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IPads in the Classroom

  1. Apr 30, 2014 #1
    What do you think about kids getting iPads in the classroom?

    I think it's a fine idea if the money is there. However there is a school in my city which was just called out on because to be able to afford to give each student an Ipad they canceled all tutoring in the school. That is straight wrong.

    Pros and Cons of iPads in the Classroom
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2014 #2


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    iPad is a tool, just like any other tools we use for education. It can be good, and it can also go seriously wrong.

    There are many universities that include giving new, incoming freshman iPads as part of their registration. This is similar to universities that used to give laptops to incoming freshman a few years ago. However, what the students use the iPads for, and how useful it is in their education, aren't quite clear.

    I've done a quick study to ask students in intro physics labs to no longer use papers in writing down their lab notes, and instead, to only use their iPads. There were several technical/logistic issues that had to be worked out because of a few requirements:

    1. they will need an app that allows them to write free hand. So something such as Notability or Penultimate will work. I think this is quicker and easier for students to sketch something, to draw up tables quickly to take down data, and to make quick notes.

    2. because of our safeguards against dishonesty and to make sure there is a "time stamp" on when and what the students did during lab, the app must have the capability to convert the students' lab notes into pdf format. Subsequently, the student must be able to e-mail that pdf document to the lab TA before he/she leaves the lab.

    While it hasn't been instituted widely yet, the testing that I did went well. Students were very open to going "paperless" in the lab, and others also went a step further by submitting only electronic version of their lab report, thus going completely paperless for the entire experiment. They didn't encounter any difficulties, and didn't find using a tablet difficult at all in taking lab notes. I was surprised that even those using the smaller-sized tablets, such as the iPad mini, didn't find the smaller screen size a hindrance at all.

    Now, whether they had started to use the iPad in lectures, etc... that I don't have a good idea on.

  4. Apr 30, 2014 #3
    I don't really think tablets are the best solution for every student in every situation. I've tried tablets, but I still prefer a combination of pen/paper, textbooks, and laptop. The tablet can do almost everything that those three things can do in a much more portable package, which is nice, but I find that it doesn't do any those things particularly well (except maybe pen/paper replacement), which is frustrating.

    In particular, tablets don't really work as a laptop replacement. I find that typical tasks of an engineering/science student are just not quite as good on a tablet: typing long Latex/Word documents, using spreadsheets, creating presentations, programming, or using math tools like Matlab/Mathematica. Even though I have a nice tablet with a physical keyboard which can technically do almost everything I need it to, I still find myself lugging around my heavy laptop because it's just so much better at doing what I need it to. There are a lot of situations in which I would recommend a tablet over a laptop: for example, "casual" users who mostly read emails, check Facebook, and play Angry Birds. But for "heavy" users like engineering/science students, a laptop might be a better fit.

    The article you linked to is interesting, but I take exception to two of the claimed advantages.

    "Eliminates the need for textbooks"
    Digital textbooks do have some strong advantages: they're so much more portable and they're usually cheaper. Unfortunately, I just don't think the technology is there yet.

    With textbooks, there often isn't even an electronic version available. Sometimes, an electronic version is only available through one website and you're forced to use that website's poorly-designed eReader software. Amazon Kindle is pretty good, but it does an unacceptably bad job of handling mathematical expressions. If you want to buy the Kindle version of a math/physics/engineering book, expect to have a really tough time reading any of the math.

    At this point, the number of advanced engineering/science/math textbooks that have an electronic version in an easy-to-read format is just too few for me to cry "eliminates the need for textbooks." Hopefully, this will get fixed in the near future as the technology matures.

    Keeping a huge library of files organized is almost as much work as keeping papers organized. Have you ever spent five or ten minutes waiting while someone hunts through their folders and files to find what they need? I have, on numerous occasion. People who can't keep papers organized probably won't keep files organized.

    Also in this section, the article says that tablets eliminate the "dog ate my homework" excuse. True enough, but "dog ate my homework" just gets replaced by "file got corrupted" or "forgot to press save."

    I'm all for pushing technology in schools, but I don't think giving everyone an iPad is the right way to go. That seems to assume that an iPad is going to be the best solution for every student when that might be far from the truth. Get students to use technology, but leave them some flexibility to decide when using technology is appropriate, and to decide which particular device is best-suited to their needs.
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