Today, when a fellow teacher and I were talking about the Apple announcement of its iPad, she mentioned how they could change the classroom. As we talked about it, I realized that while I love what laptops can do for my students, I also dislike the distance that they create between us. The moment that they open the computers, there is a barrier between my students and myself. Even when they are totally on the task that I have given them, there is still the physical wall that the multiple screens create.
All of that could change if the iPad works well and becomes a part of schools. The iPad would sit on the desk, like a piece of paper. The physical barrier is then removed. I will be able see the students and their computer screens, and they can feel my presence in their work. That will do away with the pressure to give into the temptations of the Web that are not connected to the class learning: to surf the web away from the site where I send them or to play their favorite game rather than focus on the task at hand. The screens would be visible to me and to their peers. It could become more of a group learning experience, which supports one of my primary 2.0 goals, teaching collaboration. Their screens would visible to each other, which supports their learning that their ideas and their learning are visible to the global world.
It has the possibility of taking away another barrier and of supporting the learning that our students need to understand and then become masterful citizens of the 21st century. I will be interested to see how it will work out.