The real reason I don’t like iPads

iPads are amazing.

So I’m trying to work out why I don’t like them so much. Many educators I know rave about them, talking about how they are transforming classroom practice. How can it be that I dislike something that benefits children? Is it their cost? Ease of use? Reliability? Compatibility? The fact that I’m a bit of a Google-head and just suffering from raw iPad-envy?

No. It’s none of those. You can justify their cost if the educational benefits are high enough; they are clearly ease to use. Reliability issues would hit the national press and so must be none existent. As for compatibility – there are so many Apps in the App store, who cares if the iPad is a bit of a closed system. Educators like Daniel Harvey have made great lists of iPad-related resources that make it easy to use iPads in the classroom for even the most inexperienced of users.

So what is my problem? I have realised it is school leaders.

At a recent conference for hundreds of headteachers and deputies, I was bemused to see purple-covered iPad after purple-covered iPad emerge from their designer containers only for the basic ‘Notepad’ App to be switched on. Then headteacher after headteacher began taking notes, one index-finger at a time.

It doesn’t take much searching to find that there are many other note-taking Apps out there – many of which would at least improve the experience of taking notes, or even better, the productivity, with something like Evernote. It struck me that many of my colleagues would have been helped with the simple addition of a keyboard, or maybe even, (shock, horror) dispensing with the technology and using paper and pen.

Meanwhile, I sat taking notes on my Chromebook and pulling up web pages relevant to the topics in hand, surrounded by colleagues with more expensive technology using them extremely ineffectively. If only they followed a twitter stream like #ipaded – then at least they might be getting some value out of their technology.

But that wasn’t all.

A few weeks later I spoke to an ICT co-ordinator who had come back from the Summer vacation to find that his headteacher had spend a substantial chunk of his ICT budget on iPads. The headteacher had been seduced by the shininess of the iPads and the kudos he would get from the students by purchasing them, without having thought about what the students would actually do with the iPads. Not only that but the ICT co-ordinator was disgruntled and disillusioned that he had been bypassed so. It’s a headteacher’s perogative you might argue, but it strikes me as a poor decision on more than one level.

In conclusion, my dislike stems from the decision-making of fellow school leaders. I’m excited when I see educators make the most of their technology for the benefit of the education of their students. It disappoints me when I see educators spending a lot of public money on technology that isn’t well used.

No technology has an impact on learning on its own: success depends on how it is used.”

Nesta, Decoding Learning

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