Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Case Against iPads

A couple of years ago, my middle school was bitten by the iPad bug.  This was still considered to be the "Dark Ages" for 1:1 technology, so this announcement was made with promises of being "innovative", "cutting edge", and "one of the first".  As promised, my school was among the first in the state to adopt a 1:1 initiative.  However, now that other schools are beginning to catch up and making important technology decisions, I would like to dedicate this post to making the case against iPads.

No (Adobe) Flash: My biggest complaint about the iPad is its limitations to access educational websites.  iPads are equipped to access HTML 5 websites.  While Apple feels that this is a noble cause against the "propriety" Flash, many free websites have not made the investment to switch over, thus making them inaccessible to students with iPads.  So, the readwritethink interactives (  that would help my students organize their writing?  We'll stick to paper and pencil for now.  My plan to have the students independently practice plot elements through Annenberg Learner (  That was scrapped in favor of a whole-class activity (helpful, by not personalized).  Even the course online textbook, which includes features such as background videos and audio is useless for the time being.

No Keyboards: Prior to receiving implementing this initiative, we received training by certified Apple educators.  I brought up the issue of students typing long essays without a keyboard.  Many other teachers nodded in agreement.  The trainer's response?  I must be "old" (disclosure: I am in my early thirties) because "kids love typing on their phones and their love for texting will transfer to iPads."  Well, my students do love to text, but this does not mean that they love tapping out a five-paragraph essay on an iPad.  While some students will complete longer assignments electronically, most take the paper option.

No File Management System: Since I brought up the issue of typing assignments, I should mention the lack of a file management system.  Prior to this year, students would complete assignments via Google Drive and share or e-mail them to me.  While this helped make them proficient with Google Drive, it was a task on my end to keep everything organized once it landed in my inbox, especially since I back up all of my work files to my Google Drive.  My attempt to organize student work by setting up a DropItToMe account through Dropbox (  was hijacked by the lack of a file management system meaning that students could not upload files.  My workaround for this year has been MobyMax (, which not only allows me to set up writing assignments, but also allows students to practice critical math, language, and reading skills (for $79 a year).

Management:  Each class at my school has an iPad cart that holds 30 iPads.  Each of the carts is assigned a MacBook, which is used to install apps and other controls (such as restricting iTunes and the camera).  While the process seems simple, I've actually spent hours setting up a cart of iPads.  The efforts are worth it until the students figure out how to reset their iPads and install the apps they want.

Apps=$: Part of what makes the iPads so difficult to use is that fact that after purchasing the iPads, my school did not allocate any money for apps.  Although schools do get a discount on bulk purchases of apps, there is still a cost factor involved (at my school, it's the cost of the app x 1,000).  Yes, there are free apps, but many of the apps that make the iPad functional (ex: Pages, Notes, iMovie) come at an additional cost.  Keep this in mind when creating a technology budget.

Middle Schoolers vs Gorilla Glass: While iPads look pretty, they are not particularly durable without a heavy-duty case.  Like apps, this will be an additional cost ($50-$80 per iPad) to factor into your budget.

As far as alternatives to the iPad, I highly recommend Google's Chromebook, especially if your school is already affiliated with Gmail.  These devices are gateways to the Internet and are half the cost of iPads without the limitations.  If your school is set on tablets, check out Andriod-based tablets (such as the Nexus One) as while they lack a keyboard, they will allow you to access Flash-based sites.

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