iPads Replacing Notebook Computers (not exactly a news flash)

Ben Brooks linked to this article by Shawn Blanc, stating how he has replaced a MacBook with an iPad.

Ben later linked to a (contrasting) response to this article by a blogger named Isaiah.

As you can guess, I fall into the Ben Brooks and Shawn Blanc side of the issue (along with other bloggers like Harry McCracken).

In his summary of Isaiah’s post, Ben outlines the three uses that MOST people have for their computers:

  1. Check email.
  2. Check Facebook.
  3. Get photos off of another device.
This is perhaps a little over-simplified…something would need to be said about surfing the web, Netflix, and checking the weather.  But in general, most computer users are generally consumers, not creators.  Considering that the iPad was originally supposed to be a consuming device more than a creation device…it would make sense that it resonates with consumers.
But in another sense, we’re finding that the iPad is limited only by the apps that run on the device.  The iPad can do much more than we thought it would do in April 2010.  Even Apple has been surprised by the flexibility of the device.
This is part of the reason why I’m such a fan of the iPad in education.  Currently, computers at schools are used for three purposes:
  1. Research
  2. Writing Papers or Making Presentations
  3. Wasting Time/Playing Games/Facebook/e-mail
Granted, specific teachers do more with computers, depending on the subject area (e.g. Biomedical and Engineering courses like PLTW and Business courses).  There’s also the rare use when computers are used for state or other testing (e.g. MCAs).  But 95% of the time, students use school computers for papers and presentations.  So although you’ll always need specialized labs for specialized fields (just like the business world), the mass majority of students would be well-served for “basic” school computing needs with an iPad.
Then, once the iPads are in student hands, it will be amazing to see what they do with them.  Teachers will find new apps (some of them free) to enhance learning.  Textbooks will be replaced with digital textbooks.  Students will be able to find new ways to take notes and collaborate with each other, taking online courses or “flipped” courses.  Ultimately, the iPad has the potential to lead to a revolution in teaching and learning–whereas our current “model” of computers in schools only leads to continued current practice.
And don’t forget…most schools have a student to computer ratio of 4:1 in a building, and they likely don’t have any access to a computer in most of their classes (they may stop at a public lab, like a media center, during the day to check Facebook or e-mail).  How many of you, as readers, fail to have access to a computer throughout your entire day?  Or only 1 out of 4 workers had access to a computer at a single time?  When is the last time you were told to bring paper, pens, and pencils–and in fact–even had technology banned completely from your workplace  (I saw a teacher’s rules on a whiteboard last week that said, “All technology is banned in this classroom”)?  My guess is that you would quit if you worked in that environment.  And we expect students to go to school in that environment?  Just because most of us went to school in a non-technology environment (granted, the technology wasn’t there for most of us) doesn’t mean that our kids should be expected to follow in our footsteps, too.  Otherwise, they would be walking to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, too (We could save a lot of money on transportation if we encouraged this…hmmm…).
Yes, you still have to figure out how to pay for these initiatives, and I do feel it is a little unfair to the taxpayer without children (or with grown children) to pay for the added personal-use technology of students.  But this is a situation where state or local governments could step up and find low interest lending situations for students and their families so that they could own and purchase a device (without a long-term burden on the taxpayer, and perhaps with collected interest that would even lessen the burden on the taxpayer) for their children in place of much of the money that is already spent on school supplies each year (over $100 in many cases).  But that is my opinion and I know there are districts finding the money to go 1-to-1 through other initiatives.

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