My school is looking at iPads. When I say looking, I mean people are trying to order them in huge amounts. We have a few iPads, many MACS, OS X server, etc. I am not new to Apple, Apple Networking, or large scale deployment. So when I ask the same questions about iPads, that I ask about everything else that would be a large scale deployment, I feel like I am being responsible and doing my job.
However, when I ask bring-up all the iPad issues, I do not really get constructive feedback. In fact people just are not concerned. The normal stance they take is that iPads are the best thing ever made, and if we do not have them then we are doing something wrong.
The issues we have are pretty serious, because we are not doing a 1-to-1 implementation where students own the device. We currently do not qualify for volume licensing of apps which is a huge problem. Our budget policy requires us to itemize software which is also very difficult to do because new apps will come out on a regular basis and people will want them immediately. So we need to not only find a method to pay for large numbers or apps, but we need to change our software budgeting policy so that we can create an “app slush-fund”.
This all sounds easy, but this is not something that one person can do. The process has to be reviewed and approved by procurement, accounting, and all divisional administration.
This is only part of the software problem and just a fraction of the overall challenges. Other issues include:
- iPads being deployed for use outside away from the building, but needing to be on high-speed wifi at all time.
- iPads being stored and charged.
- iPads being sync’d with or without carts.
- iPads being shared and the data stored in the cloud.
All of these issues have to be solved before we can unleash 300-500 iPads upon the campus. The lack of concern makes me wonder about the true motivation behind wanting iPads. Part of me thinks it is because they are inspiring; yet another part of me thinks it is because iPads are a really good way to occupy students and manage their behavior (aka baby-sitting).
The sudden NEED for iPads is the most frightening part. I hate seeing teachers who have been doing really great work start to doubt their practice because they do not have a very specific tool, which was never part of their previous practice.
I can think of many things iPads cannot do well. I have an iPad and rarely use it for creating things. I am not talking about creating office documents. I mean programming, video production, audio editing, making websites, etc. I build and make many things.
I would hope the goal for students is to also have them create more than they consume. Interacting with games or quizes is great, but making games and quizes is much better. Using software to assess your physical patterns, such as taking 3-point shots in basketball, is powerful. However, you cannot improve shooting without taking hundreds of shots in contested and uncontested situations.
I do not believe having some additional IT based assessment takes the place of trial-and-error, feedback, and the discipline derived from doing revision. iPads may help students become interested in assessing themselves or working on something they normally would try to avoid. However, if the students need to step-up the difficulty to achieve something the iPad cannot facilitate, will they immediately be turned-off and attempt to revert to shallower waters?
All of these questions and speculations should be part of a healthy discussion around any technology. However, the craving for the iPad seems to replace reason with some sort of
mystical belief that the iPad will some how solve problems that are stemming from other sources. This makes me reflect on something St. Thomas Aquinas said,”Beware the man of a single book.” And that is enough said.