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EdTech Update




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This morning's newspaper gushed about a local school district already deciding to give an iPad to each of its high school students.  After the device being available for, what, less than a week?

Ready. Fire. Aim.


I've been experimenting with one of our district's "loaner" iPads since Thursday afternoon. Given the media hoopla and resulting interest by many of our staff members, we ordered a few for teachers, administrators and techs to try.

For the consumption of media. it is an amazing device. National Geographic Magazine, via Zinio, the New York Times and Marvel Comic books each looks fantastic - all colorful and high rez. The "printed" pages of various e-book readers are sharp and page turns are realistically rendered. (I am guessing the e-ink of the Kindle and Sony e-Reader will prove easier on the eyes for longer works, however.) The iPad makes a very pretty electronic photo frame. Games are easier to play given the bigger screen. But where this thing really shines, is playing streaming video. YouTube selections load fast and play well. Streaming Netflix movies seems like magic. Another sign of the apocalypse a post-literate society?

But at this time, the iPad is not a productivity machine. The biggest question I had about the device was whether it would play nicely with GoogleApps. It doesn't. You can read them, but not create or edit GoogleDocs. I've not figured out how to attach a file to Gmail. And Keynote for the iPad not only doesn't like exchanging files with PowerPoint, but it doesn't even work with the desktop version of Keynote (according to the help forums). I was really hoping this would have been the device for accessing cloud-based applications. But the featureless browser and lack of Flash support make it a techno-wimp.

In one sense, the reaction to the iPad is very clear indicator of one's educational philosophy. If you are a teacher, administrator or politician who sees the school's role as filling little empty buckets with prescribed information, the iPad is a potential fire hose. It CAN deliver content, and given Apple's control over the apps that run on the device, that content can be provided by a very select number of publishers.

But if your idea of an educated person is one who constructs knowledge, solves problems, and communicates effectively, this is not the tool for you - at least at the current time. Unlike a netbook, the iPad makes  creating, saving and sharing even simple written documents, let alone multi-media, nearly impossible.

It's ironic, but my prediction is that the more traditional one's approach to education, the more one will like  "iEducation."



Oh, for my personal use, the device is just a big iPod Touch. The increased screen size makes it easier (for me anyway) to read magazine and newspaper articles and the larger virtual keyboard is less frustrating to use for inputting small amounts of text. But I've not encountered the killer app that really floats my boat. Unlike my iPod Touch, it won't fit in my shirt pocket or allow discrete "under the table" access to the Internet.

And as a tech director, I am concerned that no one at Apple seems to have a good answer about managing sets of these devices. "The iPad is designed for end-user management" was the rather glib response we received from our local Apple rep. Buying software requires buying an iTunes gift card if one wants to use a PO. No attention that I can find has been given to educational licensing of any "apps" for the thing. Sigh...

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Reader Comments (12)

Great explanation. I haven't played with one but I knew something was bugging me about it and I even knew it was the "consumption" vs. "creation" thing. I just didn't extend it to educational philosophies, which you do nicely here. Ready, fire, aim indeed. I'm definitely in the construction of knowledge camp.


April 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Perhaps the OS4 upgrade promised for the fall will bring enterprise (read school/district) management features, especially over wireless.

April 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeter


All that you say is true.

BUT, there are huge advantages to this device for students with special needs and as a Universal Design for Learning tool. Please see my post at
It's another option for students. There is no one tool (yet) that does it all. And I do not believe there ever will be. Students needs are too unique for just one tool.


April 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Janowski

You bring up some great points about the iPad right now. For schools, the ability to play flash video and the ability to manage multiple devices are essential. I would argue though, that while the iPad may may not be the best tool for creating content, it still has great potential for the classroom because of the many outstanding interactive Apps to support and enrich learning. We are just starting to see the research and impact of the iTouch with struggling learner. I think the instructional purpose should determine the tool -- and no one tool will do it all.. yet.


It can import presentations from Keynote '09 if you have the Keynote app.

Right now I've been playing with mine, trying to figure out its role in the school. I out together a book on the frog life cycle for a kindergarten lesson in Keynote, and that was pretty painless. Actually, it was kind of fun.

One great use of it is when I'm trying to explain something. It's so fast to bring up information or multimedia for a subject, and it rurally shines when I can just hand the iPad to the person. That is something that is plays to the strength of the iPad.

As it's place in the schools? I'm not sold yet, I think an android tablet would be a lot more useful, but who knows how long it will be until we get an Android tablet that is as nice as the iPad.

April 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Collins

I enjoy reading about people who have the ability to compare iPads, iTouches, netbooks, laptops, PCs, Mac Books, etc,......

Some of us would like even one of them in the class.

I've read plenty about Japanese school children writing entire novels on a cellphone. These novels become hugely popular. Don't tell me you can't create on an iPad.

The portability and accessibility trump just about everything in my book. Nobody can make a laptop look graceful as they walk around a classroom/school/playground. You can with an iPad.

My 2 year old finds the iTouch accessible. Not so much with PC. Will the product be perfect? I hope not--what would we have to look forward to? I was amazed that Apple already solved the biggest complaint (multi-tasking).

April 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrandt Schneider

I´m yet to play with one of these, however I would just like to comment that when I was in school we all used Macs, and were even updated to newer ones when they came out - this is not a new thing for Mac to be interested in. I do however see the difference in having desktops in a class room, opposed to each child having their up-to-date ipad, I fail to see much logic in this and worry it would be more of a distraction than anything else.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJacques at Briefgold

Hey Doug,
One concern I have for a school to adopt this so quickly is this - are the staff ready for this?

I would HOPE that with the introduction of the iPad into an entire school, that staff are prepared for this technology and are planning on sustaining the project by saving money textbooks. What kind of training is involved for them? I understand the need to "engage" kids, but I hope that these devices have direct linking to educational learning objectives - in each and every classroom. Staff need adequate training in classroom management, instructional design, and new public education delivery methods to fully utilize these devices to their true academic potential. I have to admit - it sounds intriguing, but I am very skeptical when making decisions like this so quickly.

PS - Tweets on the virtual street are stating that Google is also developing their own version of the ipad. Maybe this will help your Google apps issue?

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen Hegna

I agree the iPad is mainly a consumptive platform, but it IS a big step forward from an ebook reader like a Kindle. For learning, the word we need to emphasize is "commoditization." We need digital learning devices is the hands of ALL learners which do, as you argue Doug, permit content creation as well as sharing... Not just consumption. The iPad has potential there... I am commenting now on my iPad. I love the app Brushes, it is wonderful to have the larger screen for drawing sketches. This is 1st Gen. We need to emphasize purpose, and for students in school today a laptop (even a netbook) offers far more creative power than an iPad at present. That said, I think the creativity of app developers will lead to more ways to create on the iPad, as well as consume media.

I will be much more excited when the OLPC 2012 is released as a tablet for $75, with functionality and apps which far surpass today's 1st Gen iPad. We are taking steps in the right direction with 1:1 learning. We need consumer market share to push down prices so these devices are more affordable as well as more creatively capable.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWesley Fryer

Hi Ninja,

It's funny but the times I've brought the iPad home, I've only watched and read - no writing. I am giving my loaner back to the district after I demo it on Thursday!


Hi Peter,

I realize that I am reviewing a first generation model of both software and hardware. Already I've been reading about programs that allow GoogleDocs to work on the iPad. I do hope the management features are in the works at Apple.


Hi Karen,

Guilty of not thinking in that directions. I've read other reviews that this will be a wonderful adaptive/assistive device. Thanks for the reminder,


Hi Lynne,

Oh, I am sure there will be lots of educational uses. But at this junctiure, I'd argue that a netbook will do a lot more (but of course not everything). As you say, the device should be chosen depending on your educational goals!


Hi Ryan,

I think you helped make my case that this is a great information consumption device, but not a great productivity device. Do we want to support two machines for kids - one on which to make things and one on which to display things?

Thanks for the comment and the information,


Hi Brandt,

I am sure that inventive, driven teachers will discover creative ways of creating content using the iPad. But to me it is a little like driving a nail with a screwdriver - it can be done, but it's not using the tool for the purpose it was designed.

Oh, my grandsons (4 and 8) absolutely love my iPod Touch and I am sure they would be all over the iPad!


Hi Jacques,

The distractive factor of any individual computing device - iPad, cell phone, laptop, etc - is an increasing concern for many teachers. I think they will need to learn to deal with it since I don't see keeping these devices out of the classroom as a long term strategy!


Hi Jen,

Yeah, I thought the same thing about staff dev when I read the Free Press article. It drives me nuts when educators start with a device and then look for a purpose for it rather than start with a problem and then see if technology can help solve it.

I've also read that an Android tablet is coming. It's tricky finding the leading, not the bleeding, edge!


Hi Wes,

A great perspective. I am certain that this platform will evolve quickly over the next few months/years. What I was hoping for (and was disappointed by) was a neat little package that would be a great interface to cloud-based applications like GoogleDocs. (I read already there are 3rd party apps working on smoothing out the iPad/Docs interface.)

Exciting time to be in education!


April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks Doug. Staff development will be a huge part of the program. The iPads go hand and hand with computers. For some content creation you will need a computer. For many classroom applications, research and collaborating the iPad will be a great tool for our students. Much thought was given to what we did. We initially were looking at the iPod touch, but saw the iPad could do all the same things plus much more. The large screen also made a difference. You are not getting the full story of of the planning that went into this, how we are going to train teachers, how they will be used in the classroom from a 2 minute news story. With dedicated, well trained teachers, this program will be successful. Small schools have to take some risks to advance and survive. Our students will be further ahead by using the iPads than they would have been if our District did nothing.

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRon

Hi Ron,

I apologize for leaping to a conclusion that was unwarrented. I am sure much thought went into this. I'd be delighted to host a guest post about the planning that has gone into this implementation.


April 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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