5 real ways educators are using iPads

iPad in use

August is approaching, which means it’s almost time to go back to school. As students converge on college campuses this fall, many of them will have a new tool in their backpacks–the Apple iPad (or, theoretically, another tablet computer). A few months back I pondered some potentially good use cases for the iPad in education. Fast forward to now, and several schools are getting ready to put these general ideas and others to the test. Here’s a quick rundown of how the iPad may (or may not) work in schools this coming year.

1. Textbook replacement

As noted in Ars Technica, many universities are looking at iPads as replacements for paper textbooks this fall. At Oklahoma State University, a pilot program will provide an iPad to a limited number of students. One potential benefit: the savings by buying the e-book versions of several required textbooks actually offsets the price tag of the iPad (in some cases the e-book edition costs $100 less than the paper edition).

At Reed College, researchers are repeating a study conducted last year with Amazon’s Kindle DX e-book reader. That study noted several hurdles with adoption of e-books, including the slowness of e-ink technology and network issues. Researchers will learn if those problems exist on the iPad as well.

2. Textbook supplement

Some universities are exploring the iPad’s multimedia capacities as a means of augmenting traditional printed materials (or regular e-books, for that matter). At the University of Maryland, some students will be able to access supporting multimedia to provide additional explanation of concepts–what’s more, they will learn how to write iPad software themselves.

3. Laptop replacement

Other schools, such as George Fox University in Oregon, will allow students to choose between a MacBook or an iPad as their computer. At universities that provide incoming students with a computer, and as productivity applications for tablets become more widespread, this could become standard practice. The more I use an iPad, the more I think that for many people a tablet-like computer will become the standard, whereas the laptop as we now know it will be more the norm for people doing heavy-duty engineering and software development.

4. Field research

When the iPad was announced I predicted one educational use of the iPad would be in mobile data collection. At Duke University, students will learn field data collection techniques using 3G-enabled iPads. I’m particularly excited to follow their progress, as we would like to pursue this method in school-based research.

5. Sheet music

This last example isn’t about education per se but still interesting (and it applies to music education): A company called Airtune is developing a Bluetooth-based music page turner for people who play musical instruments with both hands. Check out the demonstration video below. I could see this technology applying to adaptive/assistive needs as well:

Do you have any plans for the iPad this coming school year?

Image: Veronica Belmont on Flickr

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Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.