iPads in Education: Some Thoughts on Pros and Cons

iPads in Education: Some Thoughts on Pros and Cons

The new look of textbooks? The iPad app Solar System, by Touch Press

The discussion started out because my daughter Maggie, who is a freshman at the local High School, spotted an opportunity to get herself a device that she covets . . . an iPad.

Here’s the deal:  Maggie’s school district is holding a vote on whether or not the parents think it’s a good idea to get the High School students iPads. The idea is that you get them an iPad as a freshman, they keep it for four years, using it for textbooks, note-taking, and whatever else, and then turn it in when they graduate.  (Whether they’re planning on having the parents foot the bill, or the district, or pass a bond, or something else, I don’t know yet.)

On the surface, this sounds like a not-bad idea.  I mean, one iPad instead of a whole host of heavy textbooks, right?  We know kids are actually having back problems in some locations–places where, e.g., they don’t allow lockers any more.  And I’ve seen kids here lugging roller-bags almost as heavy as my carry-on suitcase.

But you know, as much as I love the idea in the abstract (and I think it would work great on College campuses), my feelings are pretty mixed.  It’s hard to imagine my daughter–or any teenager–not going through several iPads in 4 years.  I mean, are we going to issue them high-end Otterbox cases, just to be on the safe side?  Charge their parents the replacement costs when the inevitable happens?  Heck, my kids are hard enough on laptops that are required by family rules to not leave the two house common areas; I don’t think they’re going to be gentler on something they’re carting around everywhere every day!

There there’s the software issue:  4 years is 2-4 revisions; who gets to do the IT stuff on all these iPads (e.g., who upgrades the software?)–Mom and Dad? Are you kidding me?; have they already made a deal with the various textbook publishers?; etc.  School going to hire extra IT people?  (Hah!)  Run on obsolete software for several years?

And what about the apps?  Who’s going to spring for the costs of the books, associated apps, and whatnot?  No, apps aren’t that expensive, really, but how many parents are going to be pleased when it’s “suggested by the district” that they get $50 worth of apps “to enhance their teen’s educational experience”?  Not a lot, I’m guessing.

Still and all, it shows you a couple of things: the education market is every bit as big as Carly predicted, if not even bigger. And second, if  high schools are talking about doing this, the iPad has achieved a level of market penetration that I, personally, didn’t ever expect it to. And it hasn’t even been a year! Just amazing.

I’ll say this, too: Joseph (12) learned more about the Solar System playing with the Solar System app with me (and answering his homework questions using it instead of a static book or a study worksheet) in 15 minutes than he did in an hour of studying. Using a tablet–with the correct app!–is more like playing than “studying”, and I think there’s a huge potential there to help kids who have learning disabilities (like my two) that are currently going untapped.

But that’s just what I think.  What do you think?  Tell us below.

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9 Comments on "iPads in Education: Some Thoughts on Pros and Cons"

  1. Joel McLaughlin | February 14, 2011 at 11:14 am |

    Dumbest idea ever. I can understand in a college setting but in high school? No way.

  2. Mary Beth-TeleNav | February 14, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    I love this idea – there are so many pros. Unfortunately though, I think you’re right on about the problem of kids dropping and breaking them. I’d also worry that a large number of kids would not have enough money to purchase them in the first place, leaving them at a huge disadvantage.

  3. RT @GearDiarySite: iPads in Education–Some Thoughts on Pros and Cons http://goo.gl/fb/kzj0p

  4. My thoughts on high school students receiving ipads for school purposes is this;
    There once was a time that computers in the class room was laughed at but in my schooling I used a computer from 3rd grade on. I did not have a computer at home until high school but feel strongly the earlier on I would have the better off I would be. Technology is the future and the sooner our children start learning, adapting and utilizing the ever growing technology the more educated our children will become. This will teach them responsibility, professionalism and help in encourage parents to be involved in their child’s education, personal growth and development. There are other readers out now including the similar Samsung Tab although I am a die hard Apple fan and stand behind their products. There are several ways to get grant money for our government and I think that focusing more on education than the current obsessions going on I feel as the people we should fight for what will get us ahead. Our educational platforms are not up to pare and we’ve become to obsessed with our commercial life styles that we are forgetting what is important and blinded by our ignorance. Wake up America and open your eyes to whats going on around you not what some tube vomits on you like a joke. K, I am off my tangent but I do feel that being more involved, teaching our kids responsibility and adapting to our changing world is vital to development, progression and life.

  5. iPads in Education–Some Thoughts on Pros and Cons #ipad

  6. Christopher Gavula | February 15, 2011 at 8:23 am |

    I agree wimuch of what has been said here. The potential for student engagement is huge here, but I have a hard time getting over the hurdle of cost and maintenance. I’m afraid that – much as computers in the classroom did – this will only separate students even more into “haves” and “have nots”. Middle class and weathly districts will have little or no problems and poorer school districts will fall further behind than ever.

    I grew up in Detroit. That’s a district that can barely keep enough operating budget to keep the doors open let alone keep proper textbooks or computers in the classroom. How on earth is a poor district like that – that can barely keep the lights on – ever going to be able to do something like this? Bottom line? They won’t and the students will just be added to the pile of “have nots”. Until we can find a way to properly fund even basic education for ALL our kids, at a fundamental level, I just can’t get behind these kinds of initiatives, depite the potential pros.

  7. RT @geardiarysite: iPads in Education: Some Thoughts on Pros and Cons http://bit.ly/i2euRH

  8. Thoughtful write-up on the pros and cons of using iPads in education. What do you think? http://ht.ly/3ZU9i

  9. iPads in Education: Some Thoughts on Pros and Cons | Gear Diary http://bit.ly/ibozKK #ipad #apple

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