Education and Shiny New Technology

Apple's iPad has been beaten to death (figuratively), analyzed, and picked apart by numerous people, bloggers, commentators, know-it-alls, fanboys, and haters. I'm sure I fit in there somewhere, probably somewhere between fanboy and know-it-all.

In case you have been living under a rock for the past couple of days, Apple is releasing the iPad 2 on March 11. It's faster, better, lighter, and so on and so forth, much what you'd expect from Apple's improvements on its own product.

Now, how this relates to education: the iPad is an awesome device and does what it does very, very well. As Apple tends to do, the iPad has defined a whole market and set the bar very, very high. But, despite it's awesomeness, it has been both embraced and despised by those in education. Our Technology Department has leaned toward the 'despising iPad' side of the spectrum. I personally love the idea, and can see many places it would work in the classroom; however, the biggest hurdle is price, in addition to challenges in managing multiple devices. There is no way our district can afford $500+ devices, especially when refurbished netbooks are so cheap.

Lest this post become a long-winded review of an iPad by someone who does not have one nor has it seen working in a classroom yet, let me get to the point of this post. Just today, my favorite blog Lifehacker posted a story about how tablets can actually be great productivity tools. I hate getting stuck in a rut in my thinking, and I believe I was there concerning iPads and other shiny new tech in schools. The article by Lifehacker, however, helped open up my mind to some degree to think of the benefits, simply in tech terms despite the price--two of which the iPad has are instant on, and insanely long battery life. These are two major considerations in a classroom, where the teacher does not have a lot of time to spend waiting for everyone to have their device get to a useable state, nor do they want to be tripping over power cords while students fight for the nearest available outlet. In addition, one of the bigger strengths it has is the physical collaboration ability, something I have been thinking a lot about since the IT Lone Ranger Camp I attended several weeks ago. We've got great tools and the ability to collaborate via the Internet, but being able to move around the classroom and interact physically is huge in the learning process--desktop computers inhibit this, and netbooks can but are a little more awkward....where iPads fit the bill perfectly.

I don't mean for this to be a review of the iPad by any means, but perhaps more of a challenge to those who have their minds set one way or the other toward the iPad to reconsider the benefits and challenges--not necessarily to run out and purchase a bunch, but just to keep your mind open. Our district is definitely not going to buy iPads anytime soon, but if the price of it (or its competition) is right, you can bet I'll be there very seriously considering the technology.


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