My two sons have it so easy. Not only do they get chauffeured to school in air-conditioned comfort (no school buses in my part of California - THANKS bankrupt state government!) but, if trends continue, they're probably going to get to ditch old, heavy textbooks for educational apps on their school-issued iPads.
("Back in my day, we had to lug half-a-dozen 400-page broken-spined textbooks with pictures of kids in outdated haircuts using only ONE strap of our Jansport backpacks while trudging 3 miles back and forth in the snow! And we, um, liked it!" Ok, geezer rant done - returning to our regularly-scheduled program.)
In the past week, I've uncovered a plethora of news about schools and universities starting to trial or deploy iPads. Check out my list of large-scale iPad deployments on Google Docs. Here are the most significant, in descending order:
1) Florida State College at Jacksonville has deployed 350 iPads to executives, administrators, faculty, IT staff and students. "It's the first phase of a project calling for a thousand iPads to be delivered throughout the college by the end of the year, including at libraries and labs where students can 'check' them out," wrote Tom Kaneshige in CIO magazine.
2) As many as 736 students in the Chicago Public Schools will test iPads this year in 23 schools. One school, Burley Elementary, will use them to provide individual instruction and encourage critical thinking through multimedia apps and collaborative tools.
3) The California Department of Education, in conjunction with textbook vendor Houghton-Mifflin, are testing iPads with 400 eight-graders in four school districts (San Francisco, Long Beach, Riverside and Fresno).
4) Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop High School is investing $267,748 for 320 of the 16 GB Wi-Fi iPads with extended two-year warranties plus wireless infrastructure for the public high school near Mankato, Minnesota.
5) The University of Adelaide in Australia plans, starting next year, to give free iPads to "hundreds" of first-year science students. Lecture notes, audio, background docs and textbooks will be delivered through "tailored web-based apps" for iPads as well as regular notebook PCs.
6) In rural northern California, Avery Middle School is using 170 iPads with 6th-8th graders to help "displace expensive textbooks, promote active engaging and learning...and greater flexibility in accessing course materials, even in rural areas," according to a news release.
7) Marymount School has given 150 iPads to its students and teachers. The private all-girls school in Manhattan hopes to have enough for all 550 students by early next year.
9) Stanford University is trialing iPads with 91 first-year medical school students.
10) Alexander Dawson School, a private K-12 school near Boulder, Colorado, is leasing-to-own 90 iPads for 3 years for $36,000 total (normal retail price: about $45,000). The iPads are preloaded with about 30 textbooks for the 5th and 6th grade students using them.
11) Morristown-Beard, a private middle and high school in New Jersey, has issued iPads to 60 students. If the trial is successful in encouraging teacher-student interaction (compared to the laptops used today), it will give iPads to all 500+ students next year.
12) Pikes Peak Prep in Colorado Springs, Colorado has bought 50 iPads for students to use in math, science, language arts and social studies. Students will send screen shots of work rather than turn in papers and also perform virtual frog dissections using the iPads, according to the principal.
13) Notre Dame University is testing iPads with 40 business students, according to a Forbes magazine article by Elizabeth Woyke.
According to the reports, iPads make sense for schools and universities for a whole host of reasons:
- Provide instant, personalized access to information. In California, students with iPads will have access to more than 400 videos from teaching experts walking them through concepts and assignments. There will also be a homework coach and animated instructions on how to complete assignments. A Houghton spokesperson told The Hill newspaper that "the videos allow teachers to focus on individual instruction rather than walking the entire class through the same examples again and again. The iPad also allows students to take audio or text notes and do assignments right on the device itself, giving the teacher the ability to track their progress in real time."
- Make users more interested - and productive. At Cedars School, students "are spending more time on task and parents are reporting engagement with homework like never before," wrote Speirs. "Anyone who has taught from the front of a computing lab knows the feeling of teaching at a 'wall 'o screens'. With the iPad, I'm finally teaching to children's faces again."
At Florida State College, executives never used laptops in the conference room because, according to CIO magazine, it "made the executive look disengaged. When a topic came up that required facts to make a decision, such as the difference in cost for an allocated requisition and an unallocated one, the vice president of HR would have to research it later...With the iPad, it's a very different conversation because everyone is armed with the facts at their fingertips."
- Unwire their users. Henry Lowe, senior associate dean for information resources and technology at Stanford and a physician using an iPad himself, says the iPad is extremely helpful and believes it is growing in popularity among doctors. “Physicians are a mobile group,” Lowe said. “They’re moving around from clinic to clinic, from patient to patient. … I’ve seen a variety of reports from across the country saying that physicians have seized on the iPad as a helpful device.”
- Save money. The University of Adelaide hopes shifting to iPads will help it "phase out requirements for printed textbooks and to become completely open-source, meaning students will eventually not need to pay for textbooks - either hard copy or electronic."
- Keep users up-to-date on cutting-edge technology. At Burley Elementary school in Chicago, first and second graders are taking audio notes on class lessons, conducting interviews and producing their own multimedia projects.
These reasons sound strikingly similar to the ones cited for deploying iPads in enterprises.
Of course, not everyone is a fan. CIO's Kaneshige, in another article, interviews a school administrator who says the dearth of electronic textbooks and remote monitoring tools for the iPad has made him hold off.
What do you think? Do iPads and other tablets make sense as an instructional tool? Or are they a fad?