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.
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.