Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Case for the iPad: Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)

Just over six months old, the iPad has already become a viable, sustainable platform. With sales topping over 2 million in the first three months, it has quickly captured the hearts and imagination of teachers and administrators around the world. When considering how to best teach ELD, an iPad comes to mind for four compelling reasons.
The iPad is engaging; the App store is bursting with educational apps; the price is reasonable; and many in education are rallying around it. First of all, right out of the box, the iPad is instantly engaging. Because it's so hands-on, user-friendly and easy to use, the iPad is an instant hit with young people. Teachers resonate with the iPad, too, because they see the potential a device like this can have in the classroom. Forget the stigma once felt by some English language learners as they trudge to the back of the classroom for ELD; with iPads, these students will be counting the minutes until ELD starts.
Second, as slick and popular as the iPad is, it would be nothing without apps. There are literally thousands of educational apps available for iPad, with more being added every hour, and for EL students, this is great news. For example, three apps come to mind right off the bat: Dragon DictationKeynote, and Comic Touch. Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your words as text. With the iPad's built-in mic, students can immediately see what they're saying out loud! Keynote is like PowerPoint, but better, because it’s even easier to pull in pictures from the Internet and add labels and captions. Students can create their own mini-presentations based on the day’s objective. Comic Touch is a fun way to jazz up any picture with text, such as targeted vocabulary words from the day’s objective. A student can analyze and discuss with a partner the content of a given photograph, then using Comic Touch, he or she can add talking bubbles, titles, labels, captions, and more.
Third, the price is attractive to the education sector. Starting at $499, it’s a price-point that competes heavily with laptops but without all the complications and frustrations of a PC. But the best thing about the price is the apps. When a teacher finds an app they’d like their students to use on their iPads, Apple offers the app for half price with their new volume pricing program. Most apps are inexpensive anyway, ranging from $.99 to $4.99 (although some cost a bit more than that), but Apple’s new volume pricing is a big win for education.
Finally, the iPad community is growing and vibrant. Developers are quick to write engaging apps for the device and responsive to user-feedback so updates occur frequently. And what’s nice is that updates are always free; you never have to purchase the next-generation of an app to receive updates. Teachers are regularly posting reviews online of new apps they’ve tried out in their classrooms, so there’s never a shortage of great ideas. iTunes University has almost half a million videos available for free on all kinds of educational topics. And of course, the iPad is an amazing e-book reader and audio book reader. All in all, the iPad is by far the most compelling, best supported, easy to use, engaging advancement in technology to hit the hallways of America ever.

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