The iPad: Not the Right Product for Education

I’ve been reflecting the last couple days on Apple’s new iPad. The product that, before it’s announcement, some had claim would revolutionize education.

If it does…..it will be a shock to me.

apple-creation-0105-rm-engI have nothing against Apple (I’m typing on a MacBook that I love), I just think this piece of hardware is not what we need in education.

I had high hopes for this new piece of technology. Enough to stay up until 3am on a school night to watch the live announcement. Throughout the keynote, I was waiting to be wowed by something new, something different, something that would allow me to produce content in a new way.

But it didn’t come.

Leading up to the keynote I was watching TWIT.TV and their coverage. I don’t remember who said it, but one of the host said something to the effect of:

“It will be interesting to see what they come out with, when you start with the questions ‘How do we allow people to consumer media?'”

It’s a great question and I think the iPad nails that question on the head. If you want a new way to consume information, it’s a great piece of technology that allows you to do that.

We already have ways to consumer information in education. Consuming information has never been our issue. What we need help with is teaching students how to become producers of information and knowledge.

I wrote about this almost two years ago in a post titled “Moving from Consumers to Producers of Information” and have created a presentation that I give by the same name that has been well received.

I have no doubt that the iPad is a great consumer device, but I want my students to be able to produce videos podcasts and blog posts. I want them to be able to edit wikis with full editing features (Safari browser does not support many WYSIWYG Editors….including the one built in Moodle…an online course program used by a lot of schools). I want my students to becoming producers of knowledge not just consumers of it. We already have ways in which we consume information that work….I think…pretty well.

Apple’s own iPad website states:

The best way to experience the web, email, photos, and videos.

That might be so, but what’s the best way to create web pages, emails, photos, and videos. That’s the device I want. That’s the device I want in the hands of my students!

35 Comments

  1. I just had a meeting with our headmaster on this topic and at the moment I can think of two areas it can be used in schools. K-2 grade level as learning to Type isn’t as essential. It’d be nice to see Kid Pix for the iPad though. I do wonder would teachers be alright with a computer devise that doesn’t print?

    The 2nd area it see potential is live blogging on field trips. We’re doing live blogging now but it’s cumbersome process as it take a balance of using a cell phone, MacBook and an E-mobile egg. I suspect we could get away with only using the iPad 3G version.

    • OK….K-2 maybe but there are still concerns there…concerns that the difference between a MacBook and an iPad I think is not there yet. Not that they want us to compare this to a computer, but that’s what it means for schools. It means going with this instead of a laptop and I just don’t see that with this device. As a travel live blogging thing for field trips….sure…but that’s $499 for a portable device that basically is a larger iPhone.

  2. Agreed … I was quite disappointed with the lack of a camera particularly. Having said that, who knows what developers will come up with over the next 12 months … it may well become a wonderful platform for creating all sorts of media. A case of wait and see I think.

    Martin Jorgensen
    http://www.thedigitalnarrative.com
    @mnjorgensen

    • Agreed….I’m not holding judgement on this device in the future. Apple is to good for that…but this device, right here, right now I don’t think helps us that much. Especially if it means this instead of a laptop which is how schools will see it.

      • Jeff, I think for a lot of schools it won’t be this vs a laptop. It will be this vs nothing.

  3. It is way too easy to discount a new device without even having it in your hands.

    I for one, can’t wait to see how placing this new tablet in the hands of a child will allow them to expand their boundaries and be creative. We won’t know how this device plays out in the classroom until classrooms and students give it a try. There will be brilliant ways to use this device which most of us have not even thought of.

    Just look at the success of teachers who are using the iPod Touch device in classrooms today.

    And lets not forget that using Moodle and creating presentations and videos are not the only things that teachers and students do these days to create content. I can imagine students dictating stories into the iPad. They can watch as their words appear. The creative tablet idea that Brushes offers gives artists a new and larger canvas. And what about the whole “textbook markup” and digital texts area. High school physics students can have the text electronically, highlight and annotate and have the readings at their fingertips. Then switch to and interactive physics video. All on one device.

    I for one will be watching for the persons who find ways to use the iPad for creative endeavours. And when we find them we’ll be amazed.

    Kent Manning
    http://motivatingboywriters.ca
    @kentmanning

    • It is way too easy to discount a new device without even having it in your hands.

      Fair enough….I have not actually held the device, although I have had an iPhone for over a year.

      I for one, can’t wait to see how placing this new tablet in the hands of a child will allow them to expand their boundaries and be creative. We won’t know how this device plays out in the classroom until classrooms and students give it a try. There will be brilliant ways to use this device which most of us have not even thought of.

      Me either…I would love to be proven wrong. I would love for this device to help us in the classroom…there will be brilliant ways to use the device….I just don’t see them being the transformative types of learning and creating that I want to see from my students with or without technology.

      Just look at the success of teachers who are using the iPod Touch device in classrooms today.

      Agreed….and show me a teacher who says they’d rather have a class of iPods rather than a classroom set of laptops. The problem, I think, is that’s how schools will see it. If it’s the iPad or nothing…then yes, this device will do amazing things to enhance learning. But if it’s this device or a laptop…..I don’t think we’re there yet.

      And lets not forget that using Moodle and creating presentations and videos are not the only things that teachers and students do these days to create content. I can imagine students dictating stories into the iPad. They can watch as their words appear. The creative tablet idea that Brushes offers gives artists a new and larger canvas. And what about the whole “textbook markup” and digital texts area. High school physics students can have the text electronically, highlight and annotate and have the readings at their fingertips. Then switch to and interactive physics video. All on one device.

      Sure…..it can do all this…but so does my MacBook that I’m writing on. And I can watch that physics video, while taking notes in my textbook. Amazon just released the Kindle reader for PC computers (Gee, I wonder why).

      I’m just struggling that it doesn’t take us to the next level. I wanted them to take on Tablet computers when what they took on was ebook readers. Is it the best ebook reader out there….probably hands down, and you know Amazon is scared. But the PC Tablet makers are wiping the sweat from their brow as they know they dodged a bullet.

      I for one will be watching for the persons who find ways to use the iPad for creative endeavours. And when we find them we’ll be amazed.

      I have no doubt we will! 🙂

      • I for one think that we need to stop looking for the end all and be all technology tool, whether it comes from Apple, HP, or whomever. Let’s focus on teaching our students to use the best tool for the task that they are addressing. Let’s teach our students to create apps for the iPad that will help them and their fellow classmates produce new content, or be more effective in their learning. Let’s begin to think outside of the content, curriculum boxes that we live in and truly ask out students to use technology to create! I think the iPad, the iPod, the iPhone and many other technologies give us that ability. To open the minds of our students and take the content that they learn and apply it to the real world. How about an Apps class for kids? Let’s teach them to truly create and not just take what exist and consume it.

        • I couldn’t agree more and in the end we’ll have to have the right hardware to make this happen. If we want students to create apps for apple products we need to have macs in our schools….macs that can create not just consume information. I’m trying to change the curriculum here at our school, but the issue is we’re an IB school and the IB computer science class is about java and c++. I think it would be way more engaging for students to use those skills to create apps for the iPhone and for the Android system as well. More meaningful to the students, and learning to code is the same, the language is all that changes.

    • I want this for myself. It is at a price point that is hard to resist. I would like to have this on our Week Without walls for our students to use as both an reference tool with 3G and a blog back to the school tool. I want this in the hands of our visitors/potential parents to take a virtual tour as they sit in the office waiting for the physical tour of the school.

      Will it replace laptops? No, just as laptops have not replaced all of our desktops. They is a niche in our school environment that they will thrive in.

      My writer/daughter sent to link to me, to help me be patient between the announcement and the release before I judge: link to forums.macrumors.com
      It is a thread of the common sense that reasoned an iPod was just another mp3 player when it was announced way back in 2004.

  4. Jeff, I think I initially felt the way you do about the iPad… I was not blown away. But I keep hearing people say what Ken is saying, “wait until you get one in your hands”. I think this is very good advice. As a constructivist at heart, I hear and agree with what you are saying about consumers v. producers, but consumption of information is never going to go away in education; it’s a required element. I’m an active consumer of blogs, email, tweets, videos, articles, etc. every day (things the iPad may do very well… better than existing products, who knows). Now, we need to do a better job of having teachers and students reflect on what they are consuming and create new artifacts based in part on what they are seeing, hearing and reading. Our education system is skewed heavy on the consumer piece and we live in a time where the tools to produce are cheap, easy to use and prevalent. Maybe the iPad becomes one of these tools, maybe not…

    • I agree that this product will help us consume better, but then I’m still going to need a device to produce with…now I’m carrying around two devices? When my MacBook can do it all in one. Sure not as thin, $300 more, but I think I get $300 more than that out of it in productivity.

      And let’s face it….it’s Apple. You know by summer there will be another release…with a camera, and a couple other added features that might just be the tipping point for the device…at that point I’ll get excited. But where the device stands now…..without having touched it…..I’m just worried school leaders will see this as a money saver over the production value of a laptop. It’s not a laptop replacement device. It’s a ereader replacement device…and that it does very well! Would I support some for the library…. absolutely! Would I recommend them in classrooms as a replacement for books…..100s of books in the shelf space of 10 inches…..no brainer. But that’s it’s place..that’s the market they went after and they did it very well. I just wanted them to go after a different market.

  5. I think Kent is correct: Wait til you have it in your hands.

    That said, Steve long ago stopped trying to revolution education. There is a fabulous article from around 99 when he discusses this. he came to the conclusion that technology cannot do that.

    Oddly though, iTunes U has probably done more to revolutize learning than many people realise.

    I want to hold the ipad in my hand. I want to read a book on the ipad and see if I like it.

    I need to experience it before I can say what use it will or will not have. Getting big wonky textbooks out of overstuffed back packs is evolutionary. Content updates wireless on those same text books is evolutionary. Now if they embed a social layer ontop of that one experience it gets real interesting.

    • Agreed…and maybe it’s time to switch to a PC there Shaunigan…with Amazon just releasing a Kindle reader for the PC. Sounds like it might do everything you need. 🙂

      Hope all is well with you!

  6. I agree that it is not currently a creation device on a high enough scale to be the magic tool in the classroom. However, I do see it having an affect on education just in a different way. I think it is the beginning of the final transition to reading on a device instead of on paper.

    If newspapers and magazines truly embrace the device, it will change the way a lot of people consume information. Reading in hyperlinks, photo slide shows and embedded video will become even more ubiquitous. Once that happens, don’t we have to change the way we teach writing and communication? Doesn’t the production of video and photo manipulation become a skill set that needs to be taught?

    While it may not be the right product in education, may it not be the right product to further change education?

    • Fair enough that this device might get old media to change…..the popularity of the Kindle did start that revolution I think, and this could be the next leap. I do have issues with the Safari browser though when most video on the web is flashed based and you can’t watch flash based video on the device (as if was demonstrated during the keynote when Steve Jobs went to a website that had a flash movie on it that did not play). Will the entire web change it’s way because of this device? I don’t think so, but I do see it pushing old media one step closer to getting on board with screen reading.

      Great…..just want we need….more screen time for kids. 😉

  7. While I agree that the seemingly lack of ability to create typical content (such as documents and things of that nature) I think that even now, there are ways to get students involved in creating things that they would very much care about.

    The iPad can run just about every app the iPhone does. with that being said, what about designing (or even creating) an app in the classroom. Have students research topics, issues and other subjects that require a need being filled, and see if the students can create something to support that.

    Even just having them create the concept involves a great amount of thinking and creativity, and it doesn’t require anybody to be especially tech-savvy.

    The more we can convince our students that they don’t have to wait until college or their career to start making things that will affect the world, the better of they’ll be.

    • Totally agree! But that has nothing to do with this particular device. I’ve been wanting to do this exact activity with kids at our school, sell it for 99 cents and give the proceeds to one of the community services we support. What you’re talking about is how all these devices and the ease at which program is becoming could, if we allow it, revolutionize classes of all subjects in schools. That goes for Android and OS Chrome as well. There is a wave coming that I think this device is a part of that could lead us down this road….that excites me!

  8. Hey Jeff,

    Interesting post. I would agree, won’t revolutionize, but that’s a pretty high bar to set and then be disappointed that the product doesn’t reach it. I found Louis Gray’s post about it to be more to how I think of the iPad. link to blog.louisgray.com

    The MLB app they demonstrated is enough for me to purchase. 🙂

    Tim

    • That is a good post…and he probably says it better than I do.

      As for the MLB app…..very tempting…very!

      On that note we’re about 20 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. 🙂

  9. I too watched the presentation of the iPad. Like you I was expecting more. I think partially the reason is no product can live up to the hype that surrounded this. The other reason is, it had to be limited for the 499 price. But consider, all this technology hardware is getting faster and cheaper every year. Apple has put the SDK out on the web now. There will be thousands of apps created for this in no time. I imagine there will even be web page makers made for this.

    I look at this as Apple just invented Crayons. It’s a tool. Not to create much right now, but that will come. The product will evolve and change from here. I think it is a way to get a learning machine into the hands of kids and get them more interested in learning.

    BTW I really like your Blog!

  10. Jeff
    Everytime I hear the word revolutionize associated with education I know its (1) first and foremost about selling technology (2) it’s not about education as it relates to the vast majority (3) we will see some people selling this latest fad and getting fat on it (4) We will be moving on to the next revolutionizing technology before we know it, and certainly before any intelligent discourse is undertaken. (I’ll just copy this for the next ‘revolution’ announcement). The iPad may very well find a place after going through a couple of interations, or it may stay on the peripheral. Meanwhile I’ll be more interested in looking for discussions on real learning implications (which I why I keep an eye out here. PS: Papert said this and more when he coined the phrase ‘technocentrism’ in 1985

  11. Interesting dialogue here. Have you seen this: link to ipad4edu.com

    “A place to ask questions about using the iPad in education.

    We take a broad definition of ‘education’ to include early years, school, further/higher and adult and continuing education.”

  12. Great discussion about the topic of iPad’s being used in education. However, I disagree that the iPad is not the right product for education. My two cents on how iPad will change education can be found at link to edutechnophobia.com.

  13. I think it’s main flaw is that it is essentially an additional device, not one that takes the place of one. That limits the potential market. Students will still need something to do work that requires typing and parents (who’ll be paying it) are going to compare function and price and conclude that it’s not worth it.

    • That’s my fear as well. Schools can’t afford this and a laptop to have students create with. We’ll see what the updates are, but this device, as is, I don’t think found a place in many schools. Maybe the library to read books on and consume information, but that’s a pretty small market educationally.

  14. The iPad is not suited to production in some ways (as you pointed out) but it will be very suitable in many others. A lot of the activities you pointed out are really desktop activities and largely will remain that way. I’m not seeing this as a desktop replacement but as a device that creates new opportunities. Exciting opportunities.

    eg. as a lecturer I already have plans to use this to change what I can do dramatically. I can’t see why normal classroom teachers could not do similar.

    I am also seeing many opportunities for real-time group collaboration in interesting new formats which take advantage of how structured brainstorming works to really open up students to new perspectives and ideas. I’m developing these as addons to Moodle so even if you don’t have tablets you can still use them (but I’m designing them to suit the tablet UI).

    You need to start thinking outside the box to really see the opportunities.

    I’ll be writing more about my experiences and ideas on my blog but I haven’t got a device yet so you’ll have to wait a bit.

    • I’m excited to see how you use this with students. If it’s about students consuming information, or interacting with information on the web then I can see some uses. At the moment people are talking about what magazine companies have planned to do with the device. I love these new looks, and as a producer of content I do think we need to think about how we produce content for this device that others can consume in new and interactive ways. I still don’t see it as a way for students to create information. For that it looks like we still have to have a laptop. If a school had to make a choice….I’d still be saying a laptop would be best.

      • I’m talking about creating and manipulating directly on the device.

        The touch interface (not just on the iPad but on devices in general) provides many opportunities for letting you express yourself and explore in elegant ways.

        You’re looking at trying to produce on the device what we currently produce. The iPad is not a desktop replacement so of course it is not going to elegantly replace a desktop for all of those things. I’m exploring new areas that students will be creating in and for which the touch interface is going to create new avenues to explore.

  15. Curious to know if you’ve revisited this topic? Still have the same opinion?

    • Yes…still have the same opinion about it in it’s current state. Add a camera and I think that changes everything. That being said we’re in the process of brining the current iPad into our Kinder and 1st grade classrooms. For lower primary I think they’ll be OK…but if they had a camera…they’d be pretty awesome!

      • It’s funny, I was just thinking about that today. How significant is the camera really going to be on the iPad? And to be honest, I’m not sure about it… Video chat, sure. I get that. You aren’t going to hold it up and record something like a performance or basketball game. Sure, you can record yourself straight in, video messages or for video editing/voiceovers. But what else? QR codes? I don’t know, I’m just still on the fence as to whether a camera is that significant to something with that form factor.

        Believe me, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. But not so sure it’s a game changer either.

        • HI Steve,

          I’ll agree with you now that I’ve actually seen the device and we see where it is fitting in to most peoples daily lives I’d say the camera isn’t going to make a difference that much. I think Apple has done a really good job of making a device that is made to be a consumption device. That’s what they were aiming for and that’s what they’ve succeeded at. Sure you can produce some things on it, it’s starting to get some multitasking features, but in the end it’s niche is going to be as a consumer device. That’s where Apple I believe sees it fitting in and where they’re pushing it (aka…The Daily).

          So with all that I still don’t think it’s right for most classrooms I could see it (and we’re pushing for) iPads in the primary grades as centers. But in the high school and middle school I think it would be a great companion to a laptop but don’t think it could replace a laptop at this point.

  16. It’s been a year since most of these posts. I wonder if the original submitters sentiments have changed given the time that has passed.

  17. Not sure if the comments are still active here but it’s been a few years since the introduction of the iPad and it’s rise in k12 education can be seen. I still haven’t seen how to effectively teach students things like long division, balancing algebraic equations, drawing genes or just about anything that requires a student to move beyond multiple choice questions. Will tablets ever truly be a substitute to hand written, free response, questions? How are tablets or laptops for that matter enabling teachers to understand a students thinking process?

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