I have just seen a demonstration Science lesson in a grade 7 class in which iPads were used most successfully. I have to own up to my prejudices here. I am an iPad sceptic. I am not convinced that iPads are the way to go in terms of 1:1 programmes. I cannot for the life of me see why an iPad would be preferrable to a netbook, for example.
The lesson I watched was all about the digestive system, and it used an app called Organs which combines graphics, text, sound and video files, as well as interactive quizzes. The students worked enthusiastically, and stuck to the task, which was to use the information learned from the app, to prepare a presentation on the digestive system. They were reluctant to leave when the period ended, even though all they had really done was to “digest” a great deal of information, potentially a very dry task. The iPad clearly scored high marks for engaging the students.
I wonder, though, to what extent it will continue to do so as the novelty wears thin. I did not really see anything on the app itself, which could not have been accomplished on a laptop connected to the Internet. Indeed, once the task shifted to preparing the presentation, which I was not able to watch, I have a feeling that the advantage of the laptop would have been pronounced.
Although I am a sceptic, I do want to give the iPad, and any other tablet, a chance to prove itself. It is an extremely sexy machine, with a great deal of appeal. But ultimately it is the app in appeal that will determine whether the iPad earns a place in our schools or not. Its price will have to come down too. The iPad does not seem to be a very good contender when it comes to enabling digital authoring. This may change, and I hear that students can become very fast typists on the iPad. But as things stand I have to say that no matter how engaging they are, they just lack the power to create content, and schools need devices which encourage creating rather than simply accessing content.