Price not too high for iPad pedagogy

A school down the road from my old house has created a national debate over the use of iPads in the classroom.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

A school down the road from my old house has created a national debate over the use of iPads in the classroom.

Orewa College wants to make it compulsory for its students to use a "one-to-one computer device" such as a laptop, tablet or notebook, and has expressed a preference for iPads.

Since these cost upwards of NZ$799, there has been an almighty row over the cost, even though Orewa is a most pleasant and prosperous seaside suburb of Auckland, where virtually all parents should be able to find the money, especially since the college has given them months of warning and, thus, months to save up.

The arguments over money entirely miss the purpose of having such devices in class — that is, of giving the kids a better and more relevant education.

At first, I had some misgivings over iPads as opposed to a traditional laptop. I doubted that iPads would be robust enough for schoolbags; I wondered whether there would be sufficient software packages available; and if we are preparing kids for work, well, the workplace is still a world of PCs and laptops. And it is still mainly a Microsoft world. It seems to be mostly graphic designers who are the main Mac users.

However, supporters say that iPads have their uses: they're light, quick to start up, have a long battery life, have few moving parts to break and (I like this one) are impossible to hide behind!

Already, iPads are being used in American and Australian classrooms, and advice is available for those wanting to take this route.

There remains much debate about their use, but supporters say that iPads could re-invent the textbook — and could cost less than buying physical books.

Furthermore, since kids are already using smartphones, classrooms are ready for them. More tablet devices are becoming available, and there is the software to make them competitive.

It certainly looks as though the case for iPads is now clear, despite my initial concerns.

I wish Orewa College well in convincing parents who seem more concerned about their back pockets than the education of their children. However, in some cases, parents might be genuinely struggling, in which case schools will have to find a way to help, by staging fundraising events and getting good rental or leasing deals from vendors. Government and charities could also help.

As they say, where there's a will, there's a way.

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