Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Macbook or the Ipad 2 in the Elementary School Classroom?


     Our campus has been piloting the Macbook computers for a few months now with students in grades 4-8 on a 2:1 ratio. Having increased access to computers in the classroom has been a blessing, making it so much easier to integrate technology in a more natural way. Students enjoy full access to Internet content as well as the many great tools on the Macbook such as Iworks, Imovie, Iphoto and Garage Band.

     The plan is to purchase the Ipad 2 for  students below grade 4 (JK - Grade 3) with a 4:1 ratio. The logic is that these tablet computers have all the power we need and are far more user friendly for younger learners. The touchscreen technology is more intuitive and consistent with the technologies that these children have grown accustomed to in their daily lives (ie. Ipod Touch). Teachers in these grades will be given both the Macbook (for personal use) and the Ipad (to use with students).

     I have to admit that I have fallen in love with the Ipad even though I have never really used one and the new model has yet to be released here in Singapore. It is a beautiful technology and looks like the perfect choice for the younger students. But is it really? I have a few concerns about using the Ipad 2 instead of the Macbooks:

  • Are we doing students justice by introducing them to the touchscreen technology before giving them the chance to interact with a physical keyboard? 
  • Will we have access to the many flash based sites that our teachers and students have come to love and rely on in their classes? 
  • How will we deal with issues of storage (given the limited memory on an Ipad) and sharing (given the lack of USB port)? 
  • Can we connect the Ipad to our school's network and can we continue allowing students to login to their individual class account like they do on the Macbooks? 
  • Will students be automatically logged in when they open an app such as email accounts or sites that require a username and password? This could be a major problem with several students from different classes are sharing the same device? 
     I know there are tons of great apps available for the device but I would hate to have to give up some of the great sites that I love (including the ones I have already reviewed here) just because the Ipad doesn't support them. Apps can certainly have an important role in teaching and learning but are they enough? Let's face it - many kids sites are heavily flash based and we all know how Apple refuses to use it on devices such as the Ipad, Iphone and Ipod Touch. Having programs like Iworks, Imovie and Garage Band available on the Ipad 2 are great but there is so much content available on the Internet beyond what Apple has to offer. 

     Perhaps my concerns are overblown and the Ipad 2 in the classroom will be the best thing since ... well the original Ipad. I am hoping that many of the concerns I have will not be problems at all or that that we will be able to solve them easily. I really won't know until I get my hands on the Ipad 2 and test it myself. I still don't know when this will be since Apple hasn't even given a release date for Singapore yet. But I would hate for us to invest so much money only to realize that the Macbook would have been the better option all along. 

     This is a topic that I would love to get feedback from others on who have experienced using the Ipad or Ipad 2 in the classroom. Does it live up to the hype? Please add comments here if you do have an opinion on which is the better choice or if you know if my concerns are valid or not. Better yet, if would like to post more about your opinions here, let me know and I will add you as an author.