The iPad And Education


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Mark Mautone and one of his favorite teaching tools

How many apps have you downloaded onto that iPad that Santa brought you? Five, 10, 15? How many of those are making you or your kids smarter? Really smarter, not just better at killing zombies and flinging birds.

Mark Mautone has 1,400 apps on his Apple devices, and every one of them stands a chance to help a kid with school. Mautone, a resident of Verona for the last three years, is a special education teacher and a Mac devotee, and he sees enormous potential in the iPad and its ilk to make a wide range of kids better students. With iPads and iPod Touches already in use in H.B.Whitehorne Middle School (thanks to grants from VFEE and the Verona Service League, respectively) and Verona’s new superintendent of schools, Steven A. Forte, a seemingly strong proponent of technology in the classroom, Mautone’s deep understanding of the leading education technology platform offers an important perspective for parents.

Most importantly, it’s not just about the apps. “There are lots of gaps in apps,” says Mautone, who is completing his master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis at Caldwell College . “Apps only go so far and an app that works for one child may not work for another.”  Parents who download a free app to test it out before purchase may discover that the paid version works so differently that it is no longer right for their child. Mautone has developed one app himself–a multi-function curriculum aid for students with autism and developmental disabilities called ITPADD–and has four others in the works.

When pressed, Mautone can winnow his apps for general education students into a three-page list (which you can download here). But before you start adding them, consider what you can do with the many features built into Apple devices.  Mautone likes the short cuts built into the Notes keyboard and Voice Over, Speak Auto Text, Zoom, Large Text, Assistive Touch (to teach a child how to manipulate the screen) and Reminders for scheduling. For visual learners, Mautone’s tip is to use the built-in camera to film yourself doing the task that your child needs to do and then play it back on the device or on an LCD screeen.

He wants to make sure that parents consider these ways to help their children before they move on to pricier options.  One exception: Investing in a kid-proof case. Mautone likes those made by OtterBox, Ekto or Griffin. He let go of his Griffin-covered iPad at table-top height during an interview and it bounced off the floor unharmed. There are also special screen covers that can be used to protect the device if a child is tapping at it too hard.

Apple, like many tech companies, sells devices and then leaves it up to buyers to figure out how to use them. That’s good news for Mautone, who has developed a range of seminars on iPods and iPads for both general education and special education students. He addressed the Laning SCA this past fall and spoke to a packed room of educators at the Apple Store in Willowbrook Mall over the Christmas break. Next Tuesday, January 10, he’s speaking on how to use iPad apps in a special education classroom, while the following Tuesday, January 17, he’ll be speaking about iLife, Apple’s multimedia software suite that combines iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band. (The workshops are being held in Caldwell and you can learn more about them here).

“The iPad has become so popular because it enhances the curriculum from gen ed to special ed,” Mautone says.  “Parents want it because they see other districts using it.” But he cautions against rushing into iPads before factors like use and teacher training are considered. “Develop a committee and develop a policy,” he adds. “Don’t worry about being first. Think about implementation.”

Home page photo by The Daring Librarian via Flickr.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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