The afternoon Apple launched the iPad, my cell phone lit up. It was a text from one of my fellow technology facilitator in our district. She wanted to know what I thought about the device. I replied with a text smiley face.
Then my Assistant Superintendent called. The topic was no surprise. You guessed it- iPad.The question was one that caught me scratching my head- “could we possibly implement iPads in place of netbooks in an upcoming 1:1 learning program”. I had to give this device some time for my mind to wrap around the idea. The key to making the choice is to have a firm understanding of the purpose of digital technology in our schools.
Much has been written about skills and the future. In my school, it is all about empowering the students to learn how to learn and prepare them to be successful in college.Teachers regularly have to figure out why their PC desktop computer is running incredibly slowly, or why it won’t print, or any of the million other random things that happen when people who don’t live and breathe computers sit down at one daily. The iPad offers iPod Touch/iPhone-like functionality. The Apple software titles (iWorks) used to create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets work on the iPad. Reading emails from parents, students, and administrators appears to be clean and intuitive.
Netbooks and laptops have many more features. I like this comparison chart posted on Gizmodo.com This chart compares just the “slate” devices like iPad. I think the iPad will kill the netbook for classroom usage. I know it does not have a webcam, but I have hundreds of students using MacBooks that have not used its built in camera. They have cell phones with cameras and can send photos from their phones to the iPad via Bluetooth (assuming their phone’s bluetooth is supported by the iPad). The iPad has a microphone so students could record podcasts. This is one strategy I would like to test using an iPad. Ok, so why would we not pick the netbook over the iPad you ask?
First: Keys. Replacing keys caps on several carts of Dell laptops impacted my option of I discovered that students have a passion for popping off keyboard key caps. The touchscreen keyboard makes it a little harder to steal key caps.
Second: the screen. The crystal clear iPad screen is perfect for viewing videos from Discovery Streaming and the photos available from that service. The iPad screen is full color, multi-touch screen, gestures, and more. It’s a pleasure to look at it – and we all can rely on Steve Jobs’ aesthetics to know that it’s a pleasure to hold as well.
Third: Battery life. 10 hours is longer than most school days. I am not going to say that netbooks are not computers. The last time I tweeted about netbooks, it apparently made some Twitters mad. They quickly pointed out that not everyone could afford a Lenovo or MacBook. The tweeter-flames came from all directions.
I am not going to say the iPad is the best thing since “sliced bread”. All I know is that high school students in a 1:1 learning initiative would love the social networking apps, they know about the iTunes Store, and want to play video games. Both the netbook and iPad accomplish all of these.
So, bottom line- I still do not know which is device will win in a duel for the hearts and minds of teachers and students. I see both the slates and netbooks workable devices for the classroom. I know how I would determine which to use in a 1:1 program. Assign a netbook and an iPad to two 7th grade students. Have you ever seen a netbook or laptop that has been the victim of a cola spilled in the keyboard. I have had two laptops try to survive the rages of pizza and sudden onset of H1N1. Oh my, I just can’t explain how much I hated putting those laptops in the discard bin. After experiencing that- give me anything but computers with keyboards.
I challenge any of you to pick a netbook or any laptop over a touchscreen device after trying to salvage what I could.