iPad to be Piloted in the Sixth Grade

The headmaster of the private school in Sacramento County, Stephen Repsher, has announced that when school resumes, all 6th graders will be issued with an iPad. Parents will not have to pay for these items. As the iPad is selling at $499, that’s good news for parents. The head has negotiated a deal in which the school has a $30 discount on each iPad purchased.

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Mr. Repsher said: There are hundreds and hundreds of educational applications for the iPad. We found that there are so many we felt there was a tremendous opportunity to bridge the gap between the traditional pen and paper and textbook and laptop.

If the scheme is successful in the 6th grade, there are plans to extend it throughout the school at a later date.

Students can conduct surveys using the iPad, develop reports, read e-books and revise for tests with a flash card app. Using an iPad hooked up to a projector will allow students to share multimedia presentations with their classmates.

Mr. Repsher puts a very positive spin on this project: It’s just another tool in the quiver of tools that educators use to help children understand and learn and develop critical skills as they move towards college. It is, albeit, an expensive tool, and will not be the only means of imparting knowledge to students.

Mr. Christopher Olley, the head of St. Catherine’s High School in Racine, Wisconsin, has also announced that his school will also be using iPads in the 6th and 7th grades at the beginning of the next school year. If the project is a success, he plans to have all students and teachers use iPads rather than textbooks by 2012.

He said: We have asked teachers to come up with a way to improve their use of technology from now to 2012. He added that the school would help low-income families purchase iPads, but pointed out that as textbooks cost between $300 and $600, a $400 iPad could work out cheaper.

Criticisms of iPad use in Schools

Professor emeritus in education at Stanford, Larry Cuban, was quick to point out that research that has been carried out into the use of laptops in schools has not conclusively shown that their use has improved students’ achievement levels He believes that laptops are a novelty which will wear off sooner or later, depending on how creatively they are used by teachers, and how their use can be developed. He commented pessimistically that creative teachers are the exception rather than the rule.

It seems that schools have failed to consider the maintenance costs of the iPad, as devices break down, and these were not designed primarily for the use of children, so may not be as robust as they might be for everyday classroom use.

Because the iPad is a new device, and, let’s face it, the must-have device of the moment, it might be that educators who have announced the use of iPads in their schools have not considered every other option. While iPads may be an ideal tool for some types of learner, perhaps the visual rather than the kinesthetic ones, they will not be the best educational tool for other learner types. What can improve one child’s learning, does not necessarily work for all children.

Of course children need to keep up with the latest technologies available and become proficient users so that they are equipped to become the technocrats of the future, but they still need to develop their critical thinking abilities as well as the ability to think logically for themselves.

One of the main problems associated with the use of iPads in the classroom is that the teacher will be unable to monitor exactly what each child is doing at any one time. The iPad can only run one program at a time, so the teacher cannot use monitoring software as she can in a classroom where each child has a computer, to check that the child is following the lesson and not logged in to Facebook or other inappropriate sites.

The iPad was primarily developed to show live media, and this is how Apple has advertised it. However, in education, students should be encouraged to create, not merely watch. Of course, future iPads might offer options to edit photos or videos, for example, but the current models do not have these facilities.

All things considered, it might be better to provide students with laptops until Apple see the possible application of the iPad in education and develop them so that they can fit into this sector of the market comfortably.

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