iPads: Too Cool for School?

iPads are cool. On the surface, it feels like iPads might be a cost-effective way to fulfill your district’s one-to-one initiative. Many schools are embracing iPads for a multitude of reasons, but, although I love the iPad and don’t want to lose any cool points, I am a little on the skeptical side about the use of iPads in the classroom. As some of my coworkers have pointed out, although there are many benefits iPads can provide and many reasons to use them in the classroom, there are also other considerations that we need to make.

iPad photo from CNET

iPads: Hip, but are they ready for the classroom?

Do we know the true effectiveness of the iPad in the classroom? I don’t have an educator background, but I have been a student for years. I could honestly say that, if you gave me an iPad in my schooling days, the techie in me would have been way too distracted to absorb what the teacher actually wanted me to learn. With the availability of apps that don’t even need internet access, how can IT teams restrict non-educational use of the iPad, especially during school hours? My gut tells me that these types of loose ends diminish the effectiveness of iPads as learning tools.What happens if an iPad gets stolen or damaged? I’ve got three little ones who are always losing or destroying anything they can get their hands on. Once, my daughter even “accidentally” threw my cell phone in the toilet! Knowing that kids will be kids (for the most part), if iPads replace textbooks or become the single device serving students’ technology needs, if there is a hardware mishap, does that mean that the student is out of luck until a replacement iPad is issued? Who pays for a replacement iPad? Will there be penalties if a student loses or damages their iPad more than once? I feel like some of the cost effectiveness may be eroding in the face of these questions.

Do district IT teams have the tools, infrastructure, and time necessary to effectively support a district-wide or school-wide iPad implementation? I work with district IT teams on a daily basis and understand some of the challenges they face. From an infrastructure standpoint, there would need to be availability of enough power outlets and spare chargers. Also, if students are accessing online content, then the school’s wireless network might need to be upgraded to handle the additional bandwidth necessity. Most importantly, with limited time and IT resources, ability to perform mass deployment and management of iPads is absolutely critical. With this technology being relatively new, it may not have the flexibility that more mature products have. I sense that this type of initiative might burden IT teams until there are more efficient tools available.

OK, now assuming you can overlook the lack of Flash support like I did, I’ll jump back on the iPad bandwagon, because I do like the iPad and I do think there is a place for it in the classroom. I just think that there are some issues to consider before making them the sole answer to your technology needs.

Does this make sense to you, or am I way off base? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


  • Reply March 22, 2012


    I think what any educator should consider is not necessarily the “cool” factor, but rather if knowledge of the platform type and method of interfacing information are worthwhile skills for students.  I remember my typing class in elementary school, and although at the time the skill set was considered a “nice to have”, today a person without fairly developed typing skills is severely hamstrung in just about every professional field.

    Interfacing with information through touch may seem to us here at the frontier, dazzling and interesting, but to the student of the future who has known nothing else it may be as interesting as a keyboard and mouse.

    Although, on the issue of accidental damage with touchscreen mobile devices, that does sound like the school would be in for quite the bill! However there are many “tough” carrying cases that would still land a school well under the bill of a full blown laboratory computing system.

    As far as security goes, that is a simple software solution that would take very little time to develop if there was enough interest. Most mobile devices already have methods built in that can remotely lock or disable features, it would require fairly modest code modifications to allow an “admin” type structure to manage devices remotely. After all, they are still just computers.

    I think the deficiency with this technology lies not with the devices, but with the software designs that fail to fully utilize and embrace the power of touch(beyond looking cool turning a page).   The true power of this sensory experience will come to light once haptic feedback (ability to feel texture) comes to the next generation of touch based devices. Then just imagine what you could teach if you combined a three dimensional screen along with haptic feedback!  Imagine a biology book teaching about plants where a student can feel and see the difference in the textures of leaves!  Lets see a paper textbook do that in addition to having its content validated wirelessly as further studies reveal even more new features! It certainly makes you consider if making the ancestors of this technology familiar to the adults of the future a relevant conviction. I say an educators responsibility is to give students a head start whenever they get the chance.

    Clearly, I’m tragically biased. :)

    Thanks for writing this article, it’s a fascinating discussion.

  • Reply April 30, 2012


    All reasonable concerns from a non-IT background, (although many actually false upon further research)…. Could it be a company that has built a model based on flash delivery is playing devils advocate as a means to protect it’s own interests???

    • Reply May 2, 2012

      Rebecca Bristol


      We believe that iPads in particular, and tablets as a whole are a significant development for online learning and the move to anytime, anywhere education. CompassLearning Odyssey uses Adobe’s Flash technology to create highly engaging, interactive, effective activities. Thousands of other vendors use this technology for the same reason – it’s more effective than static, text-based content. And, it is true that flash activities do not run on the iPad at this time. That is why we are working with educators to see how they plan to and how they are using tablets in the educational setting so that we can support their needs in the larger educational setting.

      We are seeing schools develop interesting implementations that include notebook computers, traditional materials, student’s smart phones and iPads to create “new classrooms.” One school has students using the iPad running Facetime® or Skype®, so students can interact “face-to-face,” while using their notebook computers to create presentations, personal content or do Odyssey activities in a group setting. They are also using smart phones to text and look-up information, while grabbing books off the shelf to gain additional insight. The teacher is mentoring, coaching and teaching through this model.

      The point is that iPads are one piece of a broader solution for rigorous, effective education. Much of the content, curricula and assessment needed for successful learning is not yet available on the iPad (or other tablets) and might not need to be, depending on the needs of the students and a district.

      There are a number of questions educators need to ask as they consider the use of tablets/iPads. Some of those are:
      1) How are/will they be used? Replace basal content, supplementary?
      2) Will students still be accessing other computers?
      3) Do you consider tablets/iPads a replacement for everything a student needs to do on a computer? Would low cost notebook computers be a better option?
      4) Do you have a strategy for how tablets/iPads will be incorporated as part of your larger technology needs and infrastructure solution for students?

      We recognize that that iPads will be important to many schools over time, and plan to support iPads as part of a larger solution in time.

      Rebecca Tongsinoon Bristol, vice president, product development

  • Reply May 31, 2012


    Just curious if & when Compass Learning users can expect an iOS application?

    • Reply June 6, 2012

      Adrienne Albregts

      Thank you for your question, Paul. Yes, Compass Learning users can expect an iOS application; however, a timeframe is undetermined at this point. We are actively working on this, so please stay tuned!

  • Reply September 11, 2012

    Cindy Shick

    Your ideas about weighing the cost and usage of iPads are necessary in deciding on the hardware to be used in education. Our district has been a part of a 1-on-1 Initiative with Apple laptops for almost 3 years now. Each student is assigned a laptop for school and home use. IPads are being considered this year in our elementary school for student use. I do know that when it comes time to replace the student laptops our district will be looking into iPads for cost effectiveness and ease of use. As a technology trainer, laptop/iPhone/iPad/iPod user and classroom teacher I feel Compass Learning needs to make the decision to support iPad and tablet use or be left in the dust by other apps and programs. Ms. Bristol’s statement that you “plan to support iPads as part of a larger solution in time” needs to have a target date a.s.a.p.

  • Reply September 25, 2012

    Luke Adam

    Yep, with millions of Apple I-pads sold, Compass learning could really make a statement by launching an app for apple. I teach in a school in NE minnesota with a cart of i pads that cannot be used for compass learning, unless I use a photon app, but that results in a very sluggish feel for the user. Please work on this; we need it!!!!

    • Reply September 25, 2012

      Adrienne Albregts

      Thank you for your comment, Luke – Please know that we agree and will have more information regarding our mobile strategy soon!

  • Reply October 22, 2012


    any luck on the compass learning app for ipad or a work-around?

  • Reply November 30, 2012


    Rover app is free and does a decent job to support Compass. An app would be better, but Rover is an educationally developed solution for Ed Sites requiring flash.

    • Reply December 3, 2012

      Adrienne Albregts

      Appreciate the recommendation, Mike.

  • Reply January 22, 2013


    Effective this week, Rover is only supporting “showcased” educational sites. My children are devastated now that they can no longer access Compass Learning on the ipad. Please give us an app soon or make arrangements with Rover to continue supporting your customers via their servers.

    • Reply January 23, 2013

      Adrienne Albregts

      Hi, Val — thank you for your comment. We are evaluating the situation and are talking with Rover about options. Would you like to be contacted to participate in our iPad early adoption program(s)? We would appreciate your help, please let us know if you are interested at info@compasslearning.com.

  • Reply January 23, 2013


    I sincerely hope that Compass is close to releasing an iOS app. We’re coming up on a year since this article was published. iOS devices aren’t going away. Demand for them from administrators, teachers, and students is only going to grow as more people use them at home. Can you please comment on a more concrete timeline? Is the app in beta testing yet? How close are you to submitting it to the iOS App Store? Etc. etc.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Steven Lorik

    Please, do not forget that the Android operating system will surpass Apple, if they have not done so already. I never understood why our educators have fallen in love with Apple, when the cost of Windows and Android hardware is so much lower and much more prevalent in homes and businesses. So, if you must work on an iOS , also work on one for the Android OS at the same time.

    • Reply February 22, 2013

      Mike B

      Compass will take a major hit if they cannot run on iPads yesterday. When I talk with vendors, I ask them, “How can we access your xxxxxx on the kids phones?” The device isn’t as important as connecting to the kids. HTML5 has promise, but needs some time to mature. If you have followed the evolution of DuoLingo, you might see way RosettaStone has some concern. RosettaStone is still better, but the gap is quickly closing. StarFall.com crushed the Hooked on Phonics series. Compass now has services like ScootPad and Sumdog offering free or low cost services that give student data. I’m frustrated by the lack of progress in bringing Compass to mobile devices.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Jeff Brantley

    Mike, thank you for the comment. We have been working diligently on a strategy for mobile devices and you will see the initial results of that planning and development in the near future, including a solution that supports running CompassLearning Odyssey on the iPad. As we have worked with our customers to understand their mobile strategy, it is clear that the iPad held an early advantage when districts looked purely at the device, but we are also seeing significant plans for Chromebooks and Android devices as school develop holistic device and content strategies. We look forward to sharing our product plans and making announcements for mobile devices in the coming weeks.

  • Reply July 1, 2014


    Here we are July 2014 – any luck w/ getting CLO to work with the iPad?

    • Reply July 2, 2014

      Kurt Bauer

      Compass Learning Odyssey now works on virtually all mobile devices, including iPads. See directions below:
      1) Go to the App Store for your mobile device and find Puffin Academy by CloudMosa.
      2) Download the Puffin Academy App (not the Puffin Web browser, also by CloudMosa).
      3) Open the Puffin Academy App.
      4) Find the Compass Learning icon and click it. A simple search for “compass learning” will bring you to Odyssey.
      5) Click the Compass Learning logo, then click the logo again, and you will be redirected to the Odyssey login screen.
      6) Log in as you normally would and begin using Compass Learning Odyssey.

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