iPad in the Classroom

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So unless you live under a rock, you will know that Apple launched its much trumpeted new tablet product, the iPad.  Almost immediately Twitter, Facebook and the blogsphere lit up with discussions about how this will change the face of education and publishing.    So as not to appear behind the curve, I will add my $.02 about the product, but more importantly discuss how I believe it will (or will not) impact the classroom.  I will resume our “Ready to Read” series on a day not so fraught with technological breakthroughs.

WILL THE iPAD CHANGE THE FACE OF EDUCATION? (cue trumpets a la Purcell or Handel)

Although there are many skeptics, I have to admit that I have been retweeting to win one.  My curiosity is piqued.  Many are complaining that the iPad is too big, too heavy, will bully the more diminutive Kindles and Nooks on the playground, but I have to say that the basic functionality looks interesting to me as a human being.  But as a teacher and parent, I have to say that there are several functionality problems that make this problematic for the classroom that have nothing to do with its unfortunate choice of name (did not ONE Apple employee foresee the playground name-calling that would ensue?!?).

Glass is half-empty type thoughts first:

Let’s start with the first problem–It is bigger than an eReader, but not really a laptop.  Steve Jobs claims that it is more “intimate” than a laptop, so better for holding and reading–honestly, I am not sure that this is a huge problem for children.  Adults want that “intimate” experience of cradling what they are reading because that is how reading books feels.  Children are growing up in front of laptops and computers in a way that is totally different than the generations that proceeded them.  And even if we say that children want to have that experience of curling up with a good book (and oh, I hope they do), then isn’t it a little big and clunky for a child? The iPad (weighing in at 1.5 lbs) is heavier than its counterparts and yes that does make it lighter than Harry Potter.  However, I am not sure that that makes it a better eReader than say a Kindle, Nook or the soon-to-be released Que.  I have heard that the eReader functionality is beautiful and elegant.  Terrific.  My guess is that other eReaders will not be all that far behind in future iterations.

Second of all, it is a phone.  And an iPod.  Yes, it is an eReader, but it is also a phone and an iPod.  I myself just can’t see a middle school teacher getting excited about having a bunch of students working on phones disguised as workspaces.   I know that you naysayers out there will claim that laptops can have Skype and everything else, but come on.    AND it is not like it has any still or video cameras to balance out the cons of having every student holding a phone and iPod in their hands.

Third of all, word on the street says that the keyboard is not that great.  Yes, it is like an iPod Touch.  Which can be mastered with practice, but it is not great (dare I say so?)  So as a teacher, you would now be providing your students with a phone/eReader that has lacklluster typing ability.  Hmmm…maybe Apple Mac laptops are sounding better and better all the time.

And perhaps most compelling of all, the iPad is expensive for what it is and how it could actually be used in the classroom.  Ranging from $499 to $899, it is unlikely that many schools are going to be investing in a classroom set of these because of their lack of functionality. If eReading is the goal, then I think there are much less expensive bets for children out there that will get the job done.  Some will argue that their schools will dole out thousands of dollars for laptop programs.  That is true.  I would argue that at this point in time a laptop is still a better bet due to its total functionality.

Now…the glass is half-full type of thoughts:

So,  while I am guessing that administrators can erase “iPad applications” from their 2010-2011 line item budgets, I do think is that Apple is a revolutionary company.  Today, iPad is probably not the answer, but as a concept it is a stage-setter that gives us a glimpse of what the technological landscape may look like in the classroom of the not-so-distant future.   While the iPad may need several iterations before it becomes a sleek and elegant classroom solution (multi-tasking?!?), this should be a wake up call for the educational publishing industry.  eReaders are here to stay.  The buzz on Twitter and Facebook says it all.   Coming soon to a classroom near you, but can we come up with a better name?  Seriously.  Teaching is hard enough as it is.

P.S.  Steve Jobs, if you want to send one to me and make me a believer–I would be happy to blog about it!

A FOLLOW-UP:  Read about why one educator is excited about the iPad: http://wirededucator.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/an-ipad-in-every-classroom-apples-itablet-in-education-n/

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34 Responses to “iPad in the Classroom”

  1. Peeter
    1:34 am on January 28th, 2010

    It’s not a phone, by the way. The 3G version specifically states data only. So the phone problem is not a problem, no more than you already state with laptops and skype, etc.

  2. Ian McNeill
    2:40 am on January 28th, 2010

    all I say is here in my post of a few days ago

  3. jedstrom
    9:03 am on January 28th, 2010

    Yes I know that it is not a “phone,” but I am guessing that with 3G “there will be a hack for that.” I have read that the iPad’s wireless speed is amazing and that that coupled with the processing speed is enough to make even the most jaded of techno-students pause.

  4. hypomnema
    10:37 am on January 28th, 2010

    This device will be great for education. You’re forgetting that the software the device runs already has parental controls built in, which can prevent students from improperly using the device in the classroom. And, since this is being marketed as an educational tool, I expect we’ll see more advanced parental controls in the upcoming 4.0 software update.

    As for the keyboard, students can easily use a keyboard dock for more extending writing assignments.

    The price is right, especially when you consider Apple’s educational discount. (Usually around 15% off, I believe; More if purchasing in bulk).

    It will be interesting to see what happens next in the classroom.

  5. jedstrom
    10:43 am on January 28th, 2010

    Hypomenema, Keyboard docks are a solution (although a bit clunky). I just wonder again if, for the time being, laptops still aren’t the answer. I think once Apple gets the multi-tasking/camera issue straightened out in future iterations, this will be a very powerful tool. I would just hesitate advising a school to rush out and invest in these. Think about how quickly the iPod improved as a case for waiting.

    I agree…it will be interesting to see what happens in the classroom next. I am eager to hear how teachers will use it and whether my initial criticisms will be non-issues. I am certainly excited about the possibilities that it may lead to for classroom teachers. Thanks for participating in the discussion!

  6. Jeff Yearout
    7:33 pm on January 29th, 2010

    I agree with your notion that its greatest impact is perhaps as as a “stage setter” as you put it. I think the ripples it creates could reach further than one might think, especially in driving other device makers into the game. Personally, I wouldn’t see them in wide classroom use by students very quickly, but I could easily see myself wanting one for easier visual demonstration capabilities on the go in the classroom. I wonder if would want a stylus (or fingertip tool) with drawing capabilities?

  7. jedstrom
    9:27 am on January 30th, 2010

    I love the stylus idea.

  8. Nick Dennis
    6:14 pm on January 30th, 2010

    I think there are huge assumptions made about its use in the classroom and ultimately, we will have to wait to use it but I think it has far greater potential than you realise.

    1) In terms of creating comics quickly and easily that represent key ideas, this will be useful. (Comic Touch etc)

    2) Basic browsing without moving to a computer lab – time and space saving. If needed, you can pair it with bluetooth keyboards and have a flexible working environment.

    3) Aggregating assessment software like Big Nerd Ranch’s eClicker to really understand student progress and the need for possible interventions

    4) Data entry when on field trips/visits – also give explanations via video placed on the device (this is where 3G could come in useful). You could also get students to create content on the fly by using the camera import ability and upload straight away.

    There are so many possibilities that it would be wrong to discount it outright.

  9. jedstrom
    10:10 am on January 31st, 2010

    Nick, I think you have hit on one of the most powerful classroom applications of the device in #3. While I am not sure that a classroom set makes sense when they hit the marketplace this spring, I do think that teachers could use this in a “clipboard” fashion for daily assessment. You bring up some good reasons to have a few in the classroom.

  10. Richard Milewski
    4:36 pm on January 31st, 2010

    The iPad has a bunch of problems that limit it’s usefulness in the classroom. Like the iPod Touch, it’s a locked-up device for which enterprise-management tools aren’t available. The browser isn’t flash capable, and for reasons I mention at http://richard.milewski.org/archives/510, even the new HTML5/CSS3 capabilities (which it does support well), won’t solve that problem.

  11. Trevor M
    12:39 pm on February 3rd, 2010

    I have also considered how education will change because of the iPad. I agree that it will have a huge impact in the near future. I have an article that describes six ways education will change because of the iPad at http://www.edutechnophobia.com/2010/02/six-ways-the-ipad-will-transform-education/ . Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated.

  12. Iphone App Developer
    9:08 pm on April 1st, 2010

    Involving me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can calculation, together with Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve established down to one line of players. Why? Because I was fortunate to find out how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  13. Topsoil Wilmington De
    8:12 am on April 5th, 2010

    Well, I don’t know if that’s going to work for me, but definitely worked for you! :) Excellent post!

  14. Darrin Barredo
    10:56 am on April 5th, 2010

    Thankyou, I never knew that, cheers.

  15. Stephanie Lein
    8:14 am on May 6th, 2010

    I am a soon to be college student I am looking in to purchasing an Ipad for my studies. I am reading a lot of reviews from teachers, now its time to hear from the student. I think the Ipad is great for education. I don’t think that the Ipad is going to take the place of computers anytime soon. People who have grown up with the computer, like my self, will use the computer for more internet purposes, because we know how to use it better then the Ipad. The younger kids are going to be more Ipad savvy then computer savvy because they are going to be using it more then the old generations. Now, lets think of the other things the Ipad can do, other then the internet stuff. I think it is a great way to save on paper. Students can take notes, type essays, make presentations, create charts, There are endless possibilities. I went and tested it out (I loved it), and i don’t think the keyboard on the screen isn’t all that bad, it works just fine. Also, think of how eco-friendly the Ipad really is. You say it is going to replace laptops and computers, I say its going to replace the need for paper! Students can send essays through email. The Ipad can be hooked up to a projector and students can give paperless visual aid! Notes, books and text books form classes can be stored. Talk about saving paper!! And if the student goes away on a trip, there is no excuse that they didn’t get their essay finish. They can type it right on the Ipad and send it to the teacher. No more “well I didn’t have access to a computer.” excuse. :P There are so many great things the Ipad can do, not just having cool internet capabilities, but even the some little thing as well. Yes there are going to be problems the the 1st generation of Ipads, but that is why the have the 2nd. Look at what the very 1st Ipod was(call me old school but I wish I still had mine), and now look what it has grown in to! Give it time and most of the problems will be fixed.

  16. jedstrom
    8:41 am on May 6th, 2010

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for your comments. You are right, it will save paper and it is definitely the wave of the future. Take a look at our follow-up blog here:


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