Should iPads be encouraged in schools?
TVNZ reports that “from next year, all year nine students at Orewa College must have their own notebook or laptop, and the school is strongly recommending it be a top of the range iPad 2, which sells for around $800”. The school principal, Kate Shevland, wrote to parents of year 9 students, explaining that “what we want is one to one access to technology, access to the internet as needed, when needed,” and that the school couldn’t afford to provide that without help from parents. Shevland believes that most schools will require the purchase of an iPad or similar device in five years time. The story has also been covered by TV3 News, Campbell Live, and Stuff.co.nz.
This morning, Kathryn Ryan interviewed Dr David Parsons, a senior lecturer in information technology at Massey University, about the issue on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon. He is largely supportive of the development, noting that it is about supporting learning and not about the technology. Although he acknowledges that cost is an issue, he argues that the tablet devices are a sensible option because of their robust construction, long battery life, and the lack of a vertical screen, which can be a barrier in the classroom. He believes the iPad is a good choice because of its ease of use, seamless integration, and variety of educational applications. Kathryn Ryan made some good points, and she questioned the wisdom of jumping on the Apple bandwagon. One issue is the control that Apple maintains in its easy-to-use but restricted approach to the software that can be run on its iPad and other mobile devices. Some refer to this as the “Walled Garden Problem,” which has been discussed in recent blog posts by Douglas McLennan, Mike Schramm and Mathew Ingram
A related story by the Associated Press reports that South Korea is moving to replace paper books with digital texts in their schools, with a US$2 billion investment in a digital scholastic network. South Korea hopes to take advantage of its position as one of the most wired countries in the world with fast wireless speeds, a high uptake of broadband connections, and a generation of young, technology savvy students.