iPads in Education

Exploring the use of iPads and mobile devices in education.

Which Makes More Sense: iPads or Laptops in high schools?

My small 8-12 grade school is considering implementing a pilot iPad program for its 1 section of 20 8th graders either this spring or next fall. First step this fall is a pilot program for the current 8th grade teachers, many of whom don't have a tablet of any kind. I'm about to start drafting the proposal for this faculty iPad program... but first I need to evaluate the big picture.

The crux of the matter - a handful of faculty contacted me earlier this summer questioning the plan, and two have pointedly asked why we don't just aim for macbooks/laptops. True, they acknowledge, start up time is slower and apps are cool, but the textbooks aren't there yet for the iPads. Most high schoolers will, at least for a few years to come, still type longer assignments on a more conventional machine, and since nearly half of our students are on financial aid, many of our families can't afford to support two devices.

The group that came up with the pilot plan last spring was really enthusiastic, and we certainly felt energized when putting together our ideas. I can see how iPads would be ideal with K-8 and have read many success stories with younger students. Now, however, I am having difficulty finding "evidence" that iPads will improve secondary student learning more than a laptop.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from those who have already piloted programs in high schools.

thanks for your input,

Cammy

Tags: highschool

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Cammy,

 

We are struggling with the same issue... I am AP for Curriculum and Technology at a larger private high school (680+).  

 

First - I want to comment on a couple of the concerns you raise.

  • As of Fall of 2011, with the release and installation of iOS 5 we will no longer have to tether our iPads to anything.  App and OS updates will be all be available via WiFi so there will be no NEED for iTunes.  So there will be no need for a secondary computer.  
  • Also it is quite simple to hook up a bluetooth keyboard to the iPad to the "heavy lifting" typing sessions.  So again, for simple typing there is no need for a secondary computer.
  • Also... The textbook issue... this is not resolved by getting a Macbook/laptop, they are not on those platforms either.

We are struggling with a couple of issues ourselves. 

  • I can see resale value in a 4 year old macbook.  I cannot see resale value in a 4 year old iPad... 
  • I worry about the computing power of the iPad to do content creation such as creating and editing podcasts, cutting and pasting (yes it is there, but it sure isn't as easy as a full powered Mac), creating and editing videos, etc. 
  • Where are students going to store data?  Dropbox? iCloud? Google docs is certainly a strong possibility but they need more work on that interface...
  • I still haven't seen a good case for an iPad2 that allows the iPad to be in the case yet still used, yet still retain its "slender" figure...
  • How long will the iPad battery last?  I certainly cannot replace it...
  • is 16 gigs enough?
  • I worry that I will need a couple iMacs in each room, or a macbook cart or 2 around  to deal with the previous issues... do I really want to implement a 1:1 initiative but still have to deal with standalone carts or computers in classrooms?
  • Who should own the iPads?  School? Student/Family?
  • an iPad is ALOT bigger theft target than a MacBook...  (simply an opinion)  
  • I can feasibly use a Macbook Pro 13" or 11" MBAir for 4 years... can I use the iPad that long?
  • it is EASY to project ANYTHING off of a macbook through an LCD projector and VGA adapter... not so much with an iPad

 

The only reason I am even considering iPads is because of the release of iOS 5 this fall which allows them to be used independently of Mac or PC based iTunes... that is a HUGE step for 1:1 initiatives i believe... otherwise you had a whole bunch of other issues to deal with...

 

Great questions!  I hope my input helps... 

 

Also make sure you are not straying from the vision because a few naysayers walk in... 

 

Blessings on your decisions and pilot!

 

I was at a major computer conference which focused on developing applications for schools/learning. Two years ago, a large percentage of attendees carried iPads. This past year, the laptops and netbooks  returned. One needs to pick the tools to accomplish the job that needs to be done rather than try to make a cool tool fit the job. One wouldn't want your surgeon to be enamored of a new tool rather than using what is best for the surgery.

 

If the school has the resources to create an experimental program, realizing that the iPads and the competitive android units are rapidly evolving, then I would go that route since the purpose is not to use the school as a development laboratory as opposed to its primary responsibility to the student outcomes. 

 

If one is clear that the pads meet a critical need better than, for example, netbooks which are in the same price range, then one has a choice of technology.

Just to clarify one point Joshua, as I understand it iOS 5 will allow wireless updates of apps but only if the prevailing profile setting allows it. Most schools will not allow student profiles to download apps.


Joshua Sommermeyer said:

Cammy,

 

We are struggling with the same issue... I am AP for Curriculum and Technology at a larger private high school (680+).  

 

First - I want to comment on a couple of the concerns you raise.

  • As of Fall of 2011, with the release and installation of iOS 5 we will no longer have to tether our iPads to anything.  App and OS updates will be all be available via WiFi so there will be no NEED for iTunes.  So there will be no need for a secondary computer.  
  • Also it is quite simple to hook up a bluetooth keyboard to the iPad to the "heavy lifting" typing sessions.  So again, for simple typing there is no need for a secondary computer.
  • Also... The textbook issue... this is not resolved by getting a Macbook/laptop, they are not on those platforms either.

We are struggling with a couple of issues ourselves. 

  • I can see resale value in a 4 year old macbook.  I cannot see resale value in a 4 year old iPad... 
  • I worry about the computing power of the iPad to do content creation such as creating and editing podcasts, cutting and pasting (yes it is there, but it sure isn't as easy as a full powered Mac), creating and editing videos, etc. 
  • Where are students going to store data?  Dropbox? iCloud? Google docs is certainly a strong possibility but they need more work on that interface...
  • I still haven't seen a good case for an iPad2 that allows the iPad to be in the case yet still used, yet still retain its "slender" figure...
  • How long will the iPad battery last?  I certainly cannot replace it...
  • is 16 gigs enough?
  • I worry that I will need a couple iMacs in each room, or a macbook cart or 2 around  to deal with the previous issues... do I really want to implement a 1:1 initiative but still have to deal with standalone carts or computers in classrooms?
  • Who should own the iPads?  School? Student/Family?
  • an iPad is ALOT bigger theft target than a MacBook...  (simply an opinion)  
  • I can feasibly use a Macbook Pro 13" or 11" MBAir for 4 years... can I use the iPad that long?
  • it is EASY to project ANYTHING off of a macbook through an LCD projector and VGA adapter... not so much with an iPad

 

The only reason I am even considering iPads is because of the release of iOS 5 this fall which allows them to be used independently of Mac or PC based iTunes... that is a HUGE step for 1:1 initiatives i believe... otherwise you had a whole bunch of other issues to deal with...

 

Great questions!  I hope my input helps... 

 

Also make sure you are not straying from the vision because a few naysayers walk in... 

 

Blessings on your decisions and pilot!

 

Thank You Joshua,

 

You have presented the most concise critical analysis outline for the application of of iPads.

With your permission, I would like to reference your response in other blogs and directly to educators that are considering iPad integration.

The iPad is a cool, hip device that has remarkable communication capabilities in business and in healthcare.

It is a "consumer" product that appeals to a mass market. The educational adaptation demonstrates its limitations. It is an awkward fit.

It appears that all the new tablets are also designed to appeal to consumers as well.

 

Sam! I'm sorry that I did not meet you at ISTE. I was making a few new contacts with manufacturers of iPad accessories. It would have been a pleasure to meet you.

JJC

 

A couple of followup thoughts....

1). Netbooks are not part of the discussion... They last about a year or 2 before the batteries die, parts start falling off, get sluggish, etc... The cost rises significantly if you start adding things like a managable OS...

2) To me trying to "manage" iPads with profiles would be silly... Simply let students be masters of that device... Give them codes to install needed school software... I really think that in a 1:1 iPad environment you'd have student owned devices anyway...

3). Until I wrote it down... I don't think I realized the impact of my second to last concern about the ability of the MBP or MBA to last 4 years.... That seems like a very compelling reason at this point to not do iPads at the HS level, when taken into consideration with the other "issues"

Thanks all! I appreciate the thoughtful feedback thus far and understand that I'll have to do some serious soul searching with the iPad exploration group on campus before going too much further.

The prospect of iOS5 will certainly ease some of our concerns, but not all.

Joshua, I can confirm that we were imagining students' managing if not owning their own devices, although I don't know all the ins and outs of the VPP possibilities in this regard (and they may evolve before we get the program in place).

We have a 12-unit netbook cart and I've been unimpressed with them so far. The new macbooks airs, although more costly to be sure, have many more advantages and are something we would definitely consider before we finalize a student pilot program.

Talking with a key teacher this afternoon, we both admitted our hypothetical preference for leading/guiding a classroom of students with a low-sightline/profile device as opposed to the "screen-up" barrier that a laptop introduces. Have any of you noticed a difference in this regard? Are we imagining a difference where one doesn't really exist?

I have many people asking the same question. As an AT provider working with persons with disabilities we follow  a framework created by Joy Zabala called SETT. It stands for Student, Environment, Tasks and Tools I often find if one uses this formula in general decision making for technology whether it be special ed or regular ed the process lends itself to sound decision making. Currently the major barrier for many of the individuals I work with is the ability to get information on and off of the iPad especially when they are being shared amongst students in a cart. This makes it difficult especially if the buildings infrastructure does not allow for wireless printing. In addition, many schools do not have email accounts established for their students which is another step in the process prior to looking at what equipment can or should be purchased. I have found that MacBooks or standard laptops continue to provide the most consistent and easy to use resource for our classrooms; however, the integration of a iPad can be very beneficial as a teaching tool if one implements the correct applications for the activity at hand. It will be interesting to see what happens to my "old" iPad as it ages with use. I am concerned about the overall durability but I am more concerned with the limited role most people set up for the iPads. I believe that until we get to a 1 to 1 ratio of iPad or computer we will continue to struggle with implementation issues as it is difficult for teachers to commit themselves to using a technology they do not always have access to.
Why not think about the iPad as a two-year device rather than a four year device. Half the cost of the MBP.

Wayne,

 

Two issues

 

lets say I spend $100) per student per 4 years... that is either 4 years of a macbook or 2 ipads... 

 

Issue #1 - Who buys the devices?  if it is the school now I have twice as many devices to get rid of in the same time span... and I'm not sure that iPad has reached the level of "disposable" where each family can be expected to buy TWO of them during a 4 year HS career per kid... 

 

Issue #2 - Talking years 3 and 4 - What has more academic use TODAY, a 3 or 4 year old Macbook Pro/Air or a 1 or 2 year old iPad?  

Wayne Lang said:

Why not think about the iPad as a two-year device rather than a four year device. Half the cost of the MBP.

A few challenges to think of with the iPad:

 

Students are not using "proper" keyboarding techniques; will we have ergonomic issues?

Students are unable to access flash or java applications

Inability to image means that students or staff are spending valuable time "purchasing" and installing applications on ipads.  With 90 apps and 50 videos, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to install apps, sync to master for folder alignment, and rename.

 

Hope this helps,

Lorrie

Here is where we are at today...

 

I have put in a proposal (and it was accepted) to get 16 ipads and apps, training, and gift cards for teachers... we are going to spend the next couple months exploring them as an "option"... we would then likely go the "student purchase" route and then have some sort of "app fee" for a set of apps that students need to have on the devices... through training evenings, have the students redeem codes given either via email or via paper copy to redeem for those apps... Hense student owns ipad... student then owns the app licences... student/family responsible for loss/theft/damage (we'd give them some options of course)

 

lots to flesh out in the implementation part of this... but first step is the pilot for a chunk of my staff...

 

#1 is a real concern.  Right now, we know that the iPad has an active life of 3 years at least.  There's been no discussion at all that iOS 5 won't run on the iPad 1.  As for iOS 6, we don't know yet.  If iOS 6 works on the iPad 1, it will mean the device has a life of 4 years...not bad.  I do know that the iPad is sufficiently advanced that a group of iPads could be sent "down" the educational chain for other teachers to use.  Think about what most school computers are used for: writing papers and Internet research.  Maybe presentations.  The iPad can do that (I bought a TouchPad at $99...and it JUST obtained the ability to write papers, and it still can't do presentations).

 

#2 is a great question.  You have to define "academic use."  I'd actually argue that the iPad has more academic use.  It's more portable, it has a longer battery life, it's more friendly to use, it stays on a desk out of the line of sight between teacher and student (a MacBook screen creates a barrier), and apps are MUCH cheaper on an iPad than on a MacBook, even with a site license.  Can the MacBook do "more"?  "More" is debatable, but some Mac programs have more functions than their iPad versions, and some software exists for Mac that does not exist on the iPad.  But at the same time, you get a larger, heavier device that costs more, the programs cost more, and the batteries last half as long...or less (especially with a 2 year old MacBook).  And if I were to forced to choose to drop either my iPad or my MacBook (a silly question, but I'll go there), I would choose the iPad.  The iPad would stand the better chance of surviving the same impact (Ultimately, I'll choose to drop neither).  And the iPad can be fitted with a case that can help reduce the amount of damage.  Yes, there are MacBook cases, too--but most people don't have them. 

Issue #1 - Who buys the devices?  if it is the school now I have twice as many devices to get rid of in the same time span... and I'm not sure that iPad has reached the level of "disposable" where each family can be expected to buy TWO of them during a 4 year HS career per kid... 

 

Issue #2 - Talking years 3 and 4 - What has more academic use TODAY, a 3 or 4 year old Macbook Pro/Air or a 1 or 2 year old iPad?  

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