The iPad is the most popular tablet option among educators. Apple sold 4.5 million of them to schools and other educational institutions nationwide last year (it sold 8 million internationally), up from 1.5 million in 2011.
Tablets are reinventing how students access and interact with educational material, and how teachers assess and monitor students’ performance. Millions of schools (including university students) worldwide are using iPads to visualize difficult concepts, revisit lectures on their own time and make lessons engaging with videos, interactive widgets and animations.
Tablet-based learning is no longer the niche it was a year or two ago when we saw a handful of early adopters in iPad pilot studies jump on board in selected grades and classrooms. Schools and teachers are embracing the technology in a big way. A Pew study of 2,462 Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers nationwide found that 43% have students complete assignments using tablets in the classroom. A PBS LearningMedia study found 35% of K-12 teachers surveyed nationwide have a tablet or e-reader in their classroom. This is up from 20 percent a year ago.
Tablets have proven especially popular in elementary education, and they’ve been a “revolution” for kids younger than 8 because they’re fun and intuitive, said Sara DeWitt, Vice President at PBS KIDS Digital. The taps and swipes are easy to learn, so kids spend more time learning their lessons and staying focused.
“The iPad has given us an opportunity to make technology transparent,” she said. “The touchscreen interface is so much more natural than a mouse and keyboard, kids can jump right in.”
Although, she enforces that there’s more to using a tablet in the classroom than handing them out at the door.
“How tablets are integrated into classrooms is key to success,” Severns said. “Planning, preparation, implementation and evaluating apps are key to using this new technology.” While adoption is broad, the ways educators are using them varies from class to class, school to district. Teachers and school district administrators must decide how to best integrate them into the curriculum, considering things like the number of tablets per classroom, which grades receive them first, what content is accessed, and when.
Still, it can be easier or more beneficial, particularly in K-12 classrooms, for teachers to just round up a collection of dedicated apps (there are more than 75,000 education related apps in the App Store) for students to use. There, tablets are often supplementary rather than being used for the bulk of coursework, so a full blown iPad-based course (like with iTunes U) isn’t necessary. Tablet time is often a reward, where students will get to play a game that isn’t just fun, it’s building on skills and concepts they’re focusing on in class. iOS has built-in controls that can let teachers lock an iPad into a single app and place restrictions on functions like browser access to ensure kids are learning, and not goofing off.
Third party apps are also beneficial to have. Some apps exist that integrate into the iPad and allow students to ask questions to one another and the teacher, something Severns said is absolutely necessary to ensure everyone understand the information.
We are soon approaching the day that children will begin using an iPad as early as elementary school and than be required to own one for when they transition to college.
The one thing that often goes unmentioned with the initial purchase of iPads, whether it is the school’s responsibility or the parents, is the cost of repairs. Protect IT Protection Plan offers a discount to schools who purchase Protect IT Plans in bulk to ensure their cost of repairs for such a high amount of iPads. If you are an educator or a parent who would like to save money each time an iPad has a cracked screen, you can check out their plans here.