2013 was the year of the iPad in education. Lost of posts and articles declared that the device was going to transform learning and completely alter classroom practice. Plus lists of 23 apps that you must have!
Last year came the backlash, as usually happens with edtech revolutions.
A good deal of it was driven by stories of the poorly designed plan to distribute iPads to all students in Los Angeles1 but there were plenty of other negative voices. Also, a new edtech miracle device was crowned: the Chromebook.
Among the many complaints about the iPad, one of the loudest around here is that the devices are difficult to manage. And by “manage”, of course, we mean control.
There’s a reason why Windows is so beloved by the enterprise, and by IT departments in overly-large school districts that love to use that “enterprise” designation. The machines are relatively easy to clone and lock down. Which also makes many teachers happy as well since every screen is identical and every student gets the same “experience”. Certainly if our head of IT had her way, every computing device in the system would be identical and controlled from HQ.
However, if you’re critical of the iPads you bought because they’re difficult to control, because it’s hard to use them to duplicate the lab experience you love so much, don’t blame Apple.
The iPad was always designed as a device for the individual. That’s the way it’s always been marketed, as the most personal of personal computers, for fun, creation, and personal learning. Sure some promotional material shows iPads being used in classrooms by happy kids and teachers, but there’s no reason the sales people would mislead us, right?
If you expect Apple to change the way iPads function just because so many schools are buying them (as I’ve heard more than one IT person declare they must, MUST!), then you haven’t been paying attention. That’s not the company philosophy. Apple decides how the device works and users accept that. They wouldn’t mind selling millions of them to businesses2 but they’re leaving the lockdown control part up to IBM (and who will charge “enterprises” big bucks for it).
Ok, so none of this is meant to be a criticism of the iPad. I know the device has it’s flaws but so does any other computing choice you can name. They just aren’t big enough to inhibit my enjoyment. I love mine and in the almost four years I’ve had one, it has become an essential part of my digital life.
However, if those flaws are insurmountable for you, if iPad doesn’t fit into your model of an instructional devices, just don’t buy them. Get one running one of the many variations of the Android OS. Kindles. Amplify. Windows 8. Try Chromebooks. Forget tablets altogether and stick with a generic Windows PC.3
But you’re looking for the ideal device for instructional computing, the one that will be super easy to manage (aka control), the miracle worker that will turn all of your students into creative, innovative, high-test-scoring, coding, data-generating wonder kids, right?
Just wait. The next revolutionary educational technology should be announced any day now.