Embracing Technology: Are iPads the Future of Learning?

There has already been considerable debate over the value of embracing emerging technology in education, particularly the use of iPads in schools, but is this debate simply over method or is there something more drastic taking place?

If the use of iPads can significantly improve the engagement of students, and increase their ability to explore subjects and develop in their learning, then are we doing them a disservice by being slow on the uptake?

Is the iPad a frivolous toy that would be misused and a drain on limited school budgets, or is it a bridge between the classroom and the world? One school in Northern Ireland has began a brave move to put an iPad into the hands of every student, is this the start of something…

Wallace High

The Wallace High School is a co-educational voluntary grammar school situated in a pleasant residential area of Lisburn, Northern Ireland. What’s interesting is that they’ve just embarked on a mission to get iPads into the hands of students on a 1-1 basis.

An iPad in the classroom.

An iPad in the classroom.

An intriguing section of the press release (of sorts) highlights how the school has only just begun to realise that most of their initiatives regarding technology were about putting up barriers and protecting students, rather than embracing the vital role that technology can play in education and the development of students.

When we thought about it as a school it seemed that we were putting up barriers rather than
supporting the use of technology.

This realisation has enabled the school to see the value in bringing in technology in education, and the way in which a clear purpose and drive could significantly improve the prospects of the students. This is a great quote which exemplifies the kind of acceptance that could have a significant effect on education across the board;

It became evident that the use of a single device, used by teachers, understood by parents
and students would allow all learners to make progress supported by portable, digital
technology. Sharing resources, interacting, the creation of a seamless transition between the
school day and work at home suddenly seemed possible.

An iPad being used to put together a science project.

An iPad being used to put together a science project.

A student taking a picture for their science project.

A student taking a picture for their science project.

In an ideal world the introduction of iPads in education could facilitate amazing opportunities for learning, but there are pitfalls.

Obstacles

There are, without a doubt, several obstacles and issues that prevent most schools from seeing iPads as a valid educational purchase. One of the key issues is regarding cost.

Cost

School budgets can vary wildly depending on the status of the school, a private educational establishment will often have significantly more space in the budget for technology than a state-run school. Some of the most vehement arguments against the introduction of iPads surround the very issue of cost, an especially poignant one in a period of economic hardship.

Despite the views to the contrary, I actually believe that the cost of introducing iPads (when done properly) could come into line with most school technology budgets. With the iPad being priced in the same area as a relatively cheap laptop (something schools I know are overrun with), whose to say that these couldn’t gradually be phased out in favour of a significantly more portable and engaging alternative.

Lifespan

Another argument against the introduction of iPads is that they would age badly, with new models and software quickly superceding the old. I would argue that the lifespan of an iPad is at least equivalent to that of a lower end laptop. So long as software updates are carefully considered there’s no reason an iPad should experience a significant slowing in performance – a virtue owed to the simplicity of the operating system.

Misuse

This is hardly an easy point to discuss in a paragraph, but it seems to me that misuse is something that you’ll always have to contend with when talking about technology and students. I’m pretty sure I used to mess about with the abacus in primary school, that doesn’t mean that we should hold back on embracing new technology.

Thoughts?

I’d actually love to hear your thoughts on this subject! It’s not something I have had first hand experience of, not being a teacher myself, and I’d be fascinated to hear from those in the education system on the matter. Do you think schools should be embracing emerging technology such as the iPad?

What are the most compelling arguments against the use of iPads in schools? Please leave any thoughts in the comments.