An example of iPad use (or non-use) in school.
My daughter attends a high school where each student gets an iPad, and after a year of usage, I have some thoughts.
Where an iPad is very useful:
- As a substitute for text books and books. It is lighter, easier to carry, and harder to leave behind. In most cases the student has access to extra features, and, in particular, can add her own notes.
- For searching and viewing web content. Duh!
Where an iPad is maybe useful:
- Taking notes: You can draw or type or use an external keyboard, but it doesn’t seem that easy to take relevant notes. Probably the most useful app was one that could record what the teacher was saying, while the student drew pictures or wrote notes.
- For sharing some things. Teachers can post documents and know all the students have access. Students can use Dropbox or another sharing app to share class notes, group work, etc. But, not everything is easy to work with this way. For example, one teacher wanted the students to submit their homework electronically, and the best solution was for the students to write it out by hand, take a picture, and then send the picture to the teacher. Also some types of files seem to be difficult to share.
- Face Time for group work: It’s a fine idea that students working together on a project or in studying could collaborate from home. I’m not so sure it works that well in practice over email or texting. It seems okay for ‘study buddies’, but that’s about it.
Where an iPad is not useful and is approaching harmful:
- Constant email, chat, etc: This applies to having any sort of smart-device, but having constant contact with people in and out of school seems to be much more of a distraction than any positive contribution to learning. Yes, it is nice to get important messages from the administration, but it is not so nice to always be hearing about all the drama going on. I suspect that if anything happens at school, everyone knows about it within 10 minutes or less.
- Everyone has a camera, all the time: I haven’t seen evidence of problems, but I’ve heard of inappropriate photos being taken and distributed.
My main conclusion is that I haven’t see any really interesting or distinctive use of iPads, and feel that they are often more of a distraction than an aid to learning.