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Many on the ISED-L list have expressed interest this week in discussing iPads vs. laptops (or TabletPC, etc.) in the context of one-to-one programs, and this was also discussed back in March.  It seems that several schools with successful one-to-one programs are contemplating a transition to iPads. Some factors that come to mind include:

  • functionality (ease of use) including instant-on, long battery, fewer moving parts, etc
  • appeal of "apps" - discrete functionality for specific learning goals
  • cost
  • form factor
  • "consumerization" of IT (users supporting their own equipment)

What else?

One of the most interesting things that I've heard about 1:1 iPad classrooms is that the device is less intimidating than laptops. Students and teachers seem very comfortable operating iPads from the get-go, as opposed to laptops or tablet PCs which seem to require a significant amount of user-management. Therefore some teachers feel the iPad technology fits much more seamlessly and less intrusively into their classrooms. This seems a significant point in this debate.

Whatever device we choose should support specific and concrete instructional goals. I want to base hardware decisions on what teachers want to have happen within their classrooms. If teachers primarily want students to be writing and researching, that helps decide what type of hardware and software we need. If teachers want students to be collaborating on google docs, creating multimedia learning artifacts, and organizing themselves electronically then it might dictate a different device. We should define the teachers' instructional goals (present and future) when deciding what types of devices to get. As teachers embrace more electronic transactions for instruction and student organization, and as the hardware and software evolves it is difficult to hit a moving target, but each step ought to be justified by instructional goals.

So what are your thoughts on iPads vs. Laptops? 

ps. Please note there is an iPad Users Group on this site here and it includes forums for app reviewswireless projection, and more

Tags: 1:1, iPad

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On March 17th on the ISED list, Renee wrote the following about iPads:

There are SO MANY advantages that we have found:

1.  Instant on (yes, I know the computers with SSD drives also have this.)

2.  Ability to instantly project wirelessly (using Apple TV.)

3.  Touch screen - for some students this has really helped them learn.

4.  The ability for younger students to use independently - we have had laptops in K-1 for the past four years, and they were never able to use the laptops on their own.  With an iPad, they can get them, get the app they are supposed to, and use the app without assistance.

5.  The apps - there are so many apps that you can use for very specific units.  Granted, there are websites for much of this, but it is so much quicker to have a Rome app on the iPad that is instantly accessible, then to have to traverse a website for many of the projects.

6.  Time saved with IT - they just work

7.  Size - it is easy for teachers to see what students are doing, it is easy for students to share with other students - it is just so much more interactive than the laptops we had in terms of collaboration

8.  All students become "technology experts."  With laptops there would be a couple of "computer experts" in the classroom.  What we found with iPads, is all the students feel so comfortable, that all the students are able to help other students.

9.  Smaller learning curve - the apps, especially with the touch screen, are just intuitive.  There is no lost class time teaching students how to use an application.  They can use apps almost instantly, so the focus is truly the curriculum.

10.  Easy to use for taking short videos and pictures.  Although there is a camera on the laptops, it is much more klunky to use it for this.

11.  Killer battery life - it really does last the full school day, even when kids used it the full day in all classes.

12. Excitement and Motivation - not only with my students but also my teachers.  Some of my more reticent teachers are doing things with the iPads they would never have done with laptops.  I actually had one teacher say:  "It is great.  Kids can search the novel for any word and it will list every place it shows up."  They figured this was an iPad thing.  They would never have attempted an electronic novel on the laptop.  It just seemed more accessible on the iPad.

Here are some links to other schools' iPad initiative documents. Please reply to this if you have more!

St. Marks School in LA presented at the NAIS 2012 annual conference. Here are some interesting points to their program (from session notes taken by Yolanda Escandon):

  • They had the children carry around plants for 2 weeks prior to getting an iPad. If the child could keep the plant in good shape, then they earned privilege of carrying the iPad. They called this using "iPlants" .
  • Tech support spent most of their time in classroom for first month.
Pros of iPad
  • Allows students to create work that demonstrates understanding across all the curriculum areas
  • Connects students to local and global communities (connection with another school overseas, kids work in teams on joint projects using Skype)
  • Kids at home sick can connect and watch class via Skype and smartboard/iPad connection :-)
  • Cloud based environment using google docs and google apps has made it easy for teachers to access kids work, review and return
  • Mentor-based program where older students work with younger on project-based (sixth and first grade, older kids selected apps for first graders to try)
  • Effective differentiation: using for fourth grade non-writers
  • Project- based learning using digital textbooks and online applications together to create a unique and ever-changing learning environment


Two excerpts from ISED-L list [CC3.0 a/s-a/ nc license] discussion on iPads vs. Laptops:

I also heard someone speak at a presentation on the iPad in which she said something seemingly simple and yet rather wonderfully profound in its implications about classroom culture and interactions among the people in the room: she said that when students were behind their laptops, it felt as though a barrier was up with the screen propped open providing a kind of wall behind which students can hide; whereas with the iPad that is simply not possible and so those barriers are taken down and the human interactions are different (and better) and the technology assumes less of an obtrusive or invasive role -- perhaps becoming more naturally integrated and not taking away from desired human interactions. I may have embellished a bit on what she said -- but that is how the idea has developed in my thinking about it.
Susan Fine

There are numerous things that the iPad does better than a laptop and at our school, a lot of them are more relevant than what a laptop can do.  The most important thing, and a personal love of mine, is that you can do them FAST.  No waiting for the darn thing to start up, open the app, connect to the server, and so on.  I can do what I want NOW.  In a setting where every minute counts, this is big.  I also had a teacher say this week again that the immediacy with which she can shift to look something up and display it in class on the iPad makes her willing to go down the path of discussion with the students in class, because she won't waste 5 minutes waiting for the system and the projector to come to life.  That's my two cents.

 Vi Richter

a bit off-topic, but I can't resist...

Hi, Demetri

I guess I find myself thinking back to the late 1980s, when the first large and small computer labs were showing up in colleges and universities with the IBM PCs.  They were primarily there for writing and revising, and extending the "compositional mindset of rethinking one's words and thoughts."  They weren't fun or pretty computers with their 12 inch green or amber screens, but they were good for words and paradign-shifting compared to Selectrics.

I've had an iPad since they first came out, and we've done projects with them at school that have been fun and exciting, but most of our users acknowledge that typing on the glass isn't a great or wonderful thing.  I've heard of some 2:1 programs with laptops and iPads for students, but that seems like a lot.  Writing is important, and to remove laptops to have iPads just seems odd to me in terms of how significant writing is handled from then on. 

I agree with most of the strengths noted above, but a lot of them are also addressed with Chromebooks and perhaps other simplified laptops in the future.  We had good discussions today about the value of client software in the MS and HS (iMovie, Garageband, Office, Keynote, and more), and its hard to say we can just take a pass given the work being done with them now. 

So, thanks for starting this discussion-- it's a good topic.

Hi Demetri,

We're moving to a full 1:1 laptop program next year (3-12 school). The Middle and Upper School are going to be BYOD, and we decided iPads would not meet the required needs for next year - variety of reasons including Flash & Java plug-ins, network folder space, limited software and hardware options, etc. 

We are providing the laptops to Lower School. Since, for next year, we are using existing devices, we can push the decision off for at least one more year. I don't think I would have recommended iPads for next year - the lack of the plug-ins being the biggest reason, and the time it would take us to develop alternative resources for them. 

It's likely that in 2013 at least one grade will get new devices. I'm going to spend some time next year evaluating whether iPads will be a good replacement at that time. This year we had one cart of iPads that was a pilot program in Upper School, but we're going to take some of them down to Lower School. We've used them for some projects this year, and they've been a big hit. The biggest upside for us has been the inclusion of the camera. It is SO easy to make multimedia projects on there. We're not taking pictures, loading them off an SD card, finding them in a specific folder, uploading them to edublogs... instead, we open an app such as Voicethread or Skitch or Educreations, click on the button, and all the pictures are there for us. And then it's so easy to upload it, or mail it out... The very simplicity of the device makes it so easy for Lower School students (and teachers!). We're going to use them next year, one per classroom, to create multimedia blogs of our classroom - an annotated slideshow of a lesson on creating circuits, a screencast of a student explaining (and demonstrating) Partial Quotient Long Division. Could we do all this on the laptops? Yes, but not as quickly or easily.

Typing is an issue - but not as much of an issue for the kids as it is for adults, I think. I've seen them type, and while they're not typing at length they do feel very comfortable on it. If we do get the iPads we might end up purchasing some keyboards as well, for longer projects.

The biggest trade-off, for me, would be losing access to the many free interactive websites out there that are unlikely to spend the expense on converting to HTML or to app versions - such as the Utah State Library of Virtual Manipulatives. The question will be are there free or low-cost apps that we could use instead. 

I've been talking to some of the developers of software and websites we use to see what their iPad plans are. IXL already works on it. Accelerated Reader has an app (they redesigned their website to match the improved app interface). ALEKS and Pixie and Inspiration have told me they're hoping to have them available within the next year. 

As for typing, I wonder if others have tested the Zagg Folio cases for iPad 3s yet?  They appear to have a more useable bluetooth keyboard as part of the case, but the iPad can still be removed as a tablet:

We've ordered two of these for testing, and three iPad 3s. 

I have a zagg.  It's, well, okay.  I have pretty small hands, so I do fine with it mostly.  The hardest thing for me is that to type a question mark, one has to hold down the function key.  Which wouldn't be so difficult except the "natural" way to make a question mark (shift, right pinky goes down a level) ends up selecting, then deleting text--with no option to undo.  

Clearly, I must have more questions than the Zagg designers!

Well, that doesn't sound like fun.  The keyboard we have (that came with the Zagg Folio for iPad 2 and 3) has a normal ? mark that is used with the left shift key.  Maybe someone questioned them about it!  :)  

Unlike a lot of netbooks, at least this keyboard has large size left and right shift keys.  I never knew why so many netbooks downsized the right shift key to nothing...

I am intrigued by OnLive Desktop for the iPad.  When installed, it turns the iPad into a cloud-based Tablet PC.  You run Microsoft Office in all its tabletty functionality, and best of all, you can use Flash.  I felt like I was back in 2004, exploring my first tablet.  Has anyone tried this?  What do you think?

I messed around a bit with OnLive... I found trying to do Windows Tablet functionality on the iPad to be a bit clunky, as it just isn't built for that same kind of input. Found it easier to go back to Documents to Go for my stuff, and trade off the higher functionality of OnLive for the iPad interface of D2G. Personally I tend to to all my iPad typing in Evernote, and then do any final "Word" editing on the PC... wonder if that would be a practical solution for the students as well. Most of what our kids type doesn't need higher level Word processing, at least until a published final draft. 

It might be a good solution for the Flash issue, but I haven't tried that much yet. 


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