Ipad Vs Notebook Computer

Since I blogged a little while ago about how I didn’t see the Ipad as a primary learning tool in a senior classroom (say Year 8 upwards?) I just keep noticing educators who say it can be just that. Some of the most recent schools I’ve seen taking this approach are right here in Australia, in sunny Queensland.

Ipswich’s West Moreton Anglican School has a terrific, energetic blog explaining how students should use their ipad, including an enthusiastic reference to my favorite cloud tool, Dropbox. Here’s a screenshot of their blog today:

They also have a section of their web page where they make the case for ipads. They say:

iPads are a new kind of ICT device that is designed to complement rather than replace desktop or laptop computers (though for some uses, iPads supersede desktop/laptop computers). The Apple iPad:

• is a touch screen device

• uses a wireless connection for networks

• automatically saves files, which can be shared via the internet and wireless networks

• connects to Windows or Mac computers using iTunes (which is free) to sync and back-up

• Apps (software) are purchased/accessed and installed via the App Store

• uses the iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) to open, edit, save and export Microsoft Office files (other apps for accessing Office file formats are available).

For more information about iPads, visit: http://www.apple.com/au/ipad/.

Why has WestMAC selected the iPad for our
1-to-1 programme at Year 12?

The Apple iPad is an innovative, new form of ICT that is particularly well suited to learning environments. Our testing to this point in time suggests:

• The iPad’s compact size, ease of transportability and design means it can be used in almost any learning situation

• long battery life will allow it to be used all day at school without recharging

• it is instantly on, simple to use and manage, and very easy to read

• files are automatically saved and can be stored in the ‘cloud’ and shared in various ways

• the operating system and apps promote collaboration

• the level of interactivity and highly diverse modes of use will support innovative learning opportunities not possible with other forms of ICT.

In essence, the iPad is the ideal device for anywhere anytime learning.

For these and other reasons, we have selected the iPad as the best tool for 1-to-1 ICT access at West Moreton Anglican College. It should be noted, however, that the iPad is not meant to be a replacement for specialist laptop or desktop computers in schools (nor homes), so other forms of ICT will still be available.

Another advantage of this method for achieving 1-to-1 ICT access, unlike 1-to-1 laptop programmes, is that the iPad will not replicate nor directly impact on family decisions about ICT purchases. Our parent survey conducted in Term 4, 2010 indicated families have already invested in ICT: 100% of respondents had a family computer and 68% of respondents have more than one household computer. In addition, 93.8% of respondents indicated that they believed it was ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for their children to engage with technology and online learning opportunities. iPads support this requirement and connect with any modern Windows and Mac computer using iTunes (which is free).

I like the clarity of the thinking and they include a page of links to web sites about ipads in education. It doesn’t mean I actually agree, but it’s great to see some schools challenging the orthodoxy of the thinking around the best tools for students.

St Hilda’s School on the Gold Coast in Queensland, has taken a similar approach, adopting Ipads as the critical tool for students and making a case for e-books in the process.

You can read their full list of IT FAQS yourself, but their key argument for the ipad, put together by Geoff Powell is below. It’s interesting that they see the Ipad working in partnership with a computer at home.

Why should I get an iPad and not a laptop?

We have spent a considerable amount of time testing the iPad in school situations and we are convinced it will achieve all that we require (and more) in regular class situations. For example the iPad will access the Internet, School Email and our Blackboard Online Curriculum. It will allow you to Word Process, create Spreadsheets and complete Presentations.

The iPad is very light, only 660gm, and has battery life in excess of 10 hours, it will last all day on a single charge. In addition to this, the iBook feature lets you keep a number of the books and resources needed for school on the iPad, we are moving towards eBooks in a number of areas. You can also run all of the apps from the iTunes store – these apps wont run on a laptop.

To sum up, all the staff we have had testing the iPad, and the students we talk to that already have an iPad, are very happy with the way it does what they want it to do at school and at home.

Why would I need to use eBooks?

There are a number of advantages in having books loaded onto the iPad. If for example, we put the Maths book, Science Book, Dictionary, Thesaurus, Atlas, Bible and the odd English novel onto an iPad for Year 7, 8 and 9 students, we decrease the weight of the school bag by several kilograms. Students will always have access to all those resources in class, and perhaps most importantly, we have negotiated with our text book suppliers to ensure that eBooks are significantly less expensive than hard copy books. We will also be using eBooks in Years 10-12. You can read these from a laptop, but it is much easier to use an iPad, and the iPad is lighter, and the battery lasts all day.

Will I use my iPad for all my school computing?

We envisage that for 90% or more of your time, the Pad will be the device that best suits you. In specialist areas for example, such as, but not limited to, Music, Visual Art, Engineering, Creative Media, Maths or Accounting that use specific software such as Sibelius, Photoshop, Auto CAD, Final Cut Pro, Graphmatica or MYOB etc – the school will provide access to computers that will complete these tasks. We have banks of laptops in the library and other classrooms that are used for specialists’ areas. Students can also borrow these overnight or work after school in the library.

At home, for typing up larger English or History essays for example students might use their home PC or Mac, then transfer those files to their iPad to take to school. The advantage of the iPad is that it is light, portable and will last all day on a single battery charge. As a personal example, I have a MacBook Pro laptop, and I also have an iPad. I find that I now prefer to use the iPad for the majority of my mobile computing. When I need to use specialist software for video editing etc, I use my MacBook. However, I always take my iPad to class with me, rarely do I take my laptop. This is exactly the situation we are envisaging for students in the classroom. When you need specialist software, we will supply it. All other times the iPad will be more than adequate.
Summing up

We have put a lot of thought and research into this decision. There are a lot or rumours out there about what an iPad will and won’t do. Ironically most of these seem to come from people who have not used an iPad for any length of time, if at all. Many of them are incorrect. Realistically, we would be very foolish, indeed negligent to recommend a computing device that did not achieve what we wanted it to in class. The iPad will save, you can print, it is fully compatible with Office, it is a terrific eBook reader, you can surf the Web, check your Email and access Blackboard. You can also load any one of the thousands of apps from iTunes, many of which we are yet to investigate, and I am sure there are many more yet to be created. We feel that once you get your iPad, you will come to appreciate what you can achieve with it as much as the staff and students that have them already do.

Pretty compelling arguments, and it has made me think again. I’m going to be interested to see how this platform develops in education. And, if you’re like me and fascinated by lists of apps, here’s a direct link to St Hilda’s 2011 App List.(PDF)  I’m exploring some new ones as soon as I hit submit!