Thursday, June 24, 2010

iPad in Education

I had a reasonably extended play with the iPad and I am very impressed. I think it has real potential as an educational tool.

Originally uploaded by JaredEarle
It's worth getting a few of my niggles out of the way first before writing about my generally positive reaction to it:
  • A few of the issues I have relate to the way the iPad has to be tied to an iTunes account. I am not sure how this will work with school machines. It is possible to create an iTunes account without a credit card which may make parents/schools feel happier but I think a more comprehensive solution is required. For example, is it possible to set-up and sync a class set of iPads with a standard build of apps and data?
  • Another niggle that may be connected with Apple's insistence that pretty much everything has to go through iTunes is the way they cripple Bluetooth! I have a Bluetooth enabled printer and had hoped I'd be able to print to it directly from the iPad but apparently I can't! It seems daft to make iWorks available on the iPad but not allow printing so hopefully that will be addressed soon.
  • The decision not to include the clock and calculator applications seems odd. The stopwatch and timer functions in particular would be extremely useful in the classroom.
  • There is apparently no way to get the video signal out of the iPad in any generally useful form. (See Fraser Speirs' excellent video for an exploration of the limitations.)
  • Finally, I have a couple of difficulties with navigation in Safari. First, is it possible to choose to open a link in a new window? Secondly, can you drag and drop items in a Safari window? I worked out that you can scroll through a list in a page by using two fingers to drag the list but can't see how to drag items on a page (e.g. Photos in Flickr's organiser view).
Reading the above over, it seems to be a very long list of niggles but I don't want that to distract from my overall perception - that this is a stunningly useful bit of kit and that it has huge potential in an educational context. Some of my positive observations are:
  • The battery life is outstanding - easily lasting a whole day of fairly heavy use without needing a top up charge.
  • It is relatively light (lighter than a laptop and lighter than many textbooks that students are currently carrying around) and so easy to carry all day.
  • It is great for taking notes. There is no tactile feedback on the keyboard, so I don't think I'd like to write a dissertation on it but I took it to a couple of meetings and I was able to record extensive notes without problem. I also created a couple of blog posts without difficulty.
  • Despite my niggles over navigation in Safari, it is a fantastic device for web surfing. The screen is the right size: readable without having to enlarge and scroll, however, the smart double tap to zoom in on a section works really well if you need it. Also, there is something that feels right about pressing a link with your finger to follow a link. This is a device that can genuinely give ubiquitous access to the Internet... assuming school policies can cope with always on, unrestricted access! (And if they can't, I suspect students will just use the 3G version to bypass the school system anyway!)
  • It is a stunningly good device for reading eBooks. The screen is big enough and clear enough that I can read it without my specs! Having the dictionary available at all times so that you can check the definition of any word is brilliant! And the availability of a range of classic, out of copyright texts for free is great. Add to that the ease with which pupils/teachers can create and distribute their own eBooks and you have a stunningly useful resource. I suspect to see a cottage industry of education/revision books spring up and look forward to some innovative creations (e.g. including pictures, links, audio and video in eBooks).
  • And then there's all those Apps...
Have you tried them in a class yet? What do you think? If you haven't tried them, do you have any concerns about their use?

My first impressions are very good. My problem now is how am I going to get someone to fund me to buy a set of iPads so I can try them with a group of students?


Mr. RCollins said...

- Tap and hold on a link will give you a pop-up menu where you can open a link in a new page.

- I'd have a tough time justifying the iPad over an ipod Touch. The additional screen size just doesn't give enough advantage over the price.

jepcke said...

"Add to that the ease with which pupils/teachers can create and distribute their own eBooks and you have a stunningly useful resource."

How are these ebooks being created by students/teachers? I love the idea of students accessing that kind of content via an iPad or iPod.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts on the "how"!

John Johnston said...

Hi David,
not tried them wilt a class, but I passed one round a p6 the other day, much excitement.
i feel these could be a really good device for shared viewing in the classroom. The speed with which they get going is great.
Personally I am finding it a great RSS reader, I am keeping on top of my feeds for the first time in a while.

David said...

Hello Mr RCollins

I should have known how to do the Safari thing asit's the same as on the iPhone. Silly me!

Interestingly, it's the bigger screen that absolutely sells it for me. Activities that are doable on the iPhone (such as browsing the web and reading eBooks) become a joy to do on the iPad. For my money, the iPad screen is the perfect size for that kind of activity. It moves things from the possible to the perfect!

Hello jepcke

There are a number of utilities that allow you to create things in the ePub format. It's on my To Do list to check some out and a blog post on that topic should follow soon.

Hello John

I love it as a web browsing tool. Much easier than a laptop for sitting on a couch and browsing type activities.

Glad to hear the P6 were impressed. My S5 daughter loved it and was trying to explain to her mum why it was better than a laptop!

Chris said...

Glad you love it. I was playing with one at no. 1 son's house and was seized by desire ... and there's a birthday coming up...
Incidentally, Alan (aged 18 months) loves the iPad and uses it with enough dexterity to make "his" apps work.

David said...

Hello Chris

I am not surprised to hear Son Number 1 has an iPad... but what about Son Number 2? Has he succumbed to temptation yet?

Mari Cruz GarcĂ­a said...

Hello David,

Thanks for this review of pos and cons of the iPad in education. I have come to your blog just catching up my "end-of-the-week google alert" in learning technologies.

Unfortunatelly, the iPad has also a bitter face, as some media and human right campaigners have warmed . There was an article about that at the Guardian, I believe, and this is another excellent report from El Pais:

As educators, we should be fully aware of the digital divide and social unjustice of many technological achievements and try to work with open source or "ethically made" technology. Yes, I am an Ubuntu user.

Because, in the end, education is about giving the same opportunities to people.

Saludos desde Edimburgo!!!

Anonymous said...

Nice post. A few thoughts though.

Why should you have to create an account for anything, particularly after spending £429+ Source:
A "fairly comprehensive" solution would be to remove this requirement.

Cost is something which you failed to mention at any point. What school do you foresee giving the go ahead to order all these ipads?

I'm not that excited about the ipad. I think it is an opportunity missed if anything. Far too many shortcomings, flash for using you tube the most glaring example. I'll be interested, however, as to how the competition reacts. These slate devices have been on the horizon for a while and I think Q4 2010/ Q1 2011 will see the introduction of more cost effective windows or linux solutions which may be more viable in a classroom environment

Gordon McKinlay said...

Thanks for your post on the iPad. I bought one a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely love it. I can see lots of potential for education but if I put my pragmatic hat on then I think there are two main reasons why schools won't use it.

1. It's too expensive. At a time when local authorities are in severe financial difficulty the people who procure stuff will never countenance the expense of the iPad.

2. IT departments will hate it. It is very lockedmdown which will mean they won't be able to control it. Authentication to corporate networks looks as though it will be very difficult and you know what happens when it looks difficult!

All that said I would love to hear of folk actually being allowed to try it out in school.

David said...

Hello Anonymous

The cost is an issue but you get what you pay for. If I want ultra-portable with long battery life and outstanding ease of use, I'd go for an iPad rather than a similarly priced laptop/netbook every time.

Lack of Flash could be a problem for some educational sites but the YouTube app handles YouTube video without any problem. As for the competition, I have used other tablet devices and the iPad leaves them standing. The iPad has raised the bar significantly. As when the iPhone was launched, the competition was caught with its pants down. However, I agree, it will be interesting to see what they come up with as iPad challengers.

Hello Gordon

Daughter Number 2 told me that you and the iPad were inseparable... despite it supposedly being shared with your good lady wife!

It is expensive, as I've mentioned above. However, if you see it as replacing other expenses rather than adding to them, it may not be such a bad deal. For example, I hear that a few medical schools are using them as (among other things) textbook replacements and they are resulting in a significant saving over buying paper books. I think that's how Islay justified their one mobile computer per child scheme (see for example - the cost of the computers was offset against reduced spending on books and photocopying etc. Unfortunately, the current financial climate makes it unlikely that anyone will be willing to risk the kind of expenditure necessary to try it out properly.

The second point is harder to get around. Certainly the IT people at the university are concerned about connectivity issues. I suspect the paranoid attitudes of authority IT services will be an even bigger hurdle to clear!

RandomNoiseGenerator said...

I too am using an iPad in an education setting as well as trialling ways in which we can use them with students. you might want to check out my blog at it is work in progress but i am posting up thoughts and how to's as i get inspiration. thanks for the post.

David said...

Hello RandomNoiseGenerator

Thank you for comments and thanks for the link to your blog. First visit there and the current post is an extraordinarily helpful post on using Dropbox with WebDAV. Excellent!

RandomNoiseGenerator said...

Thank you David, glad you found it useful, much appreciated.

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