With the recent arrival of October, it has now been a month since many school districts across the country – and across the world – started using the iPad in classrooms. Although the iPad 1 hit stores well before the 2010-2011 school year, the technology was evidently too new to gain favor among administrators. But the success over the past year of the iPad 1, and the launch of the iPad 2 this spring, caused a number of schools to announce iPad programs before the school year began.
Reviews thus far have been mostly positive. Teachers, students, and administrators report that the iPad functions as advertised. It really does allow the class to interact on one project, problem, or idea at once. Teachers can underline text while the students read along, lessons and assignments can be easily uploaded for someone who misses school, and everyone agrees that the product has promoted organization. Most importantly, especially for older students, the iPod has eliminated weighty textbooks. Backpacks are lighter and paper is saved as a result. Some students report that they walk the hallways carrying only an iPad.
Critics have charged, however, that the iPad changes education for the worse – or, conversely, that it doesn’t change it enough. Those arguing the former say that teachers tailor lessons to the iPad, choosing to teach something that can interactively be displayed on a screen before something that is essential for the students to learn. Those arguing the latter point to all the potential uses of the iPad – such as its ability to potentially connect students on opposite side of the world – and question why the product is being used for applications as basic as highlighting a paragraph of text. We can expect that the debate over the iPad’s impact will only continue.
Most districts don’t have the money to hand out something like the iPad, but this technology is likely to gradually become cheaper and, consequently, more widespread in the future – in homes as well as in schools. At the same time, similar developments in other technologies will allow education to become even more virtual. Learning management systems, for example, are cheaper and easier to implement than in the past, in part due to the availability of open source LMS. How this will all impact the next generation of schoolchildren, well, that remains to be seen.