iPads Out, Laptops In

Full disclosure: I own an iPad, albeit a very old one (2012, iPad 2). I tried using it to supplement my desktop (Windows) and laptop (MacBook) use at work and otherwise, going so far as to purchase a Bluetooth keyboard. I tired of trying within a few months and it is now used exclusively to play music to entertain our plants in a sunroom.

Headline: “Maine Decides to Ditch iPads for Macbooks,” from yesterday’s Education News (http://www.educationnews.org/technology/maine-decides-to-ditch-ipads-for-macbooks/). There is doubtlessly a K-12 movement away from tablets to laptops. Simply, iPads, even the iPad Pro, lacks features that facilitate production: mouse/trackpad, keyboard, and cursor. The Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard go a considerable way toward alleviating shortcomings when using some apps but fall short when used with the many touch-sensitive apps designed exclusively for touch screens. One frequently needed example are the copy, cut and paste commands which can be accurately and rapidly performed on a laptop using keyboard shortcuts. Smart Keyboards are expensive (about $169) and third party keyboards although less expensive at about $99, are not as feature rich as the apple Smart Keyboard. Word processing and spreadsheet number crunching on an iPad with a keyboard are slow and difficult processes. Slightly less so with one.

How does that affect classroom use? I’m not sure. There are other considerations, of course. Cost is a major one and the iPad is less expensive than the MacBook Air by a few hundred dollars, but far more expensive than a Chromebook. iPads while not indestructible, are less subject to damage in and out of a backpack resulting in fewer repairs and replacement. There are more education-oriented apps for iPads than for laptops of any manufacturer. One teacher in a survey in Maine commented that many of the students were using the iPads as “toys” and that the devices have “no educational function in the classroom.” I suspect that both the teachers and students that participated in the survey are integrating at Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Substitution level of SAMR.

The question should be more about integration into the learning process than about production. I suspect that both the teachers and students that participated in the survey are integrating at Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s Substitution level of SAMR. When used as little more than a tool substitute for the typewriter, calculator, and print copy dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia, very little integration into the curriculum and classroom is occurring.  In this case, yes, laptops at all levels would be ideal. Actually, my take is that once the learning apps database grows to accommodate educational laptop demand, laptops, would be ideal for all grades and ease the transition into higher education and the work world.

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