Yep, I’ve read a lot of stuff regarding the benefit of iPads in the classroom in the past year. I’ve also read a lot of articles praising the value of laptops in the hands of students. Though studies have yet to prove that any of these mobile technologies is beneficial to the learning process I would bet my non-existent retirement fund that they do help the learner in various ways. First off, knowledge delivered via these mobile resources engages the learner, it is in the same “language” they are accustomed to interacting with. Anything that engages the learned with the content one is trying to get through has a plus from me.
Now to the dilemma of either or…do we put an iPad or a laptops in the hands of students?
Over the years I’ve come to see the value of laptops in the hands of students and teachers. One can do almost everything we were accustomed to doing on a desktop PC on a laptop now-a-days. School administrators love the price-tag of the iPad, but it is not as useful as a laptops when it comes to importing video, editing audio, and putting pictures in it for use within presentations or documents. Like or not, you are still tethered to a desktop PC whenever you need to do some tasks with video/audio/graphic files. Students often need to play around with different media within the same lesson plan, and I still have a problem seeing how students can manage this while using an iPad.
The way I’ve come to do this this year is to implement iPads in the early grades (3rd grade and below) and to use laptops in grades 4 and above. It seems to be working well thus far. Teachers love the art-music-listening-video-photo capabilities the iPad offers, and children take to the keyboard-mouse-less environment as if it the way they interact with nature. Wait, it is the way they interact with nature. Hmmmm, lots to think about in the coming years.
For Middle/High Schoolers who often must author long research papers, presentations or video projects in teams, a laptop is ideal as it offers the capabilities necessary for this type of work. I feel the practicality of an iPad still need some work, thus I am sticking to laptops for higher grades for the time being.