iPads in schools

student_ipad_school - 234
photo from flickingerbrad’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Calling all East Bay teachers and principals (from public and private schools): Do you use iPads in your classrooms or hope to adopt them soon? Have they been a valuable tool?

We’re working on a story on the subject, and we’d love to include your stories and insights. Tell us, if you would, what subject and grade-level you teach and how you use this technology — or how you might use it if your school could afford them.

On that note, I’d also like to know your school found the money for these tablets — grant funding? PTA donations? Some other source?

If you’re interested in being interviewed for the story, just send me an email telling me so: kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Another technological solution to social and political problems is probably doomed to have little impact.

    Also, the boom-and-bust grant system poor schools depend on mean you’ll get the gadgets but not the long-term support and replenishment needed for sustainability.

    Or, at least that’s my experience.

  • Debora

    Read “The Shallows – What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains”

    Electronics pass “information” and “data” quickly. However, to learn to think deeply, you need to read long passages, including books.

    If we want truly educated people in the world they will need to think deeply and understand our history to move the future forward in a more equitable, peaceful and intelligent way.

    Moving a curser to the middle of a space and pressing a color so that the picture will be colored in with precisely the hue desired is not the same thing as finding a picture in a coloring book, opening a box of crayons, discovering how the crayon shades the area depending on how hard you press, the length of the strokes and whether you move vertically or horizontally.

    In the former there is no satisfaction for a job well done – as you didn’t really do the job at all. There is little “work” or thought required. In the latter, you can improve, learn and grow. This is the work of preschoolers and kindergarteners that builds into elementary, middle and high school students.

  • Gordon Danning

    I took an online, graduate-level class last summer in which I research and wrote a lengthy research paper. I used a five-year-old computer that runs Windows XP. Similarly, I have had many students write excellent research papers using similar technology at Oakland High. The bottom line is that technology is great, but why a school would spend oodles of money on the very latest technology is beyond me. There are better ways to use money.

    Of course, there might be benefits at the elementary level that might be worth the extra $$ for an iPad or similar device. (But them, Katy’s question is about the iPad specifically. I’d guess that kids could do the same things with a device that costs half as much).

  • Seenitbefore

    computers are great…. BUT…. in our broken school system, this is just another case of…… “buying Ferraris for Driver’s Ed”….. might be flashy……might be fun…… but completely unnecessary….. a huge waste of resources…and potentially VERY dangerous in the hands of immature youth.

  • Lisa Cartolano

    Hi Katy,

    Kaiser Elementary uses Ipads at the school! The computer teacher Rick Frey (also a parent at the school) has been doing lots of great things with the kids at Kaiser.

  • TickTech

    As someone who has integrated a lot of technology into my instruction, I’d like to add a few thoughts:

    While iPads in particular may not be the tech tool of preference, there a lot of tablet interfaces that would be tremendous resources in schools and actually probably save tons of money. Rather than adopt pricey textbooks, which are quickly lost or damaged, and quickly out of date, tablets can store tons of texts. I don’t know that I agree that reading on paper is necessary more educational or meaningful or reading on a screen. I’m definitely a “digital immigrant,” own thousands of books (literally!) and love to read. I don’t mind reading on screen; although I do also read on paper. Sometimes I actually *prefer* reading on screen, depending what it is. Tablets offer lots of options for highlighting, making notes, looking up words, getting translations and more.

    There are amazing web-based resources that require tremendous creative and innovative thinking; I had an amazing adult ESL writing class, using a wiki as a shared electronic portfolio, where we could store, revise and share writing. There are lots of “content-free” resources, that eliminate (or reduce) the need for handouts, and other paper resources, and nothing ever gets lost. If a student is absent, the material is already in her/his online folder.

    Online resources at one’s fingertips bring us maps, music, videos, dictionaries, encyclopedias, daily newspapers (from anywhere in the world, in any language), photographs, museum exhibitions,, and more.

    Rather than scoffing at tablets as an instructional tool, consider as part of a vast array of educational resources, one delivery system out of many. Why wouldn’t any teacher want to have access to a portable, engaging device with so much possibility?

    I don’t think everything should be done online; but it sure should (and will) be part of every student’s learning experience. Kids are often to do challenging intellectual work on computers just because the technology itself is often compelling. I’ve had kids be so much more willing to read, write and revise their work using a computer than they would be doing the same work on paper.

    Today’s educational classroom is a far different place than it was when I was in high school in the mid-70’s, and it reflects the changes in the world.

    I still believe that kids (and adults) need to run, play, touch real things with their hands, act things out, solve math problems without calculators, and interact with other kids/adults in person on a regular basis. But the digital world is here. The best case scenario is what is called “hybrid” or “blended” instruction, which combines traditional classroom instruction with web-based learning. There’s so much to be gained from both of these delivery system.

    Why we would limit ourselves? I think at some point, sooner for wealthier districts, later for districts with more financial challenges like OUSD, rather than a armload of heavy books and binders, kids will have (or be issued) tablets (or whatever the successor to tablets may be), and will be creating electronic portfolios, which is my pet project, which will showcase and archive student work through their school careers.

    I haven’t heard, read or seen anything to convince me that technology, as one tool in a varied arsenal of tools, is not a great resource.

    Of course we need to use it.

  • http://www.movingforwardedu.com Lacy Asbill

    I interviewed my mother, an English learner specialist for a northern CA district, over the weekend about the role of iPads in her intervention programs with Hmong students.

    She said that the absolute stand-out advantage for her is how incredibly intuitive her students are about interacting with this technology. She shared that she literally doesn’t have to teach them how to use the iPad or an app–she just puts the technology in their hands, and they are off and rolling. And these are very low-income students with very little technology in their lives!

    She loves some of the incredibly rich educational apps that are out there, because they are so fun and engaging for English learners. In particular, she mentioned ABC Food, ABC Go, and ABC Music as her students’ favorites. Each of these apps teaches the alphabet through visual images and video clips.

    Despite her love of the iPad as a learning tool, her use of iPad technology has encountered a number of roadblocks.

    While her students were able to be quite intuitive with the technology, it took her some time and training to get comfortable. Getting started was the hardest part (actually, my partner had to set everything up for her over winter break so that she could actually use the bank of dusty iPads that she’d received through a grant).

    Her district uses smart boards, which apparently often block wireless signals, making her iPads glitch out without a signal. She’s had to search for classroom spaces that are far away from smart boards.

    Finally, while her district grant covered the iPads themselves, they did not set aside a budget for educational apps, which she has had to purchase out of pocket. She said that she sometimes feels that new ideas aren’t thought all the way through to their logistical implications.

    Just a few thoughts offered by someone who has been on this learning curve!

  • Nextset

    How do you keep the IPads from being stolen?

  • Viet

    I use 2 iPads for my students with autism in my SDC. Amazing technology. My students are very motivated and engaged with the iPads. I have many apps that reinforce skills. My program has benefited from the use of the iPad.

  • Catherine

    Nextset: Apple products have a built in “Low-jack” type of feature. When you buy the machines you set it up for possible tracking. When the item goes “missing” you can turn on the tracking feature from any computer or smartphone.

    Oakland police department arrested two robbers who took Apple products at gunpoint on Lakeshore Avenue. They were located in about two hours and had the stolen iPad in the trunk. Guns were taken, robbers are in custody and owner has the iPad.

  • Nextset

    The Find My IPad feature requires WiFi connection, unless the IPad is set for Cell Communication. School IPads would be WiFi only and would not link when taken from the school.

    Presumably the thieves would wipe the unit prior to connecting to their home WiFi signals.

  • iPad using teacher

    Left you an email about our class using them at our school. Didn’t hear back from you yet. Wonder if you received it correctly.

  • Katy Murphy

    I got a few emails after the story had been filed — not sure if this was the case with yours, but I’ll file the info away for the next tech story. Thanks for writing in!