Tablet PCs: Educators Evaluate Learning Benefits of iPad
With the release of Apple’s iPad 2, educators are still determining best practices for the classroom
By Ian Quillen, via Education Week – Digital Directions
The Virginia Department of Education is phasing in the second wave of a pilot program that uses Apple’s iPad tablet pcs as the centerpiece of a social studies curriculum that blends online and face-to-face learning.
The Chicago school system is expanding a pilot program that last fall awarded a classroom set of 32 of the tablet pcs to 23 schools in the 409,000-student district.
And Irving, Texas, school officials are exploring weaving the iPad or another tablet pcs into their district’s 1-to-1 high school computing program.
Every day seems to offer another story about a district or school that’s buying iPads—a development that astonishes some ed-tech experts since the device is less than 15 months old, and K-12 educators are traditionally slow adopters of new technology. And they’ve adopted it for classroom use despite the fact that Apple is still revising its product, with the second version of perhaps several issued in March, while many other manufacturers had only released their tablet competitors at the beginning of this year. Further, Apple products are not compatible with Adobe Flash Player.
Excluding the fad factor, experts say there are legitimate reasons for educational interest. With a battery life of eight to 10 hours and a weight of just over a pound, the iPad offers more portability and less startup time during the full school day than laptops or netbooks, while its screen size facilitates more flexibility using the Web and easier input than smartphones.
The iPad “beat every specification schools thought was important,” Thomas Greaves, the chairman of the Greaves Group, an education consulting firm based in Encinitas, Calif., says of the device, which now retails for about $400 in its first version—similar to the cost of a netbook.
But such rapid adoption of a device with such a short history means that figuring out the best educational use can involve a lot of trial and error. That reality has some educators wondering whether the investment is wise.
“I sometimes question if everything has really been thought through,” says Rob Residori, a literacy and technology coordinator with Chicago’s Striving Readers project. Three of the schools participating in that soon to be defunded federal reading program obtained one of the city’s 23 classroom iPad grants last fall, with several more winning money to use this spring, Residori says.
“Is this the best use of our funds, or is it simply a tool to engage and motivate our students?” he asks. “Of course, technology has that capability, but is that always the best angle?”
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