Jan 31, 2012

iPads or MacBooks?

I just posted this response to Jeff Utecht's post, Why I still want MS and HS to Have a Laptop.


Currently, students in my classes have primary access to Windows machines, but they also have access to Mac computers and iPads. We are not currently a 1:1.
If I were offered a 1:1 with MacBooks or iPads and everything else were equal, I personally would definitely pick the MacBooks. However, if I could use the difference in funding to pay for additional professional learning community time (which includes curriculum redevelopment time) among those “teaching” with the iPads, I’d probably opt for the iPads. I would also choose the iPads over Windows XP machines. I’d have to think carefully between the iPads and Windows 7 machines. If I were choosing for the whole school, I might even choose the iPads over MacBooks even if everything else were equal.
Why? One reason is that I think your conclusion about iPads as consumption devices is inaccurate. (“At the end of the day the iPad is designed for the consumption of information.”) I do believe Apple designs them to be excellent consumption devices and those features may appear to stand out. But, they are also excellent production devices. In some cases, even better than MacBooks.
You mention wanting students to create apps, videos, and music. It is true that iPads cannot be used to create apps that run on iPads. (I’d add that they can’t run Scratch here too.) Related side question, what percentage of your students are coding apps on their MacBooks? But, iPads can be used to shoot and edit excellent videos with just the built in camera and iMovie or iStop motion. And, with GarageBand, among other apps, students can create excellent music or audio podcasts. In facts, my students often create better (technically) videos and audio recordings in less time on the iPad. Granted, they may not have all the special fx, but that’s rarely what makes video or audio go viral. It’s much more often about the content and a little less due to the quality of the original footage/audio. Here’s a link to an great example –http://www.ipadacademic.com/education/lesson-plans/animating-and-explaining-cell-division – though it might not go viral.
With their ease of use, stability and the ability of students to complete quality projects often in less time, I’ve seen teachers in my school and nationally during summer pd sessions take to these devices much more rapidly than laptops, even MacBooks. If teachers will get (allow) students to use iPads to produce more projects than with MacBooks, then I need to take the iPad over the more flexible and powerful MacBook.
That’s not to say I view iPads without their definite drawbacks, which I lay out in a little more detail here (draft). Link to Affordances & Constraints Chart –http://balancedtech.wikispaces.com/Affordances+%26+Constraints+-+iPad
We also need to make sure our PLCs are focusing on quality uses of either device. Working through the following activity with teachers is a start in that direction, whether using MacBooks, iPads, or other devices. Link to Apps Taskonomy Activity for Educators –http://balancedtech.wikispaces.com/Apps+Taskonomy
Check out iPad Creative to see how others are using iPads in phenomenal ways!http://www.ipadcreative.com/

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