10 Pro’s and Con’s of iPads in the Classroom: A Trial

iPad

This trial of using iPads was conducted at my school (Northern Beaches Christian School) over the last 2 terms and these are roughly the 10 things we noticed.

The Positives

  1. Firstly students obviously are very keen to try them out and they seem to be creating engagement, just by their nature as a novel device in the classroom. Students found it really easy to browse with and loved using it as a device to read information online from. “Far easier than a normal computer..”

  2. We have successfully been able to use iPads to enable some of our disabled students to leave their bags at home. Currently we still need to store the textbooks at school because the publishers haven’t caught up with technology yet. What would be nice is if we could buy textbooks by the chapter in the same way that you can buy a song from an album in iTunes.

  3. DocToGo Using DocumentsToGo we have been able to create Google file repositories for students to create, save and access work on the “Cloud”. This seems like one of the few apps which currently can both pull content down from Google Docs but also push it back! This application really becomes your “My Documents” and if your school is thinking of going “Cloud” can I suggest that most apps have links to Google Docs and very few (none I can find) have links to SkyDrive. (SkyDrive is Microsoft’s live@edu online storage solution)

  4. The battery just LASTS! It’s been really good to see that students who are using this device can work and play on the iPad all day long at school without worrying about having to re-charge. This means that the device is truly a portable device for students.

  5. There is an endless list of REALLY useful applications which we have looked at that can really change the way you teach. Here is a copy of the applications which teachers at our school requested! Download Now! Victoria Government has also conducted a trial of iPads and has another list of Apps which they suggest which you can find at http://vicipadtrial.org/.

The Negatives

flash

  1. The iPad doesn’t support flash! At first you say “So what?”, but then as you start to browse you find out how much flash content is out there! One big example for us was Mathletics which is one of Australia’s leading educational online tools. On this note we have heard that Mathletics is intending on bringing our an “App for That” in the near future. I have to say though that is is very disappointing that Apple and Adobe couldn’t find a middle ground on this one but I guess you will have to make the choice, iPad or Flash simple as that. We, in our online school have many flash screen casts which we are not in the process of converting to quick time as an option for iPad users.

  2. Currently the iPad cannot do any HTML editing. This means you can’t properly edit Google Docs, Moodle responses can only be done with HTML editing turned off and a large number of other site which have built in editors will not work. I have heard that Apple are trying to amend this issue though. Wait and see I guess.

  3. There is no USB port or output device for displaying your screen onto a larger monitor. Getting data onto and played off the device is very difficult and is pretty much restricted to “cloud” based storage connections and the iTunes store. This makes displaying things to students a little harder than we would have liked.

  4. Our Mahara ePortfolio system which uses AJAX to allow drag and drop webpage functionality will not work on the iPad. There are only 3 gestures on the iPad, click, scroll and zoom, no drag and drop.

  5. There is not currently any Apple Management software for “class sets” of iPads. The purchasing arrangement of iPads currently makes it really hard to install the same set of Apps onto multiple devices. You have to manually plug each device into THE SAME COMPUTER to sync them all the THE SAME ITUNES ACCOUNT. There is also currently limited functionality when trying to “lock down” iPads for students, in the same way you can a desktop over a network. There are some 3rd party solutions out there.

Lastly..but importantly!

Saying all of this I think these devices are GREAT! I think that the positives of the device make it worth some of the issues that we currently are facing with the device. Already we are seeing a number of the problems with iPads being resolved, printing, displaying video onto TVs using iTV, not to mention the countless number of applications which are being created daily to solve any number of issues you might have with functionality. Give it one year and I am sure that most of the stumbling block with this device will be resolved.

Lastly, I really do feel that it’s not the device that needs to change to much, but rather how we teach! If we continue to try using our old ways of doing things with this new technology we will come across problems again and again. Some of the shifts in they way we do things that I believe need to change are:

  1. We need to go “cloud”! Gone are the days of storing your data on the network at school. We should be working with documents completely online. (Possibly backing up to a local drive). This also means that students can submit links to their work instead of having to do full uploads of content to LMS servers such as Moodle.

  2. Students need to have their OWN PERSONAL device which is brought to school. Gone are the days of schools providing countless desktops which continually get out dated and need to be strictly controlled. We need to stop buying the texbooks and rather redirect this money into purchasing personal devices and software (apps) which students can use at school. You might say “how do we control their content?”, well I believe that proxy servers and firewalls can do a lot, but let’s face it students are already accessing all the online content that they want to at school on their mobile phones. Is it not time we rather try and manage the students rather than their devices.

I’m really excited to be a part of what seems to be a change in the way we teach, and how devices like the iPad can facilitate that change!

Just a few of my thoughts and ideas…

Grant Harbor

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11 thoughts on “10 Pro’s and Con’s of iPads in the Classroom: A Trial

  1. Hi, I have no trouble showing keynote presentations, and videos on a large external monitor with iPad. Apple sells a VGA adaptor which works brilliantly. The recent update now allows users to see the slides an the ipad display. iPad can also now interact with Google Docs for editing files, and I access my school’s Moodle forums, resources and quizzes through the App. mTouch+. Editing the Moodle site still needs desktop/ laptop though. With the program Printopia, Mac users can send documents from iPad to Dropbox and to home printers. It has scope for linking to institutional printers too, I imagine.

  2. This is excellent news! As I said at the end of my “report” I really hope that all the technical hurdles will be overcome in the near future as it is an amazing device for educational purposes!

  3. Regarding the cloud. There is little doubt that it will speed up the passage of data from the domain of the teacher to the students domain. I think however that perhaps cloud technology is not mature enough as yet for schools use. As yet there is not the infrastructure for reliable access to cloud computing services throughout Australia. Also there needs to be some development in terms of feedback analysis to ensure students understanding of material.

  4. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing. I only disagree with negative comment #5. You can mass sync multiple iPads to iTunes and download apps from a singular MacBook to a classroom full of iPads simultaneously, and with great speed. Check out the info provided at http://www.ipadcart.info.

  5. Hi Grant, great post. I am currently involved with running an iPad Trial at my College and it seems you’ve pretty much hit everything we’ve encountered on the head! Your greatest point and one that i love to share also with others is that it’s not about the device, it’s about the teaching and pedagogy that compliments the device! The great thing about iPads as a device for learning is that they will only get better!

    1. iPad is very durable, it’s bulk sharing of Apps which is the real problem although Apple have come out with Volume Purchasing for schools and businesses.

  6. Just wanted to ask your thoughts on 1:1 iPad programmes in primary school. I have been asked to buy one for my eight year old son and have major issues with handing one over to a child who can bearly write.
    I don’t want him to have one, but now the school has said those who wish to can send their child in with an iPad, not sure how they will manage this situation either.

    1. I don’t see the use of Ipad as a hindrance to students writing. They are mutually beneficial.. Schools are trying to prepare students for a world after school and like it or not digital literacy is an important part of that. We just have to find a balance and not “throw the baby out with the bath water” so to speak.. 🙂

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