Demystifying 5 Myths About iPads in The Classroom


I have been quite amused reading the comments beneath stories on the Internet regarding school programs that are providing students with their own learning device. The LAUSD program has really whipped a lot of opinion on this. If some of these commentators are to be believed, we are heading into an apocalypse that will destroy the very fabric of our community. Yesterday I read a comment on a New York Times article that said that staring at a wall was more educational to a child than anything on an iPad or television.

Here are some common myths about iPads that I come across regularly:

  • Teachers will just sit and read the newspaper or play on their iPhone while students are babysat for six hours by their iPad
  • Students will no longer interact with each other or their teacher
  • Too much screen time is bad for kids
  • iPads are not real computers
  • Students will steal and or break them

Having actually been involved with a large program for the last year three years in the Encinitas Union School District, which now has given every student from kindergarten to sixth grade their own iPad, I have a good perspective in which to dispel some of the mythology. I feel that many people are misinformed about how learning happens in classrooms in general, let alone with a device like an iPad.

This post is not to set the record straight with the armchair critics that litter the internet, but to provide some actual real life examples to counter what I am seeing as many people talking out of their backsides. A good teacher is still central to the learning process and it is their management that determines whether these myths have any truth to them.

Debunking The Myths

Teachers will no longer teach because students will just be playing on their iPads

I have yet to walk into a classroom in my district and see kids just freely playing on the iPad while the teacher does her nails or some other leisure activity. One thing about the teachers I work with is that they are professionals who know the importance of their jobs and will not let the iPad become a baby sitter. Teachers are generally excited with the technology and are finding ways to integrate throughout the day without it becoming a replacement. I would say it is actually enhancing their job, not replacing. Classroom management is needed to make sure that students are not distracted by the device. Many of our teachers have protocols for the students for managing the iPads. If a teacher can see all the students iPads on their desk with the covers on or with them flipped upside down, they have their attention at least off the iPads. I am now teaching our teachers about the Guided Access feature on the iPad. This function can lock the iPad into a single app mode that can only be released with a code the teacher needs to input on the device when they are ready for the student to be using other apps on the iPad.

Students will no longer interact with each other

Students do get focused when working on their iPads, especially in some of the digital programs like ST Math that our district has adopted. It is important that students are able to focus on the task at hand and get in the flow of learning. A good teacher knows how to balance learning time so that the students are talking and collaborating, as well as having time in which they can deepen their understanding of topics on their own. Some teachers are taking the collaboration into the digital realm with having students collaborate on a shared document in Google Drive that students will often work on outside of class hours.

Students will have too much screen time

The American Academy of Pedriatrics came out with a recommendation of two hours or less of screen time for children under 8. Without reviewing the actual policy statement, it would be easy to assume that this includes all activities that are on a light emitting screen. Of course if you look at the text of the recommendation, it talks about “entertainment” related screen time that was targeted at passive television watching. They do not directly address the screen time that happens with devices at school. In fact, they advocate for media education because they realize that it is now just as important as reading and writing. I still have not seen conclusive proof that students whose primary access to curriculum is through a digital device will suffer any long term problems. One piece of advice we give teachers is to get students to look away from their screens and focus on something far away every ten minutes they are on their iPads. This will help students to regulate their vision from near to far.

iPads are not real computers

Kids need something that is easy to use and allows them to be able to both create and consume. The iPad does both well. Next!

Students will steal the iPads or continuously break them

If you are going to have a program that gives students access to a device with a glass screen, there is going to be some breakage. That is part of doing business with iPads in schools. The problem of breakage is best solved by a strong protective case. The first case that we purchased for our iPads in Encinitas USD ended up not having the corner protection that we had hoped and we did see a fair share of damage to the screens. It was a small percentage, but it was happening at a higher rate that we had planned. We have since adopted a case that is very protective of the corners and sides. There has been a huge decrease in breakage because of this. Theft has been a non-issue in our program by our students. There have been a few instances where an iPad went missing, but none that were attributed directly to the student themselves. I can’t speak for all iPad programs, but our students are hyper protective of their iPads and do not want anything to happen to them that would result in them not having them in class.

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