulted in a qualitatively richer experience. It’s easy to ask, What are your learning goals for the classroom, your own learning, for your organization? but less so to imagine what those changes will be when the technology you buy, the impact that technology will have on your patterns of experience lies unknown in the void.
Think different. When I bought my iPad, or a Macbook Pro for my daughter, I made a decision to reach for that elusive experience that I don’t quite understand, but hope that the device will help shift my patterns of use in a direction that will result in a qualitatively richer experience. . .help them achieve that epiphany John Seelye Brown talks about.
I’m not sure. I’ve taken a risk. It’s not unlike the risk my father took when he bought me an Apple //e and gave it to me, never having worked with computers himself, and that he never touched or tried to use in his lifetime. Can we make the same sacrifice for our children, to provide tools we might never understand, so they can achieve their epiphany of experience?
Or, am I just plumb wrong?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure