How student-developers will harness the tablet computer to transform learning

The iPad and other tablet computers will fundamentally change the nature of education research, content and delivery because there has never been such an overlap between users and developers.

Many of the high school, college and other students who’ll be using a tablet computer to engage their course content are innovative and adept programmers who’ll create “apps” based ontheir ideas of what will help them and their friends learn.

These millions of rapidly prototyped attempts to improve specific learning environments will decentralize education research and change its focus from the large and timeless issues identified in the academy to the immediate and granular concerns of learners.

Most of today’s educational content comes in textbooks, which Bryan Polivka likens to CDs in “Why the iPad really could change everything.”  He asks us to wonder about the textbook “single” and imagines a future in which we can create a learning “playlist” for a course that mixes tracks from Macmillan, Pearson and others.

My own sense is that it won’t stop there and digital “papers” and assignments will be elaborations (riffs?) on those textbook singles and the best ones will be added to the library from which future students construct their playlists.  And, as I mentioned in a previous post, they’ll also be added to the school’s website as inbound marketing assets that are both learning resources for the world and recruiting pieces that show how well students learn at that school.

The ebook of the future will transform delivery by replacing Moodle and other systems that manage learning (LMS) with learning landscapes that encourage exploration and experimentation by shifting from a pedagogy that puts content into an LMS to one that puts widgets and apps into the content.

Sharing bookmarks and links, embedding conversations into chapters and paragraphs, and collaborating with each other on problems will be the first steps in the transformation of the student to a self directed learner who experiences content as a learning environment instead of a learning goal.

Reimagining the tablet computer into the kind of networked application platform that will enable this transformation requires:

An open system that makes it easy to create applications and share content,

A scalable, cloud friendly architecture that seamlessly integrates these applications across the desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile device, and

A peer-to-peer distribution system that makes sharing easy and cheap.  A centralized “store” is too slow and rigorous for the prototyping at the heart of this revolution, although it will probably be a good place for the “finished” products.

Fortunately, not only do all these exist, but they’re also the prevailing directions in which computer systems are moving.

Do you agree that when students have the power to program their e-books we’ll see an explosion of creativity that will radically change the nature of education?

Please let me know.

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