Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Why I Gave Back the MacBooks and Asked for iPads

Yes - I gave back the MacBooks! Why? I have always been interested in the 'What if?'. When I first began to use iPads in classrooms (just after they had been released), I always wondered what it would be like to use iPads in a 1:1 environment instead of MacBooks.

I had only ever used iPads as an extra tool not as the 'go to' tool. I had always run back to using the MacBooks because that was how I knew how to do things. I wondered - what would it be like to just use iPads only?

I got the chance to do this for a couple months about 2 years ago. I did a small 1:1 program with K2 students. At that time I was the Technology Coach and only worked in that classroom once a week. The program ran for only 3 months and just as we were getting into it, the school year ended.

This year I am back in the classroom full time as the homeroom teacher. I felt that this was my chance to really put the iPads through their paces and see what could be done.

Many of my colleagues were skeptical - many doubted that I could make it work ...

I am writing this after about 3 weeks of using iPads in my class. Yes, there are things that work and things that don't work. There is good and bad. So many teachers expect technology to be able to 'do it all'. I'm not one of those people. I have no problem accepting that there are things that I cannot do.

The difference here is there are so many MORE things that I can do BETTER with iPads.

#1 Differentiation

Ok, I have a typical class. There are the high achievers, the middle and the strugglers. iPads can help me differentiate so well. It's easy to put different apps on different machines to cater to the learner.

#2 Instant-ness

Ok, maybe this is not really a word, but the iPads work a little like using instant noodles - or IndoMie as we call it in Indonesia. It looks up the word, it speaks the word all in the same screen just by a simple tap. In most apps you can take photos right inside the app. I particularly like the WP Blog app and being able to photograph and post 'on the fly'. Oh - and if you want to undo your typing - just shake the iPad.

#3 No Multi-tasking

Yes, our students love to multi-task but that can compromise their concentration on the task at hand. On an iPad, you can only really do one thing at a time. This is a good thing for younger learners.

#5 Apps

The range of apps are fantastic! I can customize the learning as needed with apps that are right on target. Many apps that I use are even free ones. On a MacBook I am limited to the image put on by school. That image generally doesn't change for the whole year.

#6 Portability - Better for Younger Learners

iPads are light and easy to carry. They can be taken to wherever the learning is.

#7 Long Lasting Charge

I can use the iPads on one full charge for a few days. Not bad considering that I use the iPads a lot!!

#8 Front and Back Camera

Wow - this makes capturing photos or film so easy!

#9 Accessibility

If you have learners that require the iPad to speak in different languages - you can customize it just to do that. The iPad can read books in iBooks in 36 different languages. Wow - just wow!

Ok, so what doesn't it do? Yes, transferring work can get sticky - especially videos. Of course there are 'work arounds' and you do need to be a little more organized to get the job done. It's essential to have a setup where students can easily push their work to somewhere else. In my class we use blogs which helps with that. Some of the work is pushed to a dropbox too. That's fine - a small price to pay.

I know that a lot of you reading this post will be thinking of things that iPads can't do. The reality is that some schools don't have the funds to opt into MacBooks. In Indonesia many schools are seriously considering opting into iPads. I want to encourage that. The more we can make the student learning experience more personalized the better!!


  1. Thanks so much for this article. I'm in a 1:1 MacBook pro environment - and it's all I know.

    In January, I'll be heading up a Junior school and will be looking at the various technological options. The more I read, the more I believe iPads are the way to go for early grades.

    Before your article, I hadn't thought about the time required to login to MacBooks. I've known the temptation of multi-tasking, so part of our Grade 5 digital literacy instruction involves helping students share ways in which they self-monitor and use chats for on-task purposes. Our line is, "In 5th grade, you can multitask and you can probably do okay in school. In 11th grade, the work is soooo much harder. It's best to develop good habits now."

    That technique works for 10-11-year-olds. For the littler ones, iPads take away the temptation altogether.

    Thanks again.

  2. Hi Janet,
    My class is Grade 4. Many people think that iPads don't offer enough. I disagree, I think that the ease of using iPads makes the teacher focus even more on the teaching and learning. I am being challenged as to 'How can they best learn?' not 'How can I teach the app?'. Even simple routine stuff like spelling now involves pronunciation as well as spell the word. Before I would get the kids to read the words aloud - maybe once. Now they use the SpellBoard app. My class is split into differentiated spelling groups. Each child simply inputs their own list and reads each word which is recorded in the app. I quickly check all the words and pronunciation. Once the words are in - each time they play with the app the word is read aloud to them (via their own voice) as they play a variety of games. This is awesome for EAL. So they learn via written, sound and touch - a winning combination!
    As for multitasking - if they start without it, then a habit of not doing that when working in digital can be established - nice!

  3. Hey Janet!

    Great post! I found your page from coolcatteacher.blogspot.com. I'm always interested/surprised to see classrooms that are in a 1:1 situation. Consider me a new reader. ;)

    My company just recently did a write up on using the iPad's guided access in a classroom. I don't know if you missed it or don't know about it, but I thought I'd share it with you. It allows teachers to lock the iPad to a single app in the event that the students are doing a test or a quiz on the iPad.


  4. Hey Jane.
    I enjoyed your post, and I totally agree. Of course for me this is particularly around differentiation and accessibility, but all the other features you highlighted have equal status. We are finally getting a device which is for all students, and their teachers. Great stuff.

  5. Hey! I'm a first time reader of this blog (therefore a first time commenter here in this space) but I'm enjoying what I'm reading...

    I'd love to add a few more iPad positives:
    -These things are so much more durable than the MacBooks our school has. Our three year old Macbooks are having screen problems, battery-overcharging problems, hard drives crashing...it's a mess.
    -I'm an international school teacher in Ukraine. Our computers have an alphabet just like this one (latin?)...but the Ukrainian and Russian teachers at my school want keyboards with cyrillic...so the solution is to put stickers that have both cyrillic and Latin letters on the MacBook keys. It's messy. Kids like to peel off the stickers...it would be so much easier to just change the virtual keyboard on an iPad.
    -You mentioned it, but yeah, weight. It's kind of funny watching Kindergarteners tote around MacBooks...not so funny when they drop them.
    -So much faster to turn on.
    -Kids think they're cooler too...these things are kid magnets!

    Mike @nonatoman

  6. Hi Jane

    Thanks for the great post. I too am currently working in a 1:1 MacBook program at my school and I've been campaigning to replace the MacBooks with iPads. We purchased 20 iPads and the end of last year for my class to "play with" and while working through issues surrounding sharing an intended 1:1 device, my kids loved using the iPads rather than their MacBooks. Since then I've actually been able to convince the school and our parents to head down a 1:1 BYOD iPad program for next year and am really looking forward to how this new approach at our school is going to impact on teaching and learning. I've loved the potential of the iPad in education since owning my first iPad a few years ago and now with the latest iPad, I believe there are very few things that an iPad can't do. Of course there are limitations, but the benefits definitely out way the possible hurdles. I've been really busy providing formal and informal professional learning surrounding iPads for my colleagues and I'm currently working on my ADE Application for this year's Australian intake. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts regarding iPads in a 1:1 environment. I look forward to sharing my experience on my blog (ourinspiredclassroom.wordpress.com) as it unfolds over the next few months.

  7. Would you be able to list some of the apps you use? Especially ones which would benefit ICT an computing lessons. Really useful article