Listening to the iPads vs netbooks vs laptops on the EdTechCrew Podcast 154 has helped clarify my thoughts on this debate which have been ‘fizzling in my head’ since posting about the Think Global School. This school is an experimental concept in learning which has a global classroom and each student’s learning kit consists of an iPhone, an iPad and a Mac Book Pro. This the same set of equipment I use for my personal computing – a school supplied PC laptop operates outside this totally integrated system of the 3 Mac devices.
It’s the integration that makes the Macs learning kit so functional and it’s the factor that makes me convinced an iPad is NOT a shared device, but a single owner tool. I’ve had an iPad since May 2010 and use it for word processing, image editing, reading books, journals & individual articles, playing games etc. It doesn’t connect to a printer, nor does it have a file storage system, however, that is part of it’s simplicity. Files are saved as images, on the desktop or shared via email or various other sharing options. It’s very easy to manage, however, switching from one user to another, I believe, complicates use if it is to be utilised to its fullest potential.
This then leads to my conclusion about the iPad as a learning device for schools, particularly Years K-10. I would suggest that if students purchased iPads as personal equipment , they could be used to store textbooks etc and be used for a large range of learning tasks. The option of 3G connectivity could be a personal decision as I don’t think schools should mandate a non-3G connectivity when this device would be used as a home/school device. The cost 3G would be the responsibility of the student and the device would interact with the school network via email or browser login.
Schools could still maintain a supply of netbooks as the iPad would not be suitable for some tasks. The iPad would be in the student’s hand as a powerful tool for learning. The very nature of an iPad is it’s ability to erase that ‘visible’ technology sensation. There’s no booting up. You just open the cover and get on with it. It’s an incredibly flexible learning device for students with durability and a potentially long life that can be used with minimum impact on school IT resources.