I have been wondering about if there is a difference in student learning when they use virtual manipulatives rather than real manipulatives. This question came about from watching a student play solitaire on his iphone and when I asked him if he could play the same game using real cards, he gave me a funny look and said no as if he didn't need to know how to actually deal the game. One of the apps I've had them use requires them to use a virtual balance for solving multi-step equations and some of them had a fair bit of trouble. I think the trouble was not moving pieces around but transferring the information from the tablet to the problems on the paper.
The nice thing about virtual manipulatives is that students do not loose the pieces and can easily redo the activity again and again.
I think on Thursday, I am going to have them use real manipulatives (the squares for one and the long ones for the variables) and see if the transference is any better. This is a topic I need to research to find information on. The other thing about virtual manipulatives is that most websites I would use are not usable on the iPad due to the site needing flash.
Furthermore, there are few apps that allow the iPad to use flash and I have to finish checking that out. Usually these apps run the flash on a remote server and stream it to the iPad. This can create a bandwidth issue.
So over the next few days, I am going to see which virtual manipulative websites currently work with the iPad and I will post a list as I find them