Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« BFTP: Why I belong to ISTE | Main | Autonomous education »

Why iPads?

My friend Miguel Guhlin at Around the Corner has done a great job of summarizing many educators' feelings about iPads in school. (Epiphany of Experiences - #iPads in the Classroom, April 17, 2012). He writes:

As I've spent more time on an iPad, I'm continuing to have problems imagining what iPad-shifted instruction would look like. ... In a twitter conversation earlier tonight, I referred to this lack of vision as elusive.

"How can we better articulate what iPads are being purchased to accomplish in schools? It feels so elusive."
For me, this tweet gets to the heart of the problem I'm having with iPads in schools--simply, I don't get it. I want to explore why "I don't get it--iPads in schools" for a simple reason. It's not because I'll be working on an iPad deployment, or because I want to justify the 64gig WiFi iPad I just purchased for my own use as part of my education consulting. It's because a part of me fears that my past experiences with technology are interfering with how I use technology in the present and future. Does that make sense?
Our district is also seeing an influx of i-Pads - through grants and individual building purchases, rather than a planned roll-out. (And you think tech directors are all powerful!) The old, "now that we have it, what the hell do we do with it" song is playing again. At a recent after school, iPad "'Appy Hour", a teacher simply looked at me and said, "Just send me a list of social studies apps." Hmmmmm.

I don't know that the iPad dilemma is unique. The same problems have been endemic in technology implementation - acquiring the shiny things first, and thinking about what to do with them. What I call "Ready, Fire, Aim" deployment. Too many educators don't have sound philosophy educational technology purpose. Period. (Cheap plug: This is a primary reason I wrote my latest book!)
How are iPads really any different than any other computing device? My basic guideline is that you add technology in any form to a classroom environment to:
  • Improve the ability for students to produce, create, and share original work in multiple formats.
  • Facilitate communication, collaboration and sharing of student produced work.
  • Provide access to information on a variety of reading levels and in a variety of formats.
  • Allow skills to be taught in more engaging, interactive ways through games and simulations.
Now, was that so hard, Miguel? You shouldn't fear your past experiences, you should learn from them and apply the lessons. iPads are really just AppleIIs in a smaller, shinier container.


EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (6)

Love your line about buying the shiny things first. That is so true. Ryan Bretag wrote about the same topic yesterday in this post. We can't just buy the devices without providing PD on the best practices in using them. Also, just received a copy of your new book. Can't wait to crack it open!

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCurt Rees

I love my Ipads my students use them daily. You have to buy a few apps that make them into production tools. Yes I could do this on a computer, but honestly it is easier on the Ipad. No transfering data from camera to computer. It is all self contained.

1. use QR codes to go to the author of the week's website (if it isn't in flash)

2. Use QR codes to go to folk tales/public domain stories

3. Use paper and pen to make a double bubble comparing stories, Use Wordpress app to take a picture of double bubble, write a small paragraph comparing the two stories. Post to class blog (I could have them make the double bubble on the ipad there are ways, but my kids love drawing/decorating their thinking maps.

4. Use QR code to go to 5th grade teacher's blog and comment on the weekly picture she puts up. Check back in later to read the 5th grader's responses and answer any questions they had. Oh and their penpals from Rastivic, Russia also comment on the blog.

5. Use QR codes to go to 2nd grade friendly websites about current science/social studies topic and do research.

6. Turn any and all writing into Ibook/ebook that can be shared on our blog.

1. Make movies teaching others how to do X type of computation.

2. Make Ibook of problem solving puzzles for others to solve

3. Various apps that make some drill and kill type thing fun. Because there is a point where they just need to memorize the blasted facts. My 2nd graders were very excited to tell our math specialist how to divide - 4 months before it was offically taught.

4. Have review videos of various concepts available for kids that need a refresher

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

Here, here. I'm all for iPads in school 1:1. What I don't get is the iPad carts trend. Half the point of an iPad is personalization, and carts, by definition, negate that.

On another note..."Applells" ?? : )

April 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeri Hurd

Doug, thank you for putting it all in perspective. You've simplified it so I can understand it! Many thanks! You remind me of the protagonist in favored poem, "The Bridge-Builder." hehe

On a serious note, don't you ever concern yourself with the expenditure of precious funding, money being spent on iPads when an inexpensive netbook will do the job? And, what percentage of those who invest in these device initiatives actually spend time planning them out?

Another point to ponder is the lack of professional learning that accompanies implementation of iPads...simply, the "there's an app for that" strikes at the heart of what educational/instructional technologists do, making the products created with an iPad the equivalent of low-hanging fruit. The iPad becomes the easy tool to use and students/teachers/staff never learn how to do much more than that.

Alas, I can argue against the points I've listed above. That last one reminds me of, "We need to teach them to use a text editor and write code, rather than give them a GUI HTML/CSS editor." Haha. I suppose education will always gravitate to the most expensive, easiest to use technology available, creating scarcity of funding. After all, we could buy Apple //e computers and achieve much of what passes for basic computing skills with those obsolete computers...and save money.

As I move forward into iPad and new technologies, I will refer to your points and try to remember what my mission is--make the purchase of technology excesses seem necessary against the backdrop of an ever-changing world, remind myself and others what the Johnson Survival Guide says.

Seriously, great points. Thank you!

Warm regards,
Miguel Guhlin

BTW, this comment was written on my iPad as I sit at a university waiting for UIL Competition to end. I wouldn't have brought my laptop, and the netbook adapter would have been too much. The iPad...well, book-consumption, media-viewing, creativity device. haha

April 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiguel Guhlin

That poster is definitely me ... if I were a man, lived in Roman Times, was incredibly fit, and spoke with an Australian accent. As always - your posts get me thinking. Here is my take on things:

Why iPads? Hard to pin down.

April 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie Henry

Hi Curt,

Sorry about the delayed reply. Two conferences and a weekend with grandsons!

Thanks for the link to Ryan's blog. I think we ALL know this about planning and tech, but there is so little actually done. My sense is that the aggressive marketing by Apple and others is partially responsible. I know my hand moves toward my wallet each time Apple releases a new, shiny thing!

Thanks again for the comment,


Hi Kimberly,

Fantastic ideas and uses.

My questions is: which came first - the device or the educational use for the device? Could you have gotten a new technology and found it had no value at all?


Hi Jacquie,

Great post. Thanks for the link.

Your perception of the iPad and iPhone's size leading to different amounts of sharing is dead-on, now that I think about it.

Hey, and I've said "hi" to a lot of people who were talking to someone on their phones. Of course, my favorite is the crazy looking people talking to nobody - until you see the bluetooth headsets!


Hi Jeri,

If the IT department has a control mindset, these devices need to be managed and management requires a cart. I'd rather see the personalization, but not every school can do 1:1.

Apple II computers? You are too young, I expect to remember them. My first.


Hi Miguel,

My response to this great comment got it's own entry.

Congrats on the new job. I loved the pictures of the going-away party on your blog. It looks like you will be sincerely missed.


April 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>