To quote from the article ultramarina linked to above: "Are American public schools ready to recognize that itís the adults and students around the iPads, not just the iPads themselves, that require some real attention?"

My ds13 has used an iPad in school for over a year - all of the middle school students at his school are required to use an iPad. To be clear, and open and all that up front, he attends a private school and each family is required to provide the student's iPad. He is also 2e, so he's a kid who was already using his own laptop to produce most of his written work - but the iPads in the classroom are required for all the students, not just an accommodation for students with disabilities, and they are integrated into the classroom work in a big way. FWIW, I think they're great and they've been very useful and I think they are a bonus over laptops and they are a step forward. I'm a fan. Here's how they have been used at our school, and also a list of the general pros and cons parents and teachers have found with them:

First, a few notes - our school does *not* use digital textbooks at this point in time. Each student has access to a school wifi network that is used for printing, email and online research.

I'll also add that quite a few of the items on the list are things that *could* be done with laptops or desktop computers. The bonus for having an iPad per student is three-fold - they are less expensive than purchasing a laptop for every student (software is *much* less expensive), they are more portable than laptops (see notes below) and they allow a lot of flexibility in scheduling schoolwork - rather than having to only do online research or typing papers during a scheduled computer lab time or having to share a few computers per classroom between students.

Uses:

1) Routine word processing/etc that you would do in MSOffice/etc on a laptop or computer.

2) Project presentations using integrated media (audio, pictures, text etc).

3) Scheduling and planning via access to shared class online calendar.

4) Literature - the school uses iBooks etc to supplement the limited book supply they have in the school's library.

5) Research - the students do most of their research online. The convenient thing about having the iPads is that every student is online and can work independently at the same time, rather than relying on shared computer lab access.

6) Productivity apps - there are a lot of apps (and more and more coming out all the time) that enhance productivity for students like my 2e ds who have challenges and need the apps - word prediction, graph-making, voice-to-text, text-to-voice etc. The interesting thing is, the students who *don't* have disabilities also use, enjoy and benefit from those same apps. My ds did not like voice-to-text on his laptop and probably would never have even considered using it on his iPad but right away last year a couple of the kids in class who *don't* have disabilities discovered it and started using it and my ds saw it was actually usable.

7) Our students aren't required to have an iPad with a camera (the first version of iPads didn't have one) - but the cameras are used quite a bit for different types of tasks. Sometimes the kids take pictures of project work, sometimes they take pictures of what's written on the board. Having the capability to take a picture certainly isn't enough reason to justify purchasing iPads for students, but it's a nice bonus.

8) Collaborative sharing - I can't remember the type of app that was used for this, but the students have an app that allows them to do what I can only describe as multi-media blog - they put together presentations which incorporate pictures + audio + text, and their fellow students can then add comments to each other's presentations.

9) Communication - the students receive assignments through email, and they can turn in homework via email. Most of the kids like that setup much better than having to bring papers back and forth to school - and one thing about my ds' generation, at least in our area - they are very environmentally conscious, so they also appreciate having the choice of being somewhat paper-free (let's try not to think about the irony of the environmental impact of someday having to dispose of all the outdated electronics....) It has also enabled the children to communicate with each other outside of school in a way that works well for things like finding out what an assignment was if they aren't sure or asking for help from a fellow student - all the kids have to do is send out an email to their class group, and someone will answer it.

10) Graphic organizers for project work.

11) Note-taking - you can integrate pictures, audio, and text.

Pros:

* They are much less prone to breakage than a laptop. If you have one of the sturdy iPad cases, they can take accidental falls from desks etc.

* They are more compact and lightweight than a laptop. They are easy to carry from class to class and don't take up much room on desktops or in lockers.

* Software is inexpensive, and if you need an app for some purpose, you can almost always find one for free.

Cons:

* Some students will take advantage of the ability to web surf, play games etc when they should be studying or will become too obsessed with too much screen time (games etc). Those are issues that happened at home, primarily in families who hadn't already run into with other electronics and figured out how to handle them. Our teachers have provided info about gate-keeper apps to prevent access to sites you don't want your child visiting, and have provided good suggestions re how to manage use and screen time. I would also say that in the classroom, although the students use the iPads for almost all of their "written" work and for a lot of research etc - they are not spending a huge amount of time on their devices - the bulk of the time is still spent in project work with each other, discussions, listening to lessons explained by teachers etc.

2) Cost of replacing if broken - you can buy insurance for them, and our teachers recommend it. That said, only one student in the last several years had an iPad break and that was in a bizarre accident. None have been broken by the minor accidents that can happen at home and around school. I will attest that I have personally dropped my own iPad more times than I can count, sometimes at an unintended high velocity, and it's working a-ok after several years of very heavy use.

The largest con I see for public education is the cost. OTOH, textbooks cost a lot of money too, and become outdated quickly. I suspect that eventually the glitches that occur with online textbooks now are going to be a thing of the past and at that point tablets/iPads/etc *might* become economically feasible in a much larger way for the average public school.

polarbear