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iPad as sole device for secondary students?

There has been some paper in the press recently about Orewa school decision to require parents to purchase a device. http://www.orewa.school.nz/content.php?page=166

The press has focused on the fact that they were asking the parents to pay for it rather than managing this and providing devices under a loan plan. This has important implications for democracy. There are in NZ issues of child poverty and starting to require paid laptops and paid apps in the absence of any support for the poorest kid in the classroom is likely to threaten the core value of equal opportunities (your chances to succeed in life shouldn't be determined by your parents income). 

But one aspect that didn't get discussed is that they are recommending an iPad as primary/unique computing device to year 9 students. That is kids that are 13 years old. 

I am all for introducing and using iPads in primary education. 

But secondary education? With primary students, is an iPad more likely to boost learning or to hold back from learning more advanced skills? Anybody ever tried to type a 5 pages long essay on an iPad? 

I am aware of good press for the use of iPad in primary schools. Is there any research / case study showing how the iPad enhances secondary education?


  • Innes Kennard

    Murielle thanks for your thoughtful post. However having done a bit of checking (only online) I note that the decision is not 'THE school's' decision but rather a decision that comes about as a result of a significant amount of consultation and reflection, involving the school community, as to what is seen to be an effective way forward for their year 9 students. I am sure they have addressed the ethical dilemma of sitting on their wringing hands and doing nothing, as much as the issue of ensuring access for all of their students hence the options that they have come up with.

    I am not privy to their reasons for the primacy of the iPad however if  only 1% of the currently available apps (and i am totally sure it is more than this) are relevant to the learning opportunities of 13 year olds then that is some 4750 apps across every subject matter that you can think of. From consuming to creating to collaborating to exploring and everything in between I think that surprisingly there might be as much for them as there is for a 5 or 50 year old. With a wry smile I note that there wasn't the same furore when some colleges chose netbooks for year 9 - with few research/case studies - good on them, however when they now in less than a year, last little more than 2 periods other challenges arise.

    As for advanced skills like typing a 5 page essay, maybe they will use a pencil in a book though having just written a 15 page article on an iPad I am not so sure. Possibly it suits my hunt and peck.  I certainly couldn't manage it on a Blackberry or a mobile phone and I absolutely would refuse to do it on paper - I'm too old for that!!! Maybe they will use Google Docs and 5 students will write 3pages each - I am looking forward to the consternation.

    Finally I would like to reflect on the use of the word sole - Ray Bradbury would be impressed. My experience is that schools who have some sort of enhanced programme use this to increase access for others, possibly addressing your ethical question. I am not in a position to speak for Orewa but I would be very surprised if this was not a part of the equation. It just may be that some have nothing to 'take home' however many will be able to access their learning outside of school in other ways and other places. This is what builds learning communities and is what I saw in our local library at 4.00 pm. I want the kids to 'want' to do this, to have the freedom to learn.

    By the way the site you have provided the link to gives some indication as to the thought  that has gone into this decision.

    The instances that David Parsons gave this morning in the radio interview were all secondary - as a device that has only been around for 15 months the groundswell of positive information is a little overwhelming. I think I will step back and only believe some of it 8-}

    I admire Orewa for going where few have gone before and hope that in 12 months time the press will be as quick to congratulate as they have been to criticise and condemn. I certainly hope that they are able to put staff PD in place that will maximise the opportunity for success. Teachers are the critical component in this.I also admire the fact that they have 'engaged' an external, professional researcher to check it out.

    It is more in the how than the what.

  • Luke Sumich

    my point would be- is typing why we have these devices- in secondary you don't write 5 pages of notes for ncea level1. people think device and think laptop and typing - notes audio video sketching recording snycing Internet - the device and it's usage are limited to the user. people need the value of hindsight here, it's gonna be a great call BUT unfortunately this school will cop flack for the next 3 years, every time a kid accesses Facebook etc. the research is thin, no question but the devices are 18 months old!!! but the research isn't as thin as national standards and every school in the country is doing them. I've had iPod touch since they day they arrived and too ipad1/2. this is the best device for 2012, you will wait years for the perfect device, meanwhile when it arrives my son would be 24years old. Innes is on the money so too are Orewa.

  • Enabling e-Learning

    Setting aside the argument as to which technology is best, this media-hyped story raises questions which face all schools: how to extend and enhance the learning that students are already doing, through innovative methods and approaches, and how to manage challenges of budget, procurement and provision.

    All schools will want to give all their students access to the best. The question of how, and what this will look like, will, no doubt vary from school to school. The question of equity of provison that you raise, Marielle - who should pay? - has been around for a long time. Not every school will ask parents to provide a tool, and schools can choose to manage budgets in ways that suit their curriculum choices.  Engaging the community meaningfully in these discussions - as Orewa seems to have done -  is the best way to go.

    You might be interested in the more general discussion on access to ICT has been running in the eLearning: Leadership group: /mod/threaded_forums/topicposts.php?topic=72818&group_guid=53306

  • Marielle Lange

    "Engaging the community meaningfully in these discussions - as Orewa seems to have done - is the best way to go."

    Once it is about asking parents to pay for a take home device, then the preference of pupils needs to be taken into consideration. The discussions should have included the pupils. I doubt they have done so. 

    If the school decides to buy 10+ iPads to be used in the classroom, bought on the school budget, then best is to choose the device that is the easiest for them to manage and best suit their in class requirements. And the iPad certainly does tremendously well there. 

    If the school decides that it is critical for 21st century teens to own their own digital devices (and kudos to the school to recognize this), then the school has to be extra careful in recommending a device for parents to buy. They first have to decide whether they have the expertise required to make such a costly recommendation. It is not only very costly for the parents but different types of devices can limit or expand the kids' horizon in different ways. A future scientist would be better off with a computer than with an iPad. A future IT professional (and there is a good employement market for this in NZ) would be better off with a computer than with an iPad. The decision will be for school new entrants. I doubt they have engaged the future school pupils in any of these discussions.