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The iPad in education: a game changer, or all hype?


Thanks to Tzvi Pittinsky for (as usual!) bringing a great EdTech article to my attention.

The NY Times piece, entitled "Math That Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad," focuses on a variety of schools and districtsthat have made substantial financial investments to outfit classes, faculty, even entire schools with iPads, in the hopes that it represents, as one principal quoted in the article put it, "the biggest thing to hit schooltechnology since the overhead projector."

But others question whether education professionals are just the latest group to fall under the magic of Apple's marketing spell.  Some criticisms cited include the fact that there is no evidence that indicates students learn better while using the iPad.Others say that "school officials have become so enamored with iPads that they have overlooked less costly options, like smartphones that offer similarbenefits at a fraction of the iPad’s base cost of about $500," or "existing off-the-shelf technology and hardware for probably $300 to $400 less per device."

I couldn't possibly tell you definitively whether the iPad hasalready started a revolution in education. However, I do think that a large part of the attraction of this Apple device, as opposed to other cheaper solutions, lies in an area that Apple has leveraged for years: the tight integration between the hardware, the OS, and the apps that run on it. The iPad just works. Downloading apps is quick and seamless. I think, more than the 'cool factor,' this is the reason why schools are moving specifically to the iPad.

So what do you think? Is it all hype? Is it a game changer? Should more emphasis be placed on alternative, cheaper solutions that claim to do the same tasks?


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Comment by Josh Allen on January 6, 2011 at 4:00pm
I think you are right on about why the iPad is so popular. There was an article that came through Twitter yesterday by Ewan McIntosh that w.... I think Ewan brings up great points about any kind of technology - it's only good if it improves what you are doing in the classroom. If it's in the hands of kids, and they are using it to learn, explore, and share, then yes, I think it will be a game changer. But like Ewan says, if it's only used to download free apps, then what's the point? We are starting to use these with our SPED folks, who obtained some iPads and iPod Touches through a grant (see here and here). It's been a great "guinea pig" group as we look at replacing some (not all) elementary student computers with iPads next fall. I think it will be game changer. Maybe other units will catch up, but, right now, we don't know enough about Droid, etc., to say they'll effectively make their way into education.

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