iPads in our School? Not Quite Yet... (Repost)

There have been many questions lately about the role of the new "slate" style tablets in our school.  The most famous of these is the iPad, but also include the collection of other devices in my office including the Fujitsu Q550 and the Lenovo Thinkpad Android powered tablet.

As such, I thought a reposting of this musing would be in order.

Image: Apple.com
Everyone seems to be excited about iPads and other tablet computers (with the possible exception of HP). They are a great personal extension to the internet.   I was recently forwarded the results of a survey done by Staples who (surprise) found people are thrilled with tablets and one of the benefits of having a tablet is that it allowed a number of the survey respondents to have a better work/life balance.

Coincidentally, Staples happens to sell tablets. I am sure the survey results were unbiased. :)

So what about tablets in education?

I recently came across this posting via one of our teachers from Jim Gates (Twitter #JGates513) a long time educator who doesn’t feel the iPad is ready for the classroom. I would agree with many of his points. His post can be found on his blog here.  It is highly recommended you check out his site.

He’s not anti-iPad, but there is a dichotomy between the tablet’s capabilities and the ability to achieve academic outcomes, or develop key competencies (i.e. collaboration on a project or document vs using email or Skype), or use them to full capacity with the core educational programs such as Moodle, WebCT, etc. Creation of documents and presentations are a challenge on tablets without the ability to have true multitasking (e.g. image editing in one window, presentation material in another with drag and drop between them).

Having iPads in Appleby College classrooms is not likely in the near future given that we have integrated extensive collaboration using shared workspaces in OneNote/Sharepoint, technology enhanced curriculum, and a high reliance on our student info system (built in Sharepoint). The poor iPad could not keep up with our curriculum.

At Appleby, we supply every student and faculty member with a pen based tablet PC running Win7.  Over 90% of school work is assigned, completed, and turned in using the computer.  There are no notebooks in class, just textbooks and computers.

Watching how technology is leveraged in the classroom is remarkable.  Listening to the students describe how the technology is used is even more remarkable. It's not about the device, but the ability of the device to extend and enhance the 45 min of teaching time to layer in new discoveries and new competencies.  It allows the focus to be on the educational outcome, not the fact that there is a computer in the classroom.

That doesn't mean there isn’t a place for iPads in Appleby.

Given the exceptional ability of  iPads and tablets to extend the work desktop by making it very easy to check and respond to email, review documents and do minor edits, perhaps we should look at buying everyone a desktop and provide those who need mobility, an iPad or Slate PC vs a laptop.

As for me, you’ll have to pry my iPad from my cold, dead, fingers, but I do disagree with the article I was sent… it doesn’t help me maintain a work/life balance… it makes it much easier to never leave work.


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