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The iPad classroom

I’ll be very interested to see how this goes.

A Texas school district is trying to close its digital divide by distributing thousands of Apple tablet computers in a move that could make it the largest iPads program for students in the nation.

McAllen Independent School District in the southern part of the state began distributing 6,800 devices this week — mostly the iPad tablet computers, but also hundreds of iPod Touch devices for its youngest students.

By this time next year, the district says every one of its more than 25,000 students in grades K-12 will receive an iPad or iPod Touch. The district believes it’s the largest to try for complete coverage and while Apple would not confirm that, other districts the company noted as having made large investments have not made ones as big as McAllen’s.

Educational use of the tablet computers is so new that there’s little evidence available on their impact. Superintendent James Ponce said the district wanted to change the classroom culture, making it more interactive and creative and decided Apple’s devices — even at $500 retail for an iPad2 — were the best investment.

“We’re just choosing to invest differently going forward,” Ponce said.

Like I said, I can’t wait to see how this turns out. I hope they keep good data. You would think this would help, but you never know. I suppose it’s possible it could help, but the improvement isn’t enough to justify the unit cost. Or maybe it’ll be a game-changer, and the Lege will be under pressure to figure out how to pay for these things statewide. Which would be fine by me. But we won’t know that for a couple of years at least. Let’s see how it goes.

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7 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Frasier Speirs is an educator and programmer who has been blogging his efforts to do a 1:1 deployment of iPads at his school for the past 2-3 years. Anyone interested in how it really works should spend some time at http://speirs.org in the schools category.

  2. Ross says:

    Too bad the Apple products are utter crap, useless for any real work. I also question the point of distributing game systems to every student. There’s also the real issue that you can’t get anything onto one of these that hasn’t been vetted by the Overlords of the Cult of Steve. I think this is a bad idea.

    It would make more sense to use something like a Kindle Fire if you want to distribute books and such, or an Android tablet that has far more options for customization. I also wonder if anyone has considered the back office costs of supporting large numbers of tablets and other similar devices.

  3. Diana says:

    I’d be worried about how constantly Apple updates its products, how long will it be before the iPads have to be replaced and will the educational gain (if there is any) is worth the investment of not only purchasing the iPads but maintaining them and replacing them when it’s time to update.

  4. blank says:

    My son’s private school, which specializes in education for ADHD kids, uses them all of the time. In fact, my son takes his spelling tests on them. The director of the school, who has a doctorate in child psychology, thinks that the touch screen is extremely effective, because it eliminates an extra communication step that you would get with a mouse/keyboard. One of the father’s in the school is volunteer developing educational software for the school. I’ve been told that there are medicaid programs for kids with brain injuries to get them.

  5. Michael says:

    Ross,

    I guess we’ll have to disagree on the “utter crap” judgement. I don’t want to get into a discussion, since I don’t think either of us could actually change the other’s mind.

    However, there is some innacurate information in your comment. It’s trivially easy for a company or school to deploy custom software without doing more than getting an enterprise certificate from apple. No approval required.

  6. Ross says:

    Micheal, I do sort of wear my dislike for all things Apple on my sleeve. It’s your money, do what you like. Heck, I didn’t even cry much when my wife bought a MacBook Pro over my objections (she could have bought 3 PC laptops for that amount of money).

    I know a couple of people who wanted to do some corporate training tools on iPads, as well as some other custom work. Apple wasn’t at all helpful, and told them “we don’t do that”. So, they developed the tools for Android tablets instead.

  7. [...] we know, the McAllen and Fort Bend ISDs have been distributing iPads to their students. It’s too early to know how [...]

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