Bill MacKenty

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A disagreement on the iPad potential…

Posted in Educational Tech Design on 08 - February 2010 at 04:41 PM (14 years ago). 183 views.

I got a nice comment respectfully disagreeing with my point of view about the iPad and education. For reference, the commented post was here, and perhaps he might of missed my pre-tablet hype post here).  Trevor M, (who I haven’t met, but I suspect we are kindred spirits in educational technology) lists these ideas about how the iPad will revolutionize education: 

1.  Textbooks
2.  Note Taking
3.  Paperless Classroom
4.  Studying and Reviewing
5.  Student Interest Level
6.  Individualized Curriculum

He then goes on, in another post, to talk about three concepts for iPad applications:

1. Note Taking
2. Studying and Reviewing
3. Individualized Curriculum

His enthusiasm and excitement is clearly evident in his writing.  I wish he had been a bit more verbose when he discussed what he didn’t agree with in my post.  Anyways, in the spirit of fostering healthy conversation about something that hasn’t seen the light of day yet, I remain skeptical.  Why?


iPads look like fantastic textbook readers - really great. I’ve even written a piece that they may be version one of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  But is that what we want technology to do? Just be a textbook reader? Thats not revolutionary at all - it’s just more efficient “same old same old”.  So kids go online and look at

flash-based animations

Wikipedia, national geographic, and other fantastic resources. Then what? I would like them to be able to use the images and ideas they find to create their representations of knowledge. But without multitasking, how will they do this? 

And there is the idea of support. Do textbooks break when you drop them? Do they need to be charged? Who fixes them when they break? How do we ensure they are all running the same version of the same stuff? What happens when one gets stolen (1 textbook = $70.00, 1 iPad = $500.00)? How long will they last? Textbooks are good for about 10 years. Same for iPad?  Technology is, for all it’s coolness a high-maintenance spouse.

I’m not asking these questions to be a curmudgeon, but these exact questions and issues have stymied growth in technology education for years. I’ve always thought we should get away from textbooks and use laptops or full-blown tablets.

Note Taking.

You write “One of the largest complaints I hear from my students is that the lost their notes.  They either don’t know where they put the paper or it got thrown away by mistake.  The same thing goes for homework.  Students tend to not be very organized, but how can you blame them?  They have grown up in a digital world.  They are used to having the things saved automatically on a computer or iPod.  If they need to find something they just do a keyword search and it finds it form them.”

Yes. In fact, I do blame them.  One of the many tasks we need to teach our kids is to be organized and responsible.  It is utterly foundational.  I repeat my systems argument above: a lost notebook is $5.00 an iPad, $500.00. And are iPads really better? Digital devices are just as prone to failure and data loss as losing a notebook - but far more catastrophic.  Do the kids bring the iPads home with them? Really? I live in New York City and I’m not sure how I feel about 100 7th graders toting around an iPad…

Paperless Classroom

I’ll stop with this one, because I’ve always thought the “paperless classroom” was some kind of Nirvana we should all aspire to. But it isn’t. You can’t draw on a tablet like paper (try shading), tablet handwriting recognition is an oxymoron, and flipping through pages isn’t the same as a paper notebook. You cant easily draw a table or venn diagram on a iPad or incorporate all those yummy meta cognitive skills into normal note taking.  My point?  An iPad isn’t paper - it cant do the same thing as paper. Why are we trying to bend it to do the same thing as paper.

Just so you know Trevor, I’m not knocking you here - I would love to have an iPad for my hour-long commute. But for my classroom? I just don’t see it. At least not yet.