Ten reasons the iPad is an awesome tool for classrooms and education

The ability to work with iPads right on the desks of students makes them a powerful classroom tool.

Over the past couple of years, I have had the awesome opportunity as a principal and teacher to be part of a school that adopted iPads on a 1:1 device to student ratio.  I went into the program unsure if iPads would be as effective of a classroom device as traditional laptops, but have become convinced that the iPad offers more for classrooms than traditional desktop or laptop computers.  Here are the ten reasons I why I have found iPads to be the perfect classroom tool.

1 – Price

At $499 for the newest iPad or $399 for the iPAd 2, the iPad is cheaper than many traditional laptop or desktop computers.  Apple also offers an educational discount for schools when iPads are purchased in packs of 10 that saves about $200 per 10-pack.  While there are cheaper options out there such as Chromebooks, netbooks, or cheap laptops, I have found it to be preferable to have a top of the line tablet rather than a bottom shelf desktop, laptop, or Chromebook.

At my school we have found the cheapest 16GB iPad to offer plenty of storage.  We have yet to fill up that space despite downloading many apps and storing student work.  Additionally, if we do ever fill up the space, having all the apps backed up on iCloud makes it really easy to delete any apps that aren’t being used and then re-install them in minutes at a later time if they are ever needed again.

2 – Battery Life

The 10-12 hour battery life of the iPad truly makes the device portable and versatile for classroom use.  There never is a worry about having to be near an outlet as the iPad easily lasts all day even if the screen is never turned off.  This allows the students to interact with them all over the room, at their desks, and even outside without ever having to worry about running out of power.  Try doing the same thing with laptops.  The short battery life of most laptops keeps them chained to the wall or locked away in a computer lab instead of out and available for immediate use anywhere.   Despite heavily using the iPads, we often go multiple days or even an entire school week between charges.

3 – Portability

A teacher can easily carry a stack of iPads from classroom to classroom.  The light weight of the iPad and the fact that the charger doesn’t have to be constantly lugged around with the iPads makes this incredibly easy.  Students can easily pass their work very easily to another student for proofreading or sharing of their learning.

A stack of 10 iPads is easy to move from classroom to classroom.

4 – Easy Upkeep

With iPads there is never a worry about the computers becoming bogged down with downloaded software, viruses, or spyware as so often happens with public use laptops or desktops at schools.  All apps are downloaded through Apple’s strictly guarded App Store.  There is no need to worry about things like anti-virus software or keeping track of computer cd’s.  Using the Cloud, apps, photos, documents, books, and more can immediately be installed on multiple iPads at once without the need to sit and work at each machine.   Also, the fact that the school’s Apple ID password is required to download an apps ensures that only the software the teachers want on the iPads will be on there.

5 – Extremely Affordable, Well-Polished Software

Once the iPads are purchased, they can be filled with high quality educational software without spending another dime! Thousands of effective and fun educational apps are available for free.  Even the apps developed by professional software companies rarely cost more than a dollar or two.  For the price of just one typical computer software package, often ten or more apps can be purchased for the iPads.  A special volume purchasing program is available through Apple that offers special discounts to schools on many apps that cost money.

Countless free apps like Google Earth make the iPad an affordable, powerful educational machine.

6 – Easy Screen Sharing

With the purchase of a cable or Apple TV, the display of an iPad can simply and instantly be shared over a projector or on a TV screen.  Teachers can display photos, websites, or apps with ease to aid in classroom learning and students can proudly share projects, drawings, or their own writing with their classmates.

We use Apple TV’s connected to a projector or TV in each classroom.  Teachers love the ability for them or any student in the room to share what is on their iPad screen quickly and easily with the entire class.

An Apple TV makes sharing an iPad screen wireless, quick, and easy for teachers and students.

7 – The Ability to Instantly Begin Working

With iPads there is no waiting period when it is time to use the machines in the classroom.  iPads can wait in sleep mode for weeks without needing a charge and can be immediately ready to go at the click of a button.  Students can grab the iPads and be working in a specific app within seconds.  As an educator, it is great to not have to waste any class time waiting for machines to load or boot up.

8 – Ease of Use

The learning curve for using the iPads is very simple.  Using your finger to control the iPad is a very natural experience that even the most computer challenged students and faculty members quickly grasp.  Launching a program is as simple as finding the picture of the app you want and touching it.  There are no file folders to worry about, no searching through complicated menus, no discs to insert, and very few buttons to get confused about.  It is amazing to see how even very young kids quickly grasp the concept of a touch screen computer when they are given the opportunity to play with an iPad or iPhone.

We have teachers on our staff who have a limited knowledge of technology.  I have been amazed to see how easily they were able to grasp how to use the iPads and implement technology into their lessons using them.  The iPads have created an environment where teachers are excited to test out different teaching methods, apps, and ways of implementing techonlogy every day in the classroom that we never would have seen before starting our iPad program.

9 – Easily Adaptable for Use in the Classroom

When we really thought about how much we would use laptops verse how much we would use iPads, it became clear to us that the iPads would see far more daily use than laptops.  The ability to easily have the iPads available directly at the student desks makes it simple to work them into many classes throughout the day.  Students could be directed to view a website during a class period to supplement their learning, view photos provided by the teacher of the topic of a lesson, practice math problems for a few minutes at the beginning of math class, or play an educational game during their free time.

We felt that laptops, though also portable, typically end up sitting in a computer lab because of their bigger size and limited battery life.  Once computers end up in a computer lab, it becomes a hassle to move all the students out of the classroom and into the computer lab.  Because of the hassle, teachers don’t tend to use the lab more than once or twice a day and using the laptops during a class at the students’ desks is not even an option anymore.

When it came down to what type of machine we thought we would use more, the iPad easily won.  In our use of the iPads we ended up purchasing, we have found this to be the case.  Students and teachers have put them to constant use right in the classroom and right at the individual desks of the students.

An example of a presentation made for class by an 8th grade student in one of my classes.

10 – Versatility

The iPad is so much more than just a computer.  While doing all the things that a computer does such as word process, surf the internet, and run programs, it is also a portable camera, a book that is easy to hold and curl up in a chair with, a drawing tablet, a whiteboard, and a handwriting surface. These are all uses that are not possible with a typical laptop or desktop.

The free app Nearpod allows teachers to create interactive presentations for students using the iPads.

Among many other exciting uses, we have had students take iPads on nature walks to take photos of trees, leaves, or animals that we learned about in science, used the iPads as video cameras to film skits written in class, and used piano apps to have students play simple songs using a virtual piano keyboard at their desk in music class.  All of these exciting possibilities just aren’t possible on a traditional laptop or desktop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • http://twitter.com/MikeSmart Mike Smart

    Nice article! Have you had issues with lag and dropped connections with Apple TV? I tried it a few times and had noticeable lag, and it would drop the connection as soon as I moved a little ways from the projector. I’ve since gone back to a direct connection (iPad to projector).

    • Lisa Pospishil

      We use the cheap Airserver software program instead of Apple TV. http://www.airserverapp.com/. The slow dropped connection could be a slow WiFi system in which case Airserver wouldn’t help. I hate the dongle so Airserverapp or Reflector maybe worth a shot.

    • brad0885

      We have had zero issues with Apple TV lag. This solution for sharing had worked well for us. Each room’s Apple TV has a specific device name so it is easy to hook up to the correct projector or TV.

  • Lisa Pospishil

    Great insight! You mention eBooks a few times…I feel they deserve an item by themselves:) Who wants to read a book on a laptop? Paired with the accessibility feature to have text easily read aloud throughout the iPad levels the playing field for so many. The iPad breaks barriers to knowledge with ease compared to pc laptops, netbooks, or Chromebooks. Thanks for the write up!

  • http://www.isource.com/ brandon

    What are you using for MDM? And which model are you using for purchases (Institutional, layered or personal)?

    • brad0885

      We use Apple Configurator to manage the devices and all purchases are institutional through the Apple educational volume purchase program.

  • Michael Steele

    I think it a great idea for student. I hope student will be so helpful of this idea.