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Editorial: The iPad and Education, A Truly Revolutionary Concept

Adam Shear

The times are a changing and while technology advances, education for the most part remains the same.  Technology has always helped students learn in new ways and expand what can actually be done in the classroom.  Computers have been a revolution for the classroom in so many ways but there is one product that can do so much more than a stationary desktop.  The tablet PC is very new and leaders in education are only starting to tap into what this powerful device can do.  As a pilot program or as a device specifically assigned to each student, the tablet might be the most significant revolution to the classroom ever.

What makes a tablet different from a computer is its size and purpose.  This is a computer the size of a book.  Its large screen makes it a more personal device than a PC.  The fact that you can hold it up to your face makes a tablet the best device available for reading, web browsing and consuming media.  It has all of the functions of a PC in a smaller package.  While I believe most tablets currently available can play a major role in the classroom, my article will focus specifically on the iPad.  Not only does the iPad represent 75% of the entire tablet market, but every state in the country has at least one iPad pilot program for various schools, hospitals, and universities.  Students of all ages are being introduced to this new gadget and from what I have heard, the results have been nothing short of spectacular.

Being as this is my opinion, I will make up my own scenarios for how the tablet can be used in the classroom with the stories I’ve already heard as inspiration.  The iPad has tons of great features on board.  One can use the iPad immediately in a classroom to search the web, take notes, shoot a video, or use some of the great applications in the App Store to assist with their work.  iPads can work really well in pilot programs where they are given to students specifically during their class time.  The iPad can be used for special projects and be used in settings where lots of computers need to be available.  Projects that could only be done in a computer lab can now be done in a traditional classroom with a Wi-Fi connection being the only thing required.  The iPad is so thin and light that bringing a large quantity of them from one classroom to another is not a giant hassle .  The ability for students to send their work to their personal email accounts or cloud drives, just like on a school computer, is another huge advantage.

Having a pilot program would also mean that the schools can be in control of what applications are on the device as well as what students do with it.  Schools can set parental controls to prevent students from deleting any app on the iPads as well as purchasing new ones.  If an iPad ever gets lost, Apple’s built in Find my iPad feature will allow the school to track a stolen iPad if it is in use to find its exact location.  Schools would definitely be interested in getting as many applications as they can to assist students.  The iWork apps such as Pages, Keynote, and Numbers as well as Docs to Go bring the powerful office applications from a computer to a tablet.  Students can make Word documents, slideshows, and spreadsheets right on the device with very easy to use interfaces.  iMovie could help students involved in broadcasting or filmmaking classes.  Not only can they shoot their own footage on an iPad, they can edit it and share it too.  Musicians will love Garageband as they can record themselves playing, listen to their performance, edit it, and share it with their classmates or teacher.  iBooks is also great as it allows students to save PDF files to read on the device so teachers can post an assignment on a website and have students download it from the iPad.  From world maps to periodic tables, the amount of apps that can help students are growing each day.  If a school had the resources or a computer science class they can exploit, a school could create their own iPad apps which can be distributed only on the school’s iPad or even the App Store if they choose so anyone in the world can download it.  Apps tailored to specific classes could make all the difference.  Anything from assignments, collaborating with classmates, and more can be done.  The possibilities are truly just endless.

The iPad works great in a pilot program but what if each student had their own personal iPad?  The dominance of an iPad in a school could possibly mean the end of books as we know them, physical books that is.  Instead of buying huge, heavy, expensive textbooks, students can buy cheaper digital versions of textbooks on the iPad via the iBooks Store, a specially designed application, or on the web as a PDF file.  This means students will have all of their books in one place, never forcing students to break their back with heavy books again.  The iPad also has a notes app which allows students to write notes on their iPad and save them on multiple devices at once via the cloud.  From word processing to printing, the iPad does everything a school could ask of a student’s own computer.  Like I had said previously, the possibilities are truly endless.

The iPad is a device that can truly revolutionize the way students learn.  Schools across the world are only beginning to take advantage of this tablet.  In the future, I can easily see tablets replacing computers.  Its ability to revolutionize education will be one of the main reasons why.  The iPad is the only device students really need to get a great education with all of their notes, books, and projects synced to a this very portable device and stored in the cloud to be accessible on any other device they may have.  Just as what had been said about computers and education 20-25 years ago, the possibilities for tablets like the iPad to revolutionize education are completely endless and will allow for currently unimaginable learning experiences.