ANSWERED: The 10 Biggest Questions About iPads In Classrooms

ipads in classroomsThe following is part of a recent interview I did with students from Ursuline Academy of Dedham, Massachusetts about iPads in classrooms. They proposed a few questions that they thought were the most important and I replied with some initial thoughts for them.

I figured these answers my help others out there too. Agree? Disagree? Let me know about your thoughts and experiences down in the comments!

1. Do you think students would be more interested in just playing with the iPads or using them for school purposes?
It really all comes down to the environment in which the iPads are being used. If it’s specifically designed to allow for creativity, exploration, and learning however you want … then games should be a part of the iPad experience. I’m not saying you should have students play Angry Birds all the time but instead that keeping the iPad ‘fun’ and ‘educational’ don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

2. Do you think the iPads would enhance the class or take away from it?
Absolutely enhance it. It’s up to the teacher to make sure they don’t become a distraction, though. In a flipped or PBL classroom, you can usually find a place for iPads as a way to augment or bolster a student’s research or discovery.

3. In a few years, do you think iPads will be a classroom necessity (instead of textbooks and notebooks)?
This is a tough one. I have no idea. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see iPads and e-readers in general replace more and more textbooks. The education industry moves slow (a bit faster these days, to be sure) so phasing out all printed books in just a few years may be a bit of a leap. Within a decade? Absolutely.

4. Based on what you know, would the cost of buying iPads for a class (or individuals buying them for their kids to use in school) be worth it?
As long as a digital learning curriculum exists that leverages the capabilities of the teacher AND the iPad. Again, it’s critical to have a teacher who knows what he or she is doing. Otherwise, they’ll just be an expensive distraction. I’d recommend looking at other schools and classrooms (we talk about them a lot on Edudemic) to see how they rolled out a 1:1 classroom, BYOD classroom, etc.

5. Do you think they are more useful in older kids (7th, 8th grade) or the primary levels?
Another tough one. In my experience (mostly in higher education), I’ve seen iPads get used mainly for quick research and insight into particular topics. The basic apps are used (Safari, Maps, etc.). It’s when you put iPads in the hands of younger students, as you mentioned, that the power of the iPad and other tablets come into play. There are countless education apps for this grade level so be sure to do your research, ask the students what apps they like to use (they probably already have an iPad at home), etc. So while I know I didn’t answer your question, I hope it clarified that the usage of iPads varies significantly by grade level.

6. Would students respect that the iPads are expensive and fragile?
In my research and first-hand experience, the number of iPads damaged is minimal. In fact, even classrooms that let students bring them home are seeing minimal damage. Likely because the iPad, right now, is still viewed as a privilege for students and they assign value to it. Whether it’s due to the high price or educational value, it’s in their best interest to treat it with respect.

7. Do you think teachers would have trouble incorporating iPads into their lesson plans?
There’s a host of lesson plans out there that work for a blended learning environment. The key here is for teachers to know that the iPad is simply just another tool, not a replacement for really anything. It’s meant to augment the learning experience and keep students captivated, thoughtful, and learning. So no, it’s not hard to incorporate. The key is to do it the right way … which involves asking friends and colleagues for advice.

8. What is the appropriate age to introduce iPads to students?
Students as young as kindergarten use them and they see a measured benefit. I’d say it’s okay to introduce them at any point in a student’s education as long as it’s done in a responsible manner.

9. What are some of the best applications to use for elementary level kids?
I’ve seen Math Bingo, Rocket Math, Mad Libs, and Frog Dissection be used with great results. Students love them and respond well to the playful nature of each app.

10. Do you think the families of the children who are using the iPad in school should have to buy them? Should the school have to pay for them? Should having them be mandatory in the first place?
In an ideal world, families wouldn’t have to buy iPads. Personally, I think that should be a last resort. If a school or district can’t afford iPads, you could have parents kick in a little bit of money and buy 1-2 iPads for the classroom. Using just a single iPad and a projector to show what’s on the screen is usually more than enough for student groups!

Photo via Major Technicality


  1. Grover

    November 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    iPad resources are gradually becoming available too as the market adjusts. The first interactive, “multi-touch” iBook for ESL/EFL was just published. No doubt more to follow shortly.

  2. Shaun

    November 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Great interview and post, it’s great to see other schools making headway with iPads. I’d put up a different opinion regarding purchasing of iPads when schools are going 1:1. Managing large numbers of iPads in regard to file management, syncing, app organization and purchasing in a school environment is a nightmare for the school.

    This is mainly because of the individual nature of the iPad, and Apple really haven’t worked out an elegant solution for managing class sets. In my ideal world, the parents would purchase the iPad, would provide a list of apps that they children must have (same as a booklist) and they could be managed by the individual child. This would also allow the same iPad to move on with the child, carrying with it all of their work.

    The iPad, and other tablets really create the opportunity to vastly change the way that classrooms operate, and give students the opportunity to create and experience education in a whole new way. I look forward to seeing how these develop in the coming years.

  3. Danielle

    December 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    You do realize that if the district can’t afford the iPads, that means the families can’t afford them either, right?

    This is exactly why education inequality rules all of education. Poor people can’t afford stuff, they don’t pay a lot of taxes, the school can’t afford stuff, the teacher’s aren’t paid well, and the teachers can’t afford stuff (that they shouldn’t have had to pay for themselves in the first place, incidentally) to bring in and share with students.

    I work in a charter school in a poor neighborhood, and I can’t even get a set of kindles, let alone iPads. Even with a master’s degree in Applied Math and endorsement in three subjects, I can’t make enough money to afford a tablet of my own to bring in and share with my students.

    All of what you say sounds great. The thing is, until these electronics companies come together and put the good of our kids ahead of profits, it isn’t going to matter what I do in the classroom. They will be behind all of the richer kids when they graduate.

    And I’ll be the one taking the blame. Yes, I’m a terrible teacher.

  4. Danielle

    December 3, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    income inequality… sorry.