Fraser Speirs, an influential Mac developer and a technology director at a Scottish school, recently wrote in his blog speirs.org that “the iPad is not the future of education. It’s the present of education.” Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is promoting the use of iPads in schools, says his company believes that the tablet can “change the way teachers teach and the way kids learn.”
If they are to be believed, the iOS operating system used by both the iPad and the iPhone has the potential to usher in a post-PC technology future for schools that could change the working lives of teachers.
Technology support staff in schools would find their loads lighter with the adoption of iPads, since tablet computers require less additional investment in infrastructure or software and have fewer maintenance problems. No virus protection is required. Schools do not need to purchase expensive and complicated software because there are small, mostly free or inexpensive applications (apps) that allow teachers and other educators to do more than they ever dreamed of doing on their laptops or desktop computers.
Because the iOS provides cloud-computing services, there is little need for local storage. That means there are no hard drives to maintain locally. Software updates come across a Wi-Fi network; therefore, you can add, delete and change information across the network no matter what Wi-Fi-connected device you use. For instance, if your school uses JupiterGrades, a Web-based gradebook, you can enter student information from desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones no matter where you are.
Because it is easy to use, first-time iPad users quickly grasp how to navigate across the screen. The tablets are light and portable, unencumbered by keyboard or mouse or tangles of cables. On a full charge, battery power lasts about 10 hours.
The iPad changes the way we think about personal computing. PCs traditionally are “input” devices, while the iPad serves primarily as an “output” device or portable media player for music, TV, movies, games, books, presentations and Web content. But the potential of the iPad in the classroom is unlocked through the more than 500,000 apps available.
(A version of this piece first appeared in the New York Teacher )