WHAT A RELIEF. No more lugging those heavy cumbersome laptops from home to school each day. I remember my son doing this in his latter years at secondary school, struggling with the weight every day on the bus and then not using it at all on most days – except playing computer games with his mates.
It’s now well and truly over, with the laptop replaced by the versatile iPad.
The advantages are not only its lightness to carry, but they are more robust (less breakage), very much cheaper and there is a swag of creative applications available that can be used by the student and teacher to create just about anything for an incredibly low cost (for what you are getting).
One teacher in Britain suggested a suite of apps for late primary / early secondary students. These were: iMovie, Creative book builder, Garage Band, Strip designer, Explain everything, Sketch, Video scribe, SonicPics, Brushes and ICanAnimate. This takes in pretty well every creative pursuit you could want your students to do in multimedia sense. All for the grand total of $30.
Of course, some of these are very sophisticated software applications, and you need to know how to use them – well, better still, get your students to learn how to use them and teach one another.
Unfortunately some Victorian schools are still locking parents and students into very expensive notebook schemes.
The only reason to use a laptop is for extensive word processing for essays and high end video, image manipulation, desktop publishing, web development and sound recording, where quality is an issue and the size of the files are large. These are mostly activities for later years, and would most successfully be conducted in school computer labs anyway, or on the home PC. So again, no need for the laptop.
The iPad can handle word processing – Pages for example – but the onscreen keyboard does take some getting used to. Some people attach a portable keyboard to the iPad to overcome this. Pages documents can be emailed or uploaded to a DropBox and worked on further on another computer for final adjustments and editing.
How should an IPad program be managed by a school or enterprise? Does the institution purchase and manage the hardware and app uploads and maintenance, or is this done by the individual?
Let’s say the institution is going to provide 700 iPads across the organisation. There may be 10 or so primary apps that need installing. Some will be free; others cost. Using the app suite illustrated above, that’s 700 x $30 = $21,000. Plus the cost of the hardware: 700 x $400. That’s about $300,000 in total, not an insignificant cost for a school. So, here it’s likely that the cost will be transferred to the parent at about $430 for each student. This is a better idea, and would mean that both the uploading and management of the apps is left up to the parent and / or student.
The parent / student will need to create an account with the app provider (eg iTunes Store) and download the institution-recommended apps. Apps are regularly upgraded when they discover programming bugs or add more features. The maintenance of this is quite easy because the app provider provides an individual or bulk upgrade to all the apps loaded on the iPad. This saves the IT department the work in doing a menial but time-consuming task.
Does it matter that students will most likely upload other apps, eg games, etc? Not at all. They should be encouraged to do so. What with hundreds of thousands of apps available on the iTunes Store (similar number of Android) and with more coming on stream continually, sharing knowledge about this is the best and only way to ensure the enterprise keeps up with the powerful innovation that is happening.
Stepping outside the education context, for large organisations with thousands of staff, the app control becomes a bit more problematic. Sensing this issue, a number of businesses (Eg air-watch) have inserted themselves in this space and provide this management for a whole organisation, for a fee of course. It is a clever and highly profitable business model, but it takes away the individual spontaneity of discovering new apps as they come on stream. Then again, most large organisations are into heavy staff control, which is to their overall detriment as they stifle individual creativity and innovation at the micro organisational level.