Will the iPad Fail in Schools?

I just read an article written for a business magazine, Network World, written by a Chief Information Officer, where he argues that the iPad may fail in schools because of what he calls ‘flaws’ in the design.

In the article it describes on high school in Michigan (again a private school) that would love to get ahold of 700 iPads (it’s an all boys school). The problem they have is that there is no remote monitoring of the iPad like there is for laptops so teachers wouldn’t be able to insure students are looking at what they want them to be looking at.

Here’s the dilemma this school faces. They want a device that can be used to run a whole lot of different applications and has good battery life – and they want to connect these devices to the teachers computer so they can be monitored. Laptops and netbooks fulfill the first criteria but not the second.

Here’s the situation in the words of the school:

The big idea is to have students conduct browser-based research, participate in discussions, take virtual field trips at institutions around the world, use app tools for math and science, write essays, take notes, and read e-books and PDF handouts.

and later,

“So far, we haven’t found the right solution,” Lawson says. “We flirted with netbooks, and at the time netbook batteries just weren’t there with a two or three hour battery life. When you have 700 boys going all day, you’ve got to have a 10-hour battery life. I don’t have 30 [power outlets] per classroom, and even if I did I’d probably blow fuses.”

Without the remote monitoring the school says,

For now, an iPad without this enterprise feature is a deal breaker. “We can’t put in something if we can’t do any monitoring,”

This whole topic builds upon the one we started yesterday – but it drives directly to the point I was attempting to make about methodology. Just giving young people a piece of technology or a device will do nothing more than distract them for some period of time unless it is tied in with something that is interesting and relevant to their lives.

The method of teaching and learning will have to be re-designed if we are really going to take advantage of the potential represented by a new technology like a computer – or like an iPad.

If the fundamental operating principle of schools continue to be control and compliance then the kind of tool like the iPad will not surely fail. If the fundamental operating principle of schools can change to be one focused on learning – real learning, not memorization and regurgitation – then there is a possibility that something like the iPad can do really well.

Here is the link directly to the article.


6 thoughts on “Will the iPad Fail in Schools?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Will the iPad Fail in Schools? | iPad in Schools -- Topsy.com

  2. So one school can’t use an iPad. Was an iPad ever intended for schools? It is a great big iTouch, yet nobody is complaining that it does not have enterprise features.
    If the redeeming quality is batter life, then that is a very narrow criteria among laptop sized devices. Their are a lot of machines that are now coming out with extended battery life, but in doing so they give up power, functionality, flexibility and features.
    The iPad is an entertainment device, with the potential for many tasks, but as a do it all educational tool … not quite yet.

    • Thanks Greg. I think you are right on a number of counts. The iPad is an entertainment device in general (I call it a consumption device versus a production device). In another blog post on my other blog about schooling I argue that the iPad creates an interesting dilemma for schools. In the traditional model of schooling students are pretty passive and ‘consumers’ of ‘information.’ For the schools that continue to have this kind of model the iPad solves a whole bunch of problems – while creating some new ones. For schools that have realized that young people need to be producers of information (and knowledge) the iPad again has some really interesting elements (form factor, interface, screen quality) but probably falls way short in being the kind of production device really needed. Also, if it wasn’t totally clear in the post above, I think the idea of needing to monitor what students are doing at all times is not the right kind of model for learning in this decade/century.

  3. I think this could change how students use or carry their TEXT books or class math book from school to home. Instead of carrying 3 to 5 heavy books, the data could be stored on their iPad, Netbook, or even in a PDF format.

    Now, there is tons of Education APP on the Ipad that could be more advanced and updated for the college student or high school student. This will keep the kids engaged and making learning a bit interesting!!

  4. The argument is flawed from the outset. What do they really want to monitor? Do they really want to see what is going on on the students’ screens that badly? If that’s a deal breaker, it sounds like they’d benefit more from some classroom management workshops than from introducing new technologies. The apps on an iPad are ‘clean’. Apple’s tight reign on the app store ensures that. The only real variable is what they do on the internet, and any decent filtering system will do a more than adequate job of monitoring that. So if a student is playing a game instead of working, that’s no different than you’d have in any other situation. They can just as easily goof off with pencil and paper. There’s no substitution for just walking around the classroom. When I was a tech director, I had the ability to see what was on every students’ computer screen through monitoring software. The reality is, I didn’t do it. I can count on one hand the number of times I used that during a 3 year period. And if I didn’t have the ability, I would have gotten by just fine. There may be other arguments for why the iPad is or isn’t good for education, but that reasoning just seems like poor classroom management to me.

    • Thanks Steve! Very well said. I would love to see a completely different paradigm evolving around giving young people more responsibility and accountability in the hope of instilling real skills that will be needed for the rest of their lives.

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