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What the iPad Is and What it Isn’t

September 1, 2013 Featured Carousel, iPad 22 Comments


As teachers are seeing more and more iPads in education and either using their own devices or being given a teacher iPad or a class set, it is important to realize what the iPad is and what it isn’t.
The first realization needs to be that the iPad is not (yet) intended to be a replacement for a laptop. It falls short in several areas when comparing it with a laptop, such as:

  • memory storage
  • ability to allow for easy use of multiple users
  • heavy typing tasks
  • traditional software programs such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc.

With the increased usage of cloud storage, 1:1 programs (where devices are not shared among users), as well as the shift away from specific software programs to web based tools, cloud synched and apps, the iPad’s future seems to be looking brighter as a one-and-only device.

The second understanding educators are embracing is the realization that there is more to iPads than finding and loading many apps to the device. It is not about finding apps as substitutions to worksheets, nor automated “kill and drill” activities to practice multiplication facts or spelling words. Educators are looking to using iPads as a tool for:

  • reading
  • presenting
  • curating
  • creating.

This takes us to the third understanding about the iPad. Originally seen as a device for consumption only, the iPad has grown up and continues to change constantly.  The iPad has become a tool for creation. A tool to personalize learning and for personal learning. It grew from a device to consume information to a thinking tool.

What is and isn’t the iPad for you? Share your thoughts.


Currently there are "22 comments" on this Article:

  1. […] blog post: What the iPad is and What it isn’t- langwitches.org/blog/2013/09/0… What do you think? Where do you see your […]

  2. It seems that the iPad (or other mobile tools) contribute to the transformation of learning spaces. It transforms where learning happens. Ranging from
    - consumption (reading, watching – on the bus, while waiting in line, or moving to different parts of the classroom/school)
    - creating (moviemaking, musicmaking, book publishing, even game design, can happen at the time and space of the inspiration instead of after you return to the office/classroom)
    - connecting (research a question that comes up in conversations – especially learning conversations) (reaching out to ask a friend/neighbor/expert) (sharing your idea/work) no longer has to wait til you go back and log into your computer
    there’s more.. but hopefully these ideas support my idea of what the ipad is for me

  3. […] @techsavvygirl Thank for your thoughtful comment on post: What the iPad is and What it isn’t. langwitches.org/blog/2013/09/0… […]

  4. I am not sure I agree with all that you state in point one.

    1. The iPad has half of the SSD storage of my Macbook Air and the programs for the iPad are much, much smaller, so I have plenty of space for storage of files. In addition, as you state, the use of the cloud helps with file storage if things do get tight.

    2. I use the Apple versions of the “traditional” programs you speak of. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote rock on the iPad, and one can save the files out in the Microsoft Office file formats if needed. And, iMovie for the iPad pretty much does anything a student would need to do.

    3. Heavy typing is not a problem with an external keyboard. Any Bluetooth keyboard will work, even the one that you might already use on your Mac or PC desktop.

    4. I used to say I could do about 95% of what I needed to do on the iPad. And, you are right about the Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. I missed that. However, as of last week, Parallels released Parallels Access for the iPad. It allows you to hook into your Mac or Windows machine, wherever you are, and not control it, but work on ANY program on the desktop and get to your “My Files” or “File Manager” to get that file you forgot to bring. The scrolling, tapping, highlighting, etc. works wonderfully well on the iPad when using the programs on the computer. The programs are full-screen and easy to use, even on the iPad Mini. Everyone I have showed it to is trying it out. There is a trial you can test out, and then there is a yearly subscription fee. I really love it!

    And, in addition to your three points, collaboration with the wonderful collaboration tools on the iPad are important, too, especially when students are doing some type of group creation project.

    • Brian Hutching says:

      What about Chromebooks and the way they can be used? IPads are great little devices but i have real issues with Apple’s ‘walled-garden” approach. The iTunes store is a pain to use and loading any kind of app onto class iPads is a hassle.

  5. Greg Stager says:

    I would also add (or perhaps emphasize) that the iPad is not a silver bullet and should not be used to replace good teaching. I appreciate your second point – we really don’t need $500 worksheets.

    YES – it is fun
    YES – you can create some amazing things

    BUT – if you are going to have students use it in the classroom, make sure the decision is supported by sound instructional design that leads students to your objectives.
    Placing an iPad into the hands of your students will not fix bad design but it can enhance good design.
    Integrate with intention

  6. shelly zavon says:

    @silvia I totally agree with you post. I am finding out quickly that there are still some things that we can’t do on the iPad that are easily done on the laptops. Thank goodness Karin has shown me some ways to deal with certain situations such as using Google Drive in the desktop version on the iPad.

    I hope things are going well for you. We miss you A LOT!

  7. Mailk W says:

    @kathy – you state that the iPad has half the storage of your Macbook Air. I’m assuming that you have a 64GB iPad – correct? That’s $699.00. Add in a $80 case and keyboard combo, and I’m wondering why an iPad beats a laptop for the things we want our students to accomplish?

    The schools I’m in can not afford anything that extravagant, and 16GB models are what they buy. I’ve seen more school buy Chromebooks at $249 and buy many more of those than if they went with iPads. The reality is that money is tight and schools are looking for more bang for their buck. If they can do 2 for the price of one, why not?

    In addition, with any other device, you can have students log in and out of their accounts/profiles. I’d love to see Apple create that one simple thing for iPads, and if so, they’d have a much more useful product. As it stands, iPads feel like single user devices.

    I’d echo Dr. Stager with the call to buy things after we have first looked at how these will be integrated, not because they are shiny.

    • Kathy Schrock says:

      I was simply replying to this blog post of an iPad as a tool and what I felt it could dol. I was not stating it was the best tool for all jobs.

      If you knew my work, you would know that I am a big proponent of the tool that best fits, and often recommend a combination of Chromebooks and iPads/Android tablets for the best of all worlds!

  8. Russell Chan says:

    I agree with much of what you say, but I do think your characterization of apps is an oversimplification. Just recently I started using a service called Balefire Labs (www.BalefireLabs.com) and they have a really rigorous process for evaluating educational apps for kids. By using the service I’ve found some great ones that help me differentiate instruction. Sometimes kids need to learn some specific skill sets before they are ready for the open-ended creation tools.

  9. […] such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc.” To read further please click here:  http://langwitches.org/blog/2013/09/01/what-the-ipad-is-and-what-it-isnt/ […]

  10. […] What the iPad Is and What it Isn’t by @langwitches langwitches.org/blog/2013/09/0… […]

  11. Greg Tatar says:

    I wrote this a year or so ago and never used it… I thought it might help other educators find some perspective on how to balance iPads, laptops and other technology in the classroom. Enjoy!

    Using the iPad when Writing a Research Paper and Never Leaving the Couch

    About two weeks ago I experienced something I have not thought about since college, writing a classic, stereotypical APA research paper. Times have changed since then. The last time I wrote a research paper, I thoroughly remember lugging myself to the local library, using a computer to search for physical documents detailing the topic I chose, and taking the elevator up multiple stories searching endlessly through barren, brown and grey rows of books and academic papers. This time, I honestly wrote the entire thing from my couch at home. Thank you iPad, thank you.

    Now, to be fair, the iPad wasn’t the main change that led to turning my couch into something rivaling your local, everyday college library. The web has grown considerably in the last ten years, and there are online resources that are utterly amazing at delivering researchable content to your fingertips. As a teacher working on Long Island, I have access to our high school’s searchable databases. There is a push towards leaving Google searches out of the equation when researching academically, although it would be naïve to suggest Google is out of the picture completely. I guess libraries have been pushing students towards online databases that process academic research materials while simultaneously focusing on the accuracy and relevancy of their content. This all has to be taken into consideration because the actual iPad is only the access point to these new collections of information.

    I should set up my overall plan of utilizing the iPad while writing the research paper. I’ll start out denying in any way that an iPad alone is an effective tool when writing a research paper. I never assumed that for a moment and knew going in my laptop will be my primary research and writing tool. However, if I was only using my laptop, I am certain that at some point I would have needed to print out a large number of pages containing the research I had found using the previously mentioned online resource. Switching back and forth on my laptop would have been ineffective. Perhaps two monitors could alleviate that problem, but remember… I did not plan on leaving the couch. Enter the iPad. This new, beautiful device was the perfect companion to my laptop while writing and saved at least 150 printed pages from being thrown away at the conclusion of the process.

    Back to the plan. I logged on to my high school’s library web page (I should throw a shout-out to Roslyn High School here), threw some key words into the search engines provided there, and began skimming the ridiculous amount of academic research that came up. Immediately, I realized certain links were more fruitful, and realized I could search solely for downloadable PDF’s. Considering that format is iPad friendly, I knew this was my best bet. Luckily, plenty of content was available in this form. I simply downloaded the PDF’s, saved them directly to my desktop, and renamed them strategically. My research had three main topics, and I literally just saved that as topicone01, topicone02, topictwo01, and so on. Eventually, I had about ten sources for each topic, and I immediately loaded them onto my Dropbox folder. (Be sure to copy and paste them in, as Dropbox folders don’t operate like flash drives, they actually act like folders stored locally. Perhaps there are options you can change to avoid that, but I solely use Dropbox as a convenient bridge linking my laptop to my iPad.)

    At this point I did have to lean over towards my coffee table, place my laptop down and grab my iPad. After powering up and loading the Dropbox app, I found my PDF’s exactly where I expected them. I laid back down and began reading. Anytime I found something I might consider using, I noted the filename and page number, double pressed the home button, switched to my Message app, and recorded the information. In Message, I simply had one note for each topic I was researching, allowing me to have a simple resource to navigate from when I began writing. Eventually, I had reviewed each resource I transferred to Dropbox and was ready to write. For a point of reference, everything I just described took three hours. Obviously, I might have an edge on other researchers out there, especially younger ones, but to be at this point ten years ago I know I would have spent at least 4-8 hours in my campus library. The couch is much more comfortable.

    At this point I began planning and writing my paper. This process was a bit laborious ten years ago, and that fact hasn’t changed. However, it was nice to be able to type on my laptop with my iPad resting comfortably at my side. After reviewing the documents gathered on Dropbox, I knew where I was going with the paper and just wrote. Anytime I needed research, I simply checked with my notes on the Message app, brought up the corresponding PDF’s on Dropbox, found information that supported my arguments, and quoted or paraphrased as necessary. Citing was incredibly easy. APA style only calls for the author’s last name and the date of publication placed in parenthesis after quotes or paraphrased information. This information was readily available at the beginning of most documents, and I didn’t have any serious troubles with documents that did not fit that pattern. Remember, any documents found with the online databases I utilized while researching my topic were scrutinized in some degree by the kind folks who put the information together.

    Eventually, after three days of writing like this for about four hours a day, I had written a solid 22 page research paper. The bibliography was actually simpler than the pain-staking process I remembered ten years ago. Web sites like citationmachine.net simply ask for specific information about the research material in a straight forward manner. Then, after you type in what the web site asks for, it pumps out a citation you can cut and paste into your word processor. I simply read through my document while editing at the same time. Each time I found an APA citation within the paper, I simply searched for it on my iPad using Dropbox. When I found the corresponding document, I searched for the information citationmachine.net asked for and plugged it in. Going back and forth from my laptop to my iPad became a effortless dance of back and forth. It reminded me of flipping through a large stack of physical papers, but I definitely prefer the iPad.

    There were times it would have helped to have two documents open and visible, but I made it work. That would be the only downside I found while using the iPad for this assignment. I am not sure if there is an App out there that allows you to select pertinent information from a PDF, save it in some fashion, and then organize those pieces of information in some intuitive way, but it would have helped. Dropbox is 90% of what a researcher needs for this, but an App that would help in that aspect of organizing research would be extremely helpful.

    Before I conclude, I must insist on making sure people know the iPad will never replace a laptop or desktop computer when writing a research paper. They honestly only replace the physical research that needed to be carted to the check out line at the library or printed out at home. But, if you are experienced at reading digital content, they are a great tool that can streamline this process. And, young people will never have to experience writing a research paper anywhere but the most comfortable place in their homes. Thank you iPad, Thank you.

  12. […] post & comments @langwitches What the iPad is and What it isn’t- langwitches.org/blog/2013/09/0… What do you […]

  13. […] Pennsylvania STAR Lori Sheldon shared What an iPad is and what it isn’t. […]

  14. Diane Evans says:

    Hi folks. I am very interested in this debate. It is the cornerstone of an article that I am researching as a form of action learning after iPads were introduced en masse at the college where I worked and all teachers were told they HAD to use the devices. This caused some resistance simply because of the way it was done, but also from some tech-phobic people who have only just got to grips with Blackboard. We all know that there is a variance in the comfort of teachers using technology of any description.

    I would like to summarise some of your points from the article itself (obviously cited correctly) and from the subsequent comments. Would that be OK? Is anyone out there interested in a virtual interview?

  15. […] langwitches.org […]

  16. […] the weekend we were assigned to read about iPad use in the classroom. These readings were What the iPad Is and What It Is Not and iPads for Learning – Classroom Ideas for Learning with the iPad. These readings gave me […]

  17. […] assignment stems from this article and this article on iPads and discusses how the iPad can be implemented within the classroom. […]

  18. […] blog for learning more about the iPad in the classroom!  I would encourage all to read more at http://langwitches.org/blog/2013/09/01/what-the-ipad-is-and-what-it-isnt/ This blogger is very to the point about what iPads have been used for in the classroom already.  […]

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