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27 August 2012 / erikduval

iPad’s do belong in the classroom

Interesting… Suddenly, we have a bit of a debate in Belgium Flanders about the use of iPad’s in the classroom. It started with a planned experiment in a school that requires all students to have an iPad.

This led to a bit of a debate (both in more ‘serious’ newspapers as well as in more tabloid oriented papers and on-line), with most public reactions quite negative.

If you don’t have the patience to read on: I’m rather on the school’s side.

My main reasons to support such an initiative:

  • I believe that it is a mistake to keep technology out of our schools: we need to make sure that people learn how to use technology to their advantage. Schools are learning places, no?
  • Technology can help to make learning more flexible and fun. By automating what can be automated, teacher time becomes available for doing what people do well and technology doesn’t.

I admit there are some reasonable questions about such an initiative:

  • Many raise the issue of price. I think it would be informative to look at the complete picture, including costs saved (less ink on dead trees…). The school in question mentions that they have carefully considered costs and it is reported that ‘No pupils will be left out. Parents who need to can call on a special fund to pay for the ipad’.
  • Some mention the danger of lock-in: why only iPads? Why no other tablets. I have great sympathy for this issue – and I have spent much of the previous 15 years in trying to build standards that make technologies from different vendors work together, so that we all have more choice. But the reality is that there are only two tablet platforms at this moment, iOS (i.e. iPad) and Android. Working with a mix of both is not very realistic at this moment for a school.

I also discussed this topic with some real experts – my kids. Not surprisingly, they were not in favour of iPad’s in the classroom.

  • They mentioned price – see above.
  • They were worried that there are not enough good quality apps. They have kind of a point. I am not sure that everything can be taught with iPads only. But I am sure that there are many things that can be learned in ways where iPad’s can improve the process.
  • They worry that kids will no longer learn how to write. Or draw. I doubt that the school experiment is that drastic. More fundamentally, I am not sure that writing or drawing, without keyboards or iPads, i.e. through ink on dead trees, is a skill we need to preserve.

In any case, paper and ink is a technology. It is certainly not completely obsolete yet. But it is much less dominant than it used to be, and, if it were to become obsolete, then why would we continue teaching kids with it?

More fundamentally, my kids assume, like many do, that disturbing the status quo is dangerous. I don’t. Current learning in schools is not all that great, so there is plenty of opportunity for improvement. Everybody seems to want more innovation – but you can’t innovate if you give in to Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.


Leave a Comment
  1. thomasvyncke / Oct 6 2012 12:02 pm

    De voordelen zullen op termijn toch gaan opwegen tegen de nadelen imo.
    Ideaal ook om Learning Analytics op toe te passen. Dit zou bv. tot perfecte integratie kunnen leiden van ons P&O3 project!

  2. Thomas Goossens / Oct 22 2012 10:46 pm

    Today the assistent of our P&04 team showed us how he read and made notes on our report on his iPad with a stylus. I was blown away!

    I might need to rethink my thoughts on this topic… needs some more investigation 🙂


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