IPad in the Education Arena

As the reminiscences and commemoration to the life and work of Steve Jobs still continue to surround us with a profound sense of grief, we, nevertheless can not but recount that the company he co-founded has always been committed to the ‘Education Arena’ in some form or the other. To tell the truth, the analysis of education technology in the country for the last 30 or more so years would have been considered incomplete sans a citation in regards to Apple’s and Job’s contribution in this field. From the Mac to the NeXT computer to the iBook – products that Apple and Job have created were in fact nothing but fascinating computing devices that schools and universities were always eager to procure and pursue.

However, the current picture has literally swept away all previous record. The very fact that more then 8 million iPads have been sold to educational institutions across the globe is indeed something to reckon with. This was duly corroborated by Apple CEO Tim Cook who remarked that “iPads make up 94 per cent of the market for education tablet, a stat he noted was impressive and unheard of in most businesses. I have never seen a market share that high before”, Cook added later.

19The secret

The secret behind iPad’s tremendous popularity can be assessed from the experience gained by an experienced teacher who had experimented with the device and brooks no delay in opening his heart about its fascinating features. However, let us hear it from his lips, here and now.

“My ‘iPad journey’ began approximately a year ago, when I bought an iPad 2. I was hooked. My then three-year-old daughter was also showing an interest. It was at this point that I was beginning to see the huge potential that this device could have in schools. She was learning to count, do simple subtraction and addition problems, recognise different shapes, listen to stories, learn her alphabet, beginning to spell out words and learn how to write letters, all this with very little guidance or support – plus she was having fun learning.”

“Having seen the huge potential of the iPads as an educational tool, I decided to investigate the pros and cons of iPads, compared to laptops in the classroom.

In my mind these were the pros:

  • Ease and speed of use and accessibility: The touch interface and app system on the iPad makes it easy to access learning tools. On a laptop you have to open the lid, turn it on, wait for it to load, log in to your account and then wait for the operating system to load.
    • Audio visual (AV) tools: The iPad has extremely easy access to AV tools (camera, video and voice recorder) which can be used creatively across countless number of apps. The laptop does have built-in cameras and microphones but they are so much more difficult to use and could require an additional piece of hardware to be connected and installed.
    • Books: iPads are great for reading. iBooks allow the user to annotate, highlight and look up the meaning of words.
    • Creativity: The in-built AV tools means that the iPad has endless possibilities to be used creatively in any subject in the school curriculum, it just need imagination. For example there are apps for drawing, editing photos, creating movies, ebooks, animations and photo stories, composing music, writing graphical novels and other useful creative apps. In addition, many of these apps have the option to publish work to larger audiences online, increasing the incentive for the children to produce quality pieces of work. The laptop doesn’t have the same efficiency and ease of use that the iPad has and the touch interface just makes it more fun and interactive.

And here are the cons:

  • Adobe’s Flash and Javascript: One of the biggest criticisms of the iPad is its inability to work with Adobe Flash and Javascript. A lot of content in schools is dominated by Flash. Despite this, it could be argued that the iPad easily makes up for this restriction with a huge selection of apps.
    • Multitasking: A drawback with the iPads is the fact that multiple ‘windows’ or files cannot be kept open, side-by-side unlike on computers, although iPads apps are allow multiple pages to be open side by side.
    • Word processing: The iPad is quite limited as a device that you would use regularly to word process on. I much prefer to type lengthy documents on my computer, where I can switch quickly between browser, word processing and email. Despite this I still use the iPad regularly for light writing such as emails and Twitter.”

Bottom line: Despite some of the shortcomings that Apple is going to take care of, iPad will reign the roost for quite sometime before any of its competitors can take the hot seat, by dislodging it.