iPads in the Classroom? (by Guest Blogger Austin Brittain)

Read more about the author here. This post is based on the community work and writing that the author has been doing in WR 122 at Portland Community College.  The piece of public writing is loosely based on a research question and research collection the author developed.  The public writing is a chance to use one’s writing to become part of the larger community dialogue about issues in the chosen theme.

AustinBlogPictureThe Public Writing: A New Blog

iClassroom: iPads as a Teaching Tool (sample post)

 While it is impossible to deny the importance of technology in modern society from personal computers to Global Positioning Systems, what about the use of this technology in the classroom? The first computers have been around since the 1940’s and they began to enter schools in the 1960’s, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that they were present in the classroom. Computers have come a long way since their introduction into society, starting as a room-sized machine and transforming into a piece of electronic equipment capable of being stored on a small desk or even in a person’s pocket. While the computer has taken many forms over the years one of the latest types of computer is slightly different; the iPad is one of Apple’s latest inventions. This personal touch-screen computer holds more computing power than all of NASA in the 1960’s (Computing Power).

“Sounds like a great invention to me, what’s the catch?” Well, like any product there are pros and cons to the iPad and even more to consider when using it within a classroom setting. We’ll start with the cons, one of which is a universal flaw for all touch-screen devices; the screen itself is rather fragile and can’t handle too much rough housing. With adults this isn’t as big of a concern because they tend to be more careful with expensive electronics, but when it comes to children they can be a little careless and of course, accidents happen. One wrong move and this $400 hand-held computer has a shattered screen and is essentially useless. With that being said, only using this technology in a middle or high school setting could eliminate some of this concern.

Another aspect of the iPad to consider is the price-point. One major factor contributing to the price is the devices memory; they have 16, 32 and 64 GB options ranging from around $300-$1000.  Most desk-top computers fall within the same price range, making it seem silly to replace a fully-functioning pc with a tin-can of a computer that can break so easily. With the nationwide budget cuts this is probably the most prominent cause for schools to hold off on integrating iPads in the classroom.

While it seems there are not too many negative aspects to the iPad, they are rather major to consider. However, there are lots of good things about utilizing the iPad in an academic setting. One of the awesome things about this tablet is the instantaneous access to millions of applications ranging from games to books, GPS’s to astronomical maps of the night sky; these can be used in pretty much any classroom from mathematics to art. It is true that computers can also have applications, but most of them must be purchased in an electronic store in the form of a cd. These hard-copy discs vary greatly in price, but most are around the $40, conversely most applications tend to be less than $10, with many of them around the $2 mark.

Another great aspect of the iPad is the fact it is portable and light-weight. “But that sounds like a laptop, they already use those in schools.” This is true, but laptops require a wireless internet connection, while the iPad has internet built into it. Meaning, the iPad is truly mobile and can even be taken outside of the range of the school’s wireless connection. The possibilities are endless as to how this could be used, but it seems like this would be a great addition on a class fieldtrip. For instance, on a trip to the art museum a teacher could use the iPad as a sort of tour guide, providing a source of endless information related to the artists represented in the museum.

After considering some of the major pros and cons I conclude that the educational value of the iPad is pretty high, however, I don’t think desktop computers could ever be fully replaced by tablets. They are great supplemental tools to use within the classroom, but not a solid choice when it comes to daily educational tasks. With that being said I don’t see their wide integration into school systems happening anytime soon, but they are still an option when considering alternative educational techniques.

The Research Question & Collection

AustinBlogPicture2Over the past few months I have been volunteering with kindergarten and first graders at a private elementary school in my hometown. It has been quite a learning experience for me and I’ve taken a lot of good information out of it. My volunteer work has inspired me to research more about the different teaching techniques and tools available to teachers. Through this blog I am going to document my findings and hopefully help others out too! My research collection is my starting point for the topics I want to explore further and are good resources for facts I can strengthen my blog with. The first article in my collection is what inspired my first topic, discussing the use of iPads in the classroom.

Research Collection:

SANGHA, SONI. “Born to Wait.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/nyregion/for-new-york-city-parents-a-waiting-list-for-nearly-everything.html?ref=education&_r=0&gt;.

This first article I read is about how children in big cities without a ton of funding, like the Bronx, are becoming less and less active in their school communities. This lack of participation is due to a large population density in these areas and a disproportionate spread of wealth. This is a good source because it is a very reputable publishing company. I think this is related to the parental aspect of my research question and how important after school activities are to growing children. I would use this information to help stress how crucial it is to take advantage of the academic and extra-curricular opportunities available in your region.

Danner, John. “A Bold Vision of Online Learning.” Huffington Post (blog). N.p., 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-danner/ted-prize-sugata-mitra_b_2790055.html&gt;.

In this article the author talks about the 2013 winner of the Technology, Entertainment, Design award, (TED) award and his work in the slums of India. It describes an instance of children being left alone with a computer and within an hour they figured out how to get online and learn using the computer. This was a very different approach to the classical in-class learning style when the author speaks of the winner’s (Professor Sugata Mitra) claim that technology is the way of the future in regards to teaching the public on a larger scale. This publication, the Huffington Post, is a credible source and would be good to get more information on a variety of topics.

Hickman, Rose. “Sex in the classroom: Rose Hickman gets to grips with gender.” English Teaching Professional 69 (2010): 4+. Educators Reference Complete. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

Document URL

This article was very interesting exploring a different side to the “learner types” that are out there, with a focus on the potential differences among the sexes. Within this subject the article discusses stereotyping and gender roles in the classroom and how this can affect the learning experience of different students. I found this article on one of the PCC databases and searched under academic articles so it should be a fairly reliable source.

Lesley, John W. “In search of autonomy: multimedia’s influence.” Distance Learning 5.2 (2008): 87+. Educators Reference Complete. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

Document URL

This is another article I found on the PCC database searching under the parameters of academic articles so it should be a reputable source. In this particular article it explores concepts of distance learning and autonomous learners, so naturally I was interested in it (being an online learner myself). It discusses how multimedia resources can greatly enhance the experience of students in distant learning course. While it also states that multimedia can be useful for all types of learners, it stresses the effects it has on these autonomous learners.

“More Computing Power than NASA.” Your Car Has More Computing Power than the System That Guided Apollo Astronauts to the Moon | Posters | Physics.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2013. <http://www.physics.org/facts/apollo-really.asp&gt;.

This article talks about how modern day computers (in cars) have more computing power than NASA. While I used this information in a slightly different way, assuming that the computing power of a pc is greater than that of a cars. I’ve heard the same information about a smartphone having more computing power as well, so this seems to be a fairly reasonable assumption. Also, I couldn’t find an author or date of publication for this article.

“History of Computers in Education.” History of Computers in Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2013. <http://www.csulb.edu/~murdock/histofcs.html&gt;.

This was a timeline of the history of the computer; it had some pretty straight forward facts regarding major events that contributed to the modern day computer. Again, I couldn’t find an author of date of publication for this one.



  1. Shawna Friend

    Hi Austin,
    I enjoyed reading your blog. I love the fact you addressed the pros and cons of the iPads! You are a great writer and the blog flows very well. The fact about how long computers have been around and when they were first introduced into school was interesting. After reading your blog, I was left with some questions I thought might be good to touch basis on if you continue your blog. Do you know how many schools are currently using I pads and what the grade level is? Also, do you know where the money comes from to purchase these expensive devices? I ask this question for a couple of reasons. I myself have two kids currently in school. One is in first grade, while the other is in sixth grade. Both of my kid’s use iPads in school, my kids tells me they really enjoy when it’s iPad time. Both of the schools only use them during math clad. As a parent,, the frustrating part for me was to learn they have ipads in school, but they do not allow the sixth graders to participate in sports, due to budget cuts. I personally would rather see the funds go to sports for kids, then iPads, but that is just my opinion.
    Thank you for your insight on technology and iPads in school. Again, you are a great writer and I don’t have any area I can see that need improvement. Take care.

  2. Valerie C.

    I liked your paper and have enjoyed reading your writing over the semester. My son has Ipads in their school but not very many of them because of the high cost. The students have to share and Ipad which isn’t that big of a problem but it is a little distracting having to wait your turn.
    Ipads and laptops both have their pros and cons but if I were to choose I would go with a laptop. They are less expensive than an Ipad students wouldn’t have to wait to share and since 99.9% of the time the are going to be used in only the school there is no need to worry about wireless connection or built in. Considering the cost of the Ipad I don’t see them ever leaving the school on a field trip, to much chance of them getting broken or stolen.
    Good luck with your ongoing studies at PCC.

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