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iPads in schools: The future of education?

by Debbie Clarke

Schools in the UK are increasingly adopting an e-learning approach in the class room, with some independent or private schools handing out expensive iPads to students in an attempt to achieve better results. Longfield Academy in Dartford Kent has been one of the first to give out iPads to all of its 1,400 pupils hoping to ‘revolutionise learning’ by giving ‘every student the chance to use an iPad to improve their learning wherever they are’.

A scheme such as this, however, comes at a great cost. With Longfield Academy having shelled out £806, 400 on devices alone, it is questionable as to whether schools across the UK can afford to follow suit. With IT and Technology funding for education being one of many areas to see cuts in recent months, it is debatable whether state schools will be able to keep up with the Private schools, leaving many parents questioning who will end up footing the bill for this style of learning, and are the benefits even worth the cost? Even in the case of Longfield Academy, parents are offered the options of buying the devices outright for £576 or paying a monthly donation of £16 a month for three years to the cover the costs of rolling out this revolutionary learning tool.

As well as the cost there are other points to consider. All class rooms would need to be connected to a high speed Wi-Fi network in order to make the most out of the devices. It is also the case that the majority of state schools will be provided with basic PC based computer systems. These would need to be replaced for a network of Macs if the devices are to integrate with the network.

The value of the iPad device itself is also a great concern for some. We all know that children are prone to lose, mistreat or damage anything they get their hands on. Is it worth replacing a text book for something which is not so easy to replace? Not to mention the security issues surrounding items of this value. At Longfield Academy, a staffed cloak room will be provided to store the device during non-class times for improved security, but what about outside of school hours? Some people worry that giving our children items of such high value could be making them a greater target for theft.

On the other hand, there are still many benefits to be seen by introducing the iPad into the school system. As opposed to the good old text books and jotter style of learning, the iPad can offer a far more interactive learning experience. With more and more educational apps being developed children can do all their reading, note taking and organisation in one place, and the thin, lightweight and easy to carry iPad is far more flexible than pen and paper.

Not only this but with an eBook children are able to really interact with their learning materials, viewing videos and listening to audio along with the usual information found in a text book. An iPad is more that just a high tech text book, it is also a research and creativity tool enabling students to really engage with their own learning experience.

It is also true that young people are becoming increasingly familiar with technology similar to the iPad with the popularity of the smart phone increasing significantly. This makes it easy to introduce into schools as even the youngest pupils already have an understanding of how to interact with touch screen technology.

The design of the device itself also lends well to use in an educational setting. The screen has been built in such a way that is easy to view from many angles, it also has easy file sharing making it ideal for group working. With students no longer crowding around one computer screen it becomes possible for everyone in the group to become involved in the task at hand.

As stated earlier, young people are being surrounded by advancing technology every day. As their smart phones and games consoles become more high-tech it can easily be predicted that it will become increasingly difficult to interest and engage students with the currently available PCs and textbooks. With iPads making information more accessible, it seems like a sensible step in the right direction to enhance the learning experience for students. Although it does seem like e-learning will have to play a vital role in the education of students in the future, I think it is safe to say that, until the cost of devices decreases, it will be unlikely a scheme such as this could be rolled out thoughout the curriculum. This unfortunately leaves state schools having to watch from the sidelines as Private schools take the lead in education for a new generation of technophiles.

Has your child been offered an iPad? Do you think there is nothing wrong with a good old text book? Whatever your opinion let us know in the comments section below!

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