Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some Facts & Myths Regarding Classroom iPads

by Michael Grzelak

I first wanted to say hello to everyone who follows this blog and thank Shelly for the opportunity to contribute to this awesome blog.  A few months I was sitting around a conference table discussing a school grant opportunity.  The grant itself dealt with technology and at the end of the meeting, my principal stated she was going to purchase a new laptop lab for the school.  The others in the room were excited, but my mind was thinking about other types of technology.  The night before, I was in a class that Shelly taught called The Paperless Classroom.  We had just talked about iPads and wrote a fake letter about the type of technology we wished existed in our school.  I had wished that every classroom had a set of iPads, but this is simply not feasible for a city high school in Baltimore.  However, I wanted to voice my opinions about this new purchase.  

I spoke up and suggested that we look into iPads; this gathered some strange looks from others in the room who did not necessary understand the power of these devices, but I continued and made a sales pitch for the iPad.  Some of the things I mentioned included how they were more cost effective, how they can be used for product creation, and the engaging apps (many of which are free).  My principal, who loves technology, was more than willing to purchase two school IPad labs instead of the one laptop lab (the total amount spent was the same).  To my surprise, one of the new iPad labs was for me to teach a World History course.  I did not believe these words at first and to be honest, I had limited experience with an iPad.  To my excitement, one was purchased quickly for me to play around with and in our third trimester I will be teaching a nearly paperless class with iPads.

Before my teaching iPad arrived, I wanted to conduct extra research about the device and I placed a survey link on Twitter to #edchat and #edtech asking individuals to state if they would rather have a laptop class set or an iPad class set.  The results were surprising; I was not shocked that most teachers would prefer laptops, but I was taken aback by the misunderstanding of the power of iPads.  This brings me to the point of this blog entry, to start to debunk some of the myths currently existing about iPad features and capabilities.
       1) Fact or Myth – you cannot create documents on iPads, you can only engage with apps.

MYTH:  this was the most surprising data gathered from my poll of educators; the iPad is a fully functional creation device.  There are many apps, some are free and some cost a little bit of money, that enable you to create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, flyers, graphs, etc.  

If you want professional quality documents, two of the most popular apps for creation are Pages (for word processing documents) and Numbers (for spreadsheets).  These apps each cost about $10, but the cost is due to the professional quality it gives such documents.  If you do not want to purchase these, no problem; there are MANY other apps (many are free) that will allow you or your students to create products on the iPad.

2)      2) Fact or Myth – iPads will not allow students to save their work.

MYTH – On a laptop you can save a lot of different documents, pictures, videos, etc. on the hard drive.   However, the selling point of the iPad is the cloud effect.  We live in a digital world that no longer requires use to be bound to hard drives, flash drives, external drives, etc.  We can use the cloud (the vast digital space of the internet) to save files directly.  Students are not limited by this feature; in fact it is for their benefit as the cloud can be accessed from any device that connects to the internet.  We have to start moving away from thinking that we can only save our information on one machine; we can save on the cloud and access our “stuff” anywhere in the world.   

Some iPad users have said that Google Docs does not work with the iPad, but in my experience I have had no problems creating word documents or spreadsheets in Google Docs.  The best thing about Google Docs is obviously the fact that it saves to its own cloud network.  Not a fan of Google Docs, once again this is not a problem.  Use Dropbox (there is an app for this to make it easier) which is an online cloud tool that you can sync to backup your files or simply drop your files manually into the digital box.

3)      3) Fact or Myth – the iPad is too difficult to type on; our students need to know how to type on a normal key board.

Myth – Yes, the iPad does take some time to become familiar with the shorter keyboard layout, but it is not impossible.  Do you remember typing your first text message on a cell phone; did you instantly type that message perfectly, without any errors or difficultly finding the appropriate keys?  I know I had trouble.  Once you explore with the iPad, you will get the hang of the keyboard.  Your students will adapt too.  In fact one response on the poll was that iPads provide a typing disservice to students, but this is a flawed way of thinking. 

Think right now about how many different kinds of typing devices we have – there are thousands of different ways to input and interact with a device.  I agree that our students need to understand how to use the conventional computer keyboard, but we live in a world where a new device is thought of and created.  Some of these devices have different types of keyboards, thus we need to expose our students to different typing devices. 

4)     4) Fact or Myth – iPads cannot function with Flash.

Fact (FOR NOW) – It is only a matter of time (months, if that) before this is turned into a myth.  Many sites on the internet do have flash components and currently these do not display on the iPad, but there have been recent attempts (nearly successful) by a few companies (one is called Skyfire) to create an app for the iPad and iPhone to allow flash content to show.  Skyfire released this almost two months ago, but it was so popular that it nearly crashed their servers with an overload of demand for the app and they had to remove it.  They have placed a different version in the app store, but it is still being developed.   There are rumors that Adobe will be creating an app (they have always wanted too, but something was in disagreement with Adobe and Apple); it is only a matter of time before the iPad will be able to run Flash!

Hopefully this provided a little more insight to the iPad.  These fact/myth comments came directly from the poll I created and I think teachers need to understand the iPad functions and capabilities a little more before they write it off.  In future posts, I will focus on some awesome apps and ways to use the iPad in a classroom setting. Thanks for reading.


  1. Awesome! Thank you for all your tips. Our Academy teachers all received an iPad and I just received one for testing purposes. I look forward to learning more so I can share with our teachers.

  2. I just finished surveying high school students who are the first to be issued an iPad 24/7 in the school district where I work. I intend to resurvey them at the end of the year in an effort to see if learning with an iPad changes over time. Everything you write about here we see first hand. Thanks for the post.

  3. You mentioned that the iPad is a fully capable creation device. I agree that it is a fully functional document/presentation/spreadsheet creation device, but that it cannot do many of the Web 2.0 creations I have come to find are more engaging with my students. Two examples include bitstrips and aviary. Both use flash and therefore cannot function on the iPad. Recently Prezi produced an iPad app, but if you look closely at it, it clearly shows that the iPad is not fully functional. The app can display Prezi presentations, but it cannot allow people to make new presentations or edit ones that they have previously created.

    You are right that this will not always be the case since more Web 2.0 tools will change to be HTML5 compliant, but for the time being that is not the case. For most of the things I care about regarding Flash, the lack of Flash video is the least of my concerns. It is the content creation stuff using Flash I most miss when using the iPad.

  4. There is another point I should have made in the preceding comment. Apple will never allow Flash to run within iOS (unless they are forced to due to unforeseen circumstances). Flash allows the embedding of applications within the browser including ads and other forms of revenue for developers. Apple has said that they don't want flash on iOS devices because they say it is buggy, insecure, etc. While there are certainly issues with Flash that are true, the real reason is that forcing developers into the app store makes sure that Apple draws money from both the sale of apps and the sale of ads within apps. Moving to Flash on iOS would kill a big source of Apple's revenue. It is not a good business decision.

  5. Personally, I see things going toward HTML5. And I agree with Anon that Apple's choice to exclude Flash is as much a business decision as anything else.


  6. Thanks for the post; I agree with your comments although the keyboard is still clunky for me, but it's probably my problem. I've been hesitant to really jump in and get comfortable with it, since I am so comfortable already on a traditional keyboard. But I agree that iPads can and will change the educational landscape.

  7. I am curious about your comment about being able to purchase 2 labs of ipads at the same cost as 1 lab of laptops. Having just purchased a 64g ipad which is only has Wifi access, I paid far more for it than I would have for a netbook. I am not sure if this because I am in Canada?
    As a primary teacher who uses our mobile lab every day - I can only imagine how much easier it would be to move around a set of 30 ipads than the HUGE cart I have to bring to my room.

  8. I admit that I believed the iPad to be primarily a consuming device, not a creating device, but your post caught my attention and might be changing my mind!

    I still don't believe it has powerful creation tools that rival a desktop or laptop. What it has are very user-friendly creation tools. You can truly get 80% of the capability with 20% of the difficulty...and the cost is lower, too!

    Maybe these really do have a place in education...thanks for opening my eyes.

  9. 80% is not the number I would use to describe how much I think the iPad could meet my needs compared to the 100% the Macbooks currently do. I think the number is close to 60% or maybe 50%. What it does tell me is that a netbook could do 90% of what my Macbook could do for around 20% of its cost or about 50% of the cost of an iPad.

  10. Last week we deployed 40 iPads at my school - 20 as a lab to be checked out/shared by our grade 7-12 teachers, teachers, and 20 split up amongst 20 Prek-6 classrooms. We are still exploring how best to incorporate these devices in an educational environment but student enthusiasm for the iPads is overwhelming. If it gets kids excited about learning, I'm thrilled! The lab at the upper school is already being reserved 2 weeks in advance. I wish that there were better enterprise management tools available and we are still waiting for charging/syncing carts. But I am excited about the adventure we have embarked upon.


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