iPad in Education…iFad?

Disclaimer: The writer is venting in this blog entry. The writer is embroiled in a battle to institute a 1-1 iPad program deployed last week without the experience of a pilot program. The writer is hateful toward iPads at the moment.

Today is the first day I’ve thought about this blog in months. The busy summer in my new house was a factor but also it was a preoccupation with learning my way around the iPad and iPad apps in anticipation of the institution of a 1-1 iPad program for all incoming freshmen.

Deploying new technology in an organization can be compared to completing a home improvement project at home. Last February, my husband and I decided to put in new bathroom floor tiles and a new toilet in the house we’d just bought. We spent hours measuring, researching and gathering what we thought were just the right materials and tools in just the right quantities, to finish the job. Almost immediately after beginning the project, we found ourselves dealing with the delightful surprise of a significantly rotted floor around the toilet. Lo and behold, we discovered that not only were we beautifying the home, but saving ourselves from plunging into the basement while indisposed! Fifty trips to Home Depot and Lowes later, we had a safe throne and a beautiful tiled bathroom floor. Oh yes the bathroom looked great, but we were traumatized. We both believe we should stick to only painting from now on and leave the rest to professionals.

The above story illustrates the fact that “poop happens” when building and fixing things and it reflects the nature of technology initiatives, which are essentially construction projects. Only unlike construction projects, successful deployment of new technology in any organization involves the addition of the ultimate wild card; people.

So this leads me to the iPad and why I think it might be the latest educational fad. It’s cool, it’s sleek and it’s a joy to use. Kids love it. It is the ultimate in interactive devices at the moment. Textbooks designed for it are beyond awesome. Here’s the “but”; it’s not made for deployment in educational institutions. It also appears that Apple couldn’t care less about the educational market for iPads. The support from Apple for mass iPad use in education is lukewarm at best. They don’t support group licensing scenarios. Therefore, setting up the mass downloading of textbooks and apps is a nightmare. At this point, students are filing into our offices one by one to get their apps and a bio textbook key because Mobile Iron is not working the way it was supposed to.

iPads don’t have a file system so when students create documents; it is difficult for them to upload them into learning management systems for their teachers to grade. Not only that, but producing documents and materials on an iPad less than ideal. I could go on and on. Add these sorts of problems to the fact that most of the students and teachers are struggling to learn way too many new apps, ideally to be used in a totally new way of teaching, and you have a cauldron of confused and very unhappy people.

I’m sure we will eventually surmount these difficulties. I’m just not so sure the payoff of using this device as the primary workhorse for students and teachers is worth it. At this time, I will reserve judgment about whether the iPad is the latest short lived educational fad. However, I can say confidently to any schools considering a 1-1 iPad program: Use a pilot program first! Stay tuned to this blog for an end of the school year recap and assessment of iPads in education.

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About cclowes

I have a Bachelor's in Education and a Master's in Library and Information Science from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. I spent two years as a librarian at Weber High School in Chicago and 12 years as a media specialist in Woodstock, IL. Presently I work in Pottstown, PA as an Technology Integration Specialist for a private high school.
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