Is the iPad the Correct Tool to Aid Learning in Education?

Many educators have asked me – “Is the iPad the correct tool to aid learning in education?” Having read several articles as well as witnessing first hand the implementation of iPad programs in several K12 educational establishments. I still don’t have a definitive answer, but I suppose it depends on the goals of your educational establishment and the age group of learners and what they need to achieve by using the iPad.

Therefore my own personal answers are Yes and No……..

No

If you are going to implement an iPad program then the pedagogical style of education in the classroom must change. There is no point in simply giving out iPads to every student and expecting everyone to use it as a tool for learning. I have seen this in action, where a private school gives each child an iPad as part of its admissions; the cost is included in the school fees. “What great marketing”, but no help with the actual learning of the child. The teachers had not been trained to use the iPad; the school infrastructure had not been designed to cope with 200 students using the iPad all at the same time. Parents were asked to purchase and download the apps at home, so loss of control from the school’s point of view, with parents who were not really trained correctly with technology use at home. No thought about the older students who need to type 5000 word projects on an iPad keyboard. No training given to teachers or students about Internet safety, correct usage in the classroom and digital citizenship.  No thought about storage of personal data or even transfer of data, no thought over the applications available on the iPad and whether they are suitable in the classroom.

Yes

If you have planned your implementation correctly, considered all the points mentioned above, then your iPad program is likely to be much more successful:

  • Supportive, designed, and managed wireless infrastructure
  • Teacher continuous training and support
  • Introduction of classroom IT Integrators/Innovators
  • Parental workshops to support home use of technology and understanding the use of technology in the classroom
  • Control, centralized and managed downloading of Apps by the school
  • IT pedagogy, how to use iPads to aid learning in the classroom (and at home)
  • A supportive and fully trained IT technical team
  • Data storage and data transfer
  • The correct Apps which will aid learning
  • The use of a LMS or VLE
  • The health and safety issues (how to look after and care for your iPad)

This list is not exhaustive and I am sure we can add several more important points to this list……..

Is the iPad suited for all ages?

This depends on what the iPad is going to be used for in education? I still believe at the moment it is more valuable as a learning tool for use in the Elementary/Primary school sector and that a laptop (MacBook or Notebook) would be more suitable to Middle/High school/ Secondary school, possibly if the budget allowed, an iPad would be useful as a supplementary learning tool. (I can see the benefits, the ease of carrying an iPad or any mobile device, the ease to make quick notes in a lecture theatre or classroom, the use of Science based Apps in 3D etc., the long battery life and the long list of other benefits mentioned in previous blog entries here). The processing power, storage capabilities, number of applications, software and of course a keyboard, simply make laptops currently a far more effective learning tool than the iPad. I have seen the separate keyboard that can be used with iPads as well as the overlay for the keyboard, this maybe a way forward for the future.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel the iPad is a fantastic educational tool, when used in a school environment that has been planned and where everyone fully supports the program. But if a school just gives an iPad to everyone and thinks the magic of learning will automatically take place, I feel that they may be proved sadly wrong.

Please comment and let me know your ideas and thoughts. Things that you have witnessed working well with 1:1 iPad implementation.

I have found this article by Mitchell A. Salerno, Michael Vonhof insightful for US state based implementation of the iPad in K12 education.

Written by Steven David Pearce 20/12/2011 and update 12/10/2014

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6 thoughts on “Is the iPad the Correct Tool to Aid Learning in Education?

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