The iPad 2 for Learning: Initial Questions

As we move forward in the thick stew that is the beginning of any international school year, as faculty shake off the jet lag and slowly lose their suntans, a few questions have arisen in our iPad 2 pilot project that need to be (and soon will be) ironed out once the higher priority tasks are ticked off the list. They are:

  • Syncing – If students have individual iPads to use daily and take home at night, should they be synced to an individual laptop in a 1 to 1 school like ours or to a central Mac for managing purchased apps, etc? It’s a pilot and we are well-resourced, but we don’t have a blank check for sweet games at 10 bucks a pop. We are heading toward syncing to a central computer, but that brings up…
  • When do iPads get synced to a central computer? How much ownership will kids lose or perceive themselves as losing when they give up the iPad for syncing? Does this matter at all?
  • What about the accessories? Clearly, the iPad needs a protective case, needs paid apps, needs charging which, if centralized, becomes pretty expensive quickly.
  • In a 1 to 1 environment with laptops and iPads, how will students manage care of their electronics? Are their hands full already in a purely concrete respect?
  • Will the iPad create an efficient workflow for kids, or will it be a Personal Distraction Device?
  • The million (and millions of) dollar question: How on Earth can the iPad be anything other than an engaging, useful sidecar to a solid computer? I spent an hour today making a Google Doc flow chart in Adobe InDesign complete with flow charts and I couldn’t even come close to duplicating this on an iPad based on what I have been able to find so far. It’s simply not tooled up for that level of creativity. Which brings me to
  • What do we want kids to do in school? If the iPad doesn’t unleash the full potential of current computing technology for kids to do things with, to explore, tinker, discover, and make, and we consider it as a laptop replacement, what are we doing wrong?

These are my big questions so far and the students aren’t even back yet. But, within two weeks kids will have their hands on the iPads, so I want to be collecting answers and revising questions immediately. I really wonder what issues and questions other teachers working with iPads have at this point and need to do a little digging in the next few weeks.

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