Flipping the Pages of the iPad
At the start of Teach21’s “New Dimensions of Reading” workshop at The School at Columbia University, educators warily eyed the neat stacks of iPads sitting on the innocuous kids’ tables as 4th grade teachers Kate Chechak and Alison Hendrix introduced their experiment. This year, for a portion of their reading curriculum, students used iPads rather than paper books in iBook clubs.
“Reading glasses, post-it notes, highlighters, and dictionaries are all traditional and essential reading tools, but they’re also clunky,” Chechak said. She noted the pains of pausing one’s reading to flip through a dictionary to look up a new word — a time-consuming process that few actually engage in. All of these tools and functions, however, are aggregated on the iPad and in the free Kindle application that the class uses. These tools enhance students’ reading experiences — students can increase text size, highlight terms, and look up words in the application’s built-in dictionary and even online with just a few simple taps and swipes of a finger.
The Kindle application is especially useful because of its device-sharing capabilities. Every text purchased in the Kindle Store can be shared with up to six iPad devices, and notes made on each device can be shared with all other devices that use the same text. This allows for five-student book clubs where students can also use the iPad to exchange their opinions, with a teacher also logged in to track students’ thoughts and progress.
In the classroom setting, Chechak and Hendrix found that, despite the initial glitz and novelty of the iPad, students remained highly motivated to read on the iPads. With the iPad’s tools, reading became a more interactive experience — for example, the text size function even helped some students improve the fluidity of their reading. They also found that these tools paved the road for lessons on metacognition: when using the tools, they would ask students why they would use them, and the tools would entice students to think about their purpose, and in turn think about their thinking.
Chechak and Hendrix emphasize the integration of technology to enhance the curriculum rather than to replace it. The iPad does not teach reading and does not replace teachers or lesson plans. “The iBook clubs felt just like paper book clubs. The book’s content remained the meat of the discussion, and we still integrated reading lessons in the same way,” Hendrix said.
There are limitations to the iPad — for example, color does not translate as easily, which makes it difficult to read picture books. It is often difficult to find books for younger age groups in the Kindle Store. The initial costs are high, and there is a fear of students relying on tools too much.
However, the iPad workshop did provide a new perspective on classroom reading. After the presentation, teachers used the iPads firsthand and were impressed by its ease. Many remarked that the flipping motion of the iPad felt just like the pages of a book. Another teacher attested to the fluidity of reading with a larger font size.
“The tools are handy and don’t interrupt the flow of reading,” said Collegiate School teacher Alex Hekking. “I thought I would miss the turning of the pages, but I didn’t even notice a difference.” #