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On opening day I stood in line at my nearest Apple Store for the release of the iPad. Sure, I was anxious to experience the latest and greatest from Cupertino, but I also wanted to test its capabilities in the classroom. For the past two weeks I have been evaluating the iPad’s capabilities in my seventh grade English class. I am excited to share my thoughts on having An iPad in Every Classroom from the perspective of a teacher.

•Where does the iPad fit in education? •Can it replace a laptop? •How can teachers use it for instruction? •How can students use it to learn? •What are its strengths? •What improvements are needed? •Should Every classroom have an iPad?

First and foremost, the iPad is a great addition to any classroom. My evaluation will share positives and negatives, so I want to be very clear from the outset that the iPad is GREAT for education. I began encouraging the use of an iPod in every classroom back in 2001. Now, nine years later, we are very near the embodiment of what I have been dreaming about having in my classroom. While the iPad is a great instrument from which to teach in learn, this first generation does have some drawbacks. Here are my observations from the first eight days in the classroom using the iPad:

Fast and Easy to Use: When I passed my iPad around the room there was absolutely no instruction needed. Every student just “knew” how to use it. Every app opens flawlessly and fast. I know teaching I get frustrated with computer problems: slow systems,applications not working, saving students work, and lots of questions on how to fix a problem or navigate through something. All of that is gone with the iPad. It’s “ON” instantly, and the apps open just as fast. No waiting. There is also no saving. When you leave and application everything is automatically saved. I love the simplicity and speed. It’s fast!

Great Content Viewer: The iPad is an incredible device for viewing content. It really is a fabulous way to experience the web, watch videos, read books, and take content in for learning. Being roughly the size of a notebook piece of paper it is perfect for the hands and eyes. The screen is just absolutely brilliant. I found it light in my hands, contrary to some other reports, and my students found it easy to hold as well.

The Best eReader Available: I have read books on a Kindle, on my computer, and even on my iPhone and iPod Touch. None of them compare to the experience of reading an iBook on the iPod. Again, it’s perfect size and weight, right colors, ease of use, and especially the simulated page turning graphics, make it a joy to use for reading. The book store and shelf for organizing the books is also simple and elegant. I was happy to see books price between $9.99 and $12.99. That is much less than what I have been paying for new books, and the iPad can store them all! You can sample a book before buying it, which is really nice by downloading a brief selection to read. You will be surprised at how many great free books there are as well! I love the iBook. Perhaps my favorite app on the iPad.

Podcasting on the iPad is Awesome: Podcasting just got the ultimate upgrade. If you read my posts or follow my presentations you know how important creating and sharing podcasts are to my classroom. The iPad, being a full-fledge iPod does all that the other iPods did, but IT HAS A BUILT IN MICROPHONE! I receive emails each week from people asking me to recommend microphones for iPods for podcasting. The screen is huge and beautiful. If you have a big collection of podcasts, audio books, music, and more, you can now input text with the touch-screen keypad to search rather than scrolling around looking for what you want. The iPad has a nice sounding speaker for playback and you can of course plug in your headphones. The iPad syncs with your iTunes for storage and transfer. While the iPad does not yet have multitasking (OS 4.0 in the Fall should remedy that) you can play your music or more importantly a podcast while running apps. For instance, a student could listen to the podcast of a test while reading the test in Pages and typing the questions. Lots of possibilities for new ways to Podcast. The iPad is now the king for podcasting in your classroom.

Typing on the iPad is not a ‘Dream': Steve Jobs is quoted to have said, “typing on the iPad is a dream.” Well, in truth, it is not a dream, in fact it can be quite frustrating. I love my Apple products, and Steve Jobs is amazing, but typing on the iPad is frustrating. I am two weeks in, and it is still work to type anything of length. The screen is a nice size, and it certainly is better than pecking at the tiny iPhone or Touch screen, but I hit a lot of wrong letters. Sometimes the spell-check/word completion does a good job finishing what I start, and sometimes it is way off the mark. I have typed letters and lesson plans on both Pages and Keynote, and have found syncing my Apple wireless keyboard to be a breeze to do, and a much easier way to type at length. Once you enable the bluetooth keyboard you lose your onscreen typing, so remember to turn it off in Settings when you pack up. I will be purchasing the keyboard dock, $69, soon to leave at home, and I’ll use my non-docking wireless at school. I won’t describe typing on the iPad as bad. But it isn’t fast and smooth like a keyboard. If you are going to have students write papers, you will need a physical keyboard.

An Entire School Day on a Single Charge: The battery life on the iPad is amazing. I use it all day for every possibility and it just keeps going. Great battery life.

The iPad is Not a Laptop: I so wanted the iPad to be the solution to the inexpensive NetBooks many schools are utilizing, however, it simply is not the solution. It’s close, and is still an awesome addition to any classroom, but it does not replace a MacBook or a NetBook. Perhaps future generations will take on that category of computing more heavily, but this first generation isn’t it.

The iPad is Not Great at Creating Content: For the first time, we have an iPod like device that can create documents and presentations, but the iPad’s biggest weakness is that it isn’t strong in creating content. (Something educators want their students to be able to do.) Yes, you can create content, but not better than on a MacBook or NetBook. Typing a paper would be easier on a laptop, and laptops allow picture and video capture, as well as video editing. While some future apps may allow this, and even with the addition of the iPad Camera Connection Kit, it just isn’t easier to do on iPad or as impressive. This is my biggest complaint for the iPad. I want it to be better at creating content. The easiest remedy is a 1:1 classroom mix of both iPads and MacBooks. Students will NOT being creating content everyday. Consuming content, researching and more, is easier on the iPad. To be fair, perhaps future apps will correct this opinion.

It’s All About the Apps: Any flaw I find with the iPad could be solved with a clever app or OS upgrade in the future. The iPad’s great strength is in the talented developers (and the number increases daily) that are creating amazing programs for the device. I do hope to see more and better educational apps. I check daily to see what new apps are available. I am so pleased to have Pages and Keynote on the iPad. Waiting for more great apps to assist teachers and help students. Here is a great RSS feed of iPAd apps as they are released: feed://appshopper.com/feed/?device=iPad&filter=new

How Teachers Will Use the iPad: I have used the iPad in the last two weeks to create tests, quizzes, and worksheets using pages. I have designed and presented Keynote presentations using Keynote to instruct. I conducted a reading diagnostic today with a student to determine his reading level and difficulties. (For the first time administering the assessment, the student held the selection in his hand like a book.) I use it for attendance and conferencing grade reports with students. The iPad is so much more personal than a laptop or desktop. You hand it to the student like a sheet of paper and have a discussion. I used it to help a student edit her writing paper. It’s not good for entering web-based grade reports because you can default a numeric pad. (You have to keep toggling from keyboard to numbers. Cumbersome and time consuming.) Sharing books with a small number of students is great. The possibilities for the iPad in education are endless. It is a great device for personal activities and small numbers of students.

My Students Loved the iPad: Subtract for the newness of the device, but my students were so engaged with everything the iPad could do, I had to pry it from one student’s hand to get it into the hands of another, and then back to mine. The best part of the students hands-on experience was that there was no explanation. Everyone just “knew” what to do. Sure, they went right for the game (Cursed Doodle Jump) but they wanted to see it do everything. This is a device that will serve students well. No more frustrations with computer ailments, and lost papers. Cool apps will keep them engaged. I loved how my students explored our world in Maps. I wish I could have given them more time with the device.

What’s GREAT about the iPAd in Education:

  • It’s on INSTANTLY! I can’t tell you how great that is to have what you need on NOW! Love it.
  • It’s FAST! Everything is so fluid and quick. (And BIG!) Better than any interaction with iPhone or iPod Touch.
  • Reading books is outstanding!
  • The battery life is incredible. You can you use it all day on a single charge.
  • You don’t have to SAVE anything. Yep, that’s right, just hit the Home Button and come back later. It’s still there. Love it!
  • There is nothing to learn. You just use it!
  • The iPad’s inability to multitask is a plus for students. They will learn to focus on the project at hand.
  • Keynote’s ability to place a simulated red laser pointer where you touch is a nice touch.
  • The sheer fact that it holds so much content and can do so much in such a small form. Amazing. Yes, even magical.
  • Amazing Apps! Download the Free and spectacular Dragon Dictation to speak text into your iPad. It is so easy and accurate.
  • You can teach with it! You can actually walk around teaching with the iPad in one arm while displaying notes, plans, grades, etc.

How the iPad be Improved for Education:

  • The iPad can’t print. (Teachers need to print stuff.)
  • The iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter is horrible for education! Your choices for what you can project is far, far, far too limiting. You can’t share a webpage on the projector, or a book for that matter! (Full review coming soon.)
  • More Educational Apps! (Build them and teachers will buy them. Better yet, give teachers an easier SDK to create our own. Templates?)
  • Textbooks Available on the iBooks Store. (Give it time.)
  • Educators and students need a camera. Student recognition, projects, capturing data, and more. (You put one on the iPod Nano for crying out loud.)
  • iPad to iPad collaboration and interactivity.
  • The ability to work together with Interactive White Board (SmartBoards). Teachers love their SmartBoards.
  • Easier ways to transfer documents. It is difficult to get Pages Documents, Keynote Presentations, Photos, etc, onto and off of them iPad. Not all classrooms allow students to email.

Wired Educator’s overall recommendation is that the iPad is great for education! It is a winner. Plain and simple. Should you wait for a better version. Sure, if you want to do that. They will keep getting better, but this iPad is great for the classroom as it is.

I see the current iPad replacing everything students bring to class right now. Students carry so many books, tools, and supplies to class and they make more deliveries and pickups at their lockers than an FedEx Delivery person. I can see the iPad replacing every text book, leisure book, journal, writing utensil, paper, folders, notebook, trapper, calculator, workbook, and countless other educational material in a slim device that does all of that even better than each individual material. No more, “I left it at home!” No more, “I can’t find it.” Students will want to bring their iPads to home and back and they will want to use them. Add a MacBook or an iMac in a classroom for video projects and you have everything you need.

Yes, put An iPad in Every Classroom. In fact, put one in the hands of every student.