For the last year, I used an iPad as part of my work at school. In the end, I actually think it is the iPad 2, and any future upgraded versions, that will actually be able to be of use in the classroom.
The most significant issue with the use of the original iPad in the classroom is its inability to mirror the display, a problem that it should be of note that Apple has fixed with the iPad 2. This lack of mirroring meant that that many of the interesting educational apps that were produced for the iPad over the past few years were far less useful than they would have been had I been able to actually to use them in class by projecting them through the SmartBoard. The ability to mirror on the newer generations of the iPad will greatly expand the usefulness of the device in the classroom.
The other issue of note with the iPad is its lack of Adobe Flash capabilities. An increasing number of publishers are making much less expensive electronic versions of their textbooks, but some of those textbooks require flash. Steve Jobs has said on more than one occasion that he has no plan to ever put Flash on the iPad, so there will continue to be both websites and textbooks that cannot be used on the device
A clear benefit of the iPad is the ability for both teachers and students to greatly reduce the number of textbooks needing to be carried on a daily basis. I was able to put all of my textbooks, as well as supplementary texts, onto my iPad through the purchase of eBooks from publishers and/or the Kindle or iBook apps. The only exception was my US History textbook that necessitated the use of Flash [see aforementioned Flash issue]. Some publishers are also making a free copy of an electronic textbook available with each purchase of the paper text. One could also certainly argue that it is a lot harder to ever forget your book for class if all of your books are just one device that you have to grab.
A drawback to use the use of eBooks, however, is the inability to make margin notes; most of the books allowed for highlighting, but not writing in the text. Additionally, there are sometimes differences in pagination between electronic and paper texts, and so if both versions are being used in classroom, page numbers to use as reference points may not match.
The feature of the iPad that I found the most useful was the ability to save handwritten notes. I greatly prefer to handwrite my notes to typing them, and using the Evernote application, I was able to take notes in meetings that would be automatically saved and dated for easy access later. For students [or adults!] struggling with organization, note-taking applications could be of great use.
The iPad is fun, nearly effortless to transport, and makes both carrying and organizing notes and textbooks easy. An interesting idea for the future might be to have an entire classroom pilot the use of the iPad to fully test its usefulness as an educational device. For me, the iPad certainly saved me time, money and effort in a myriad of ways, but I cannot quite support Apple’s early claims that it is the educational wave of the future.
By Nia Hays