iPad Use at School… Educational or Not?

Something that I often wonder about is the use of iPad’s at school… Can this really be educational, or are there too many distractions on the iPad which may prevent students from completing the task that they have been set to do?

Now, I have never taught or seen a lesson being taught where the students are using iPads, but let’s think about this seriously… I’m sure no one has ever gone to a uni lecture or tutorial and not used their phone or iPad for something other than what is being taught (facebook, messaging etc!!) 🙂  

So if we do this at uni, where we are choosing to study what we are studying, what is stopping students from using the iPads for other reasons at school, especially if they are not particularly interested in the subject? 

Wesley Fryer makes a point in this blog post that students are begging to use the iPads for play, because they do not get opportunity to use them for this purpose very often. 

This leads me to think back to a recent professional experience placement I had, where the students could use the computers during their lunch break, or go to the office and use the iPads. Yes this would allow the students opportunity to ‘play’ on the iPads, however where does the school then stand with the childhood obesity statistics in Australia? Shouldn’t they be getting outside and playing during their lunch break, not sitting in front of a computer of iPad?!

I guess, there a man advantages and disadvantages to using iPads in schools, and as seen in Postman’s Five Things We Need To Know about Technological Change,

Technology is always a trade-off. For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.  

It is just up to us, as teachers to weigh up these advantages and disadvantages, and decide what is best for our students. 


One thought on “iPad Use at School… Educational or Not?

  1. There are a variety of issues here.

    When you have your own smartphone as a university student, that is very different from an elementary student (like those I teach) who rarely have direct access to a tablet computer or smartphone. Whenever an experience or object is new or novel, there is a tendency to focus on that object or experience specifically rather than other things happening in the situation. This is normal. So iPads have not been “normalized” in the lives of my students, so it’s natural they want to do lots of things on them… they don’t get much time with them outside of class.

    Another thing going on here is the challenge of impulse control and self discipline. Students have to make choices about doing the right thing, whether the teacher is there watching or not. Overall and in general, my students do well with this… but it’s a challenge, and learning self-discipline as well as impulse control is an extremely important skill for a learner of any age.

    Part of the challenges you describe in a college class, being distracted by your technology, beg the question of what your professors or instructors are doing “in class.” If professors are just “delivering” information and not giving you an interactive opportunity to learn with your classmates, they probably should be rethinking how they are using face-to-face instructional time. I’d recommend the following TEDx talk by Dr Jose Bowen, he has recently published a book about this and made a lot of waves in higher education several years ago with this thesis:
    Teaching Naked: Dr. Jose Bowen at TEDxLSU

    The questions you raise about going outside and people (students included) needing to both live active lives as well as eating nutritionally balanced diets are very important, but this isn’t a wholesale trade off with technology. It’s important to live in balance, but we’re not going to realistically force people to stop using smartphones or completely end their/our connections to each other via our technology. In school and in life, I think our focus needs to be on making good choices and living balanced lives.

    Helping students learn to use technology “normally” as an expected part of learning and the classroom today is very important. This is the world we live in: Technology and digital connections facilitated by the Internet are going to stay with us and continue to grow in scope and speed in the years ahead. Just as you are facing lots of choices and decisions about what you pay attention to, during class and outside of class, we’re preparing students to make those kind of choices too. We certainly should be in K-12 classrooms!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about my post.

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