Royan Lee posted a very interesting article about his thoughts of the iPad in the classroom entitled “The Honeymoon is not over: iPad is a creation tool“. In the posting, he lists a number of activities that go on in his classroom. Specifically, he identifies:
- mind and concept map
- draw pictures
- make movies
- film learning as it happens
- make music
- create presentations
- make animations
- play games
- make calculations
- use manipulatives
The post appears to be in response to James McConville’s previous post “Why the iPad is bad for education“. In the first article, Mr. McConville lays out his concerns about this piece of technology and, later, Mr. Lee focused on the topic of consumption versus creation. There’s no doubt that the iPad excels as a portable reading and interactive gaming device. But, he wanted to push the discussion further.
I don’t take exception to any of Royan’s thoughts. He’s bang on with them. Having agreed, there are still some things that I’m trying to resolve in my own mind before I share the same level of enthusiasm.
I’m not about to say that they’re total deal breakers, but there’s still significant questions in my mind that I’m pondering.
The price per unit is only a bargain when compared to other Apple products! Putting together a unit that would be suitable for classroom use would start with a 32GB model priced at $619, add a bluetooth keyboard for $69, and then a video out adapter for presentations at $29. Or, conceivably an Apple TV at $109 that could be shared among a number of iPads. We’re looking at over $700. More about the specifications as this develops.
Sadly, I have experience in this realm. No electronic device is bullet-proof and I admit to being rough on my devices. From dropping an iPod on the streets of Denver to somehow having an iPad twist and crack in the the rec room, I’ve had my share of repairs. Not cheap, the iPad cost me $350 to exchange for one that wasn’t cracked. I just can’t imagine the damage that could accumulate in backpacks on school buses.
There’s an app for that
Sadly, there is. The App Store brags a ga-zillion applications. They mostly seem to be single purpose applications so you do need to select an appropriate suite for your purposes. With the lack of support for Flash, the open web where we’re headed with so much else has to be considered carefully. In the meantime, you’ll need to identify the apps you need. To that end, the 16GB model probably isn’t going to cut it – you’ll need more storage. Unlike traditional applications that can run from a server, you’ll need to run them from the device.
Related to that, it’s pretty easy to wiggle the deck and move applications around or delete them. You do want to plan lessons confident in the fact that the applications that you need are going to be there. Applications are easily downloaded from the App Store – provided they meet the Apple seal of approval. You really can’t go shopping anywhere else to get the best of the best. They’re either available or not. And, updates are a regular daily occurrence. It seems that daily, since the advent of the new iPad, that there’s an update to support the new display and “bug fixes”.
Yes, there are some pretty powerful applications available. One thing that desktops have created that’s spoiled me for good is the ability to run more than one program at a time. Not just application switching but real, honest to goodness, multitasking.
I like knowing where my files are. I like to control them and repurpose them for use by any other application that I choose to use. I like to have them easily accessible by whatever device that I happen to be using. I like knowing that if I create a document today that it’s going to be there, safe and secure, for use tomorrow. A traditional educational configuration of a computer defaults storage to a user space on a fileserver. There are alternatives for the iPad such as cloud storage but I wonder about the hurdles that have to be cleared in order for it work successfully for all students.
This is a biggy and noticeably missing from Royan’s list. My iPad is part of my regular blogging routine but it’s only a couple of times that I’ve actually gone from beginning to end creating it on the device. I just can’t be productive typing on the glass. That’s why I’ve included a bluetooth keyboard in the specifications above. In the classrooms that I’ve visited, you really have to look hard to find someone who can write the great Canadian novel on the device. For me, I’ll use Evernote to brainstorm thoughts and ideas that I’ll bring over to a computer later on for finishing. I had a challenge thrown out at me earlier to explore programming with Codea. Other than a “Hello World” and a small calculator program, it was just a bit too tedious.
So, given all that, is $700 the right price for an all-purpose productivity device? I can run over to the neighbourhood electronics store and get an entry level netbook for $250. It can do everything in the list above plus more with storage weighing in at 320GB storage. I could conceivably get almost three of the units for the price of the iPad.
And yet, there’s something really attractive about the iPad. It’s light; very portable; and has much of the functionality that we want. Especially for the younger students or even older users like me, the “instant on” feature makes all the difference in the world.
I remember when the first iPad came out. There really wasn’t anything to distinguish it from an iPod except for size. But, time and great programmers have turned it into a very successful product on its own. That’s why I’ll stay away from statements about honeymoons being over because I don’t think we’re done watching the evolution of the device into something even more special. I’d really like to see the issues above addressed – particularly the pricing.
In the meantime, I’ll just continue dating!