Apple sold over three million iPads in the 80 days following its April 2010 release. Subsequent sales are continuing at an estimated rate of two million each month. With the iPad now making its way into educational settings, educators are looking at new ways of effectively using the iPad to further students’ education. Additionally, app developers are busy creating appropriate apps for students to use.
One obvious use of the iPad in education is for electronic textbooks. Using the iPad for textbooks reduces the costs for schools and reduces the weight that students need to carry around in their backpacks. With e-reader apps, students are able to make notes, and highlight, as they read their digital textbooks. They can also tap on a word to gain access to a dictionary. The iPad allows for an interactive rather than a static reading experience. Publishers can create their texts to have images that move, and that can be turned, and viewed from different angles. They can also include links to online sites with additional information, video, and multimedia activities appropriate to the topic.
A number of colleges are incorporating the use of iPads into their curriculum. The University of Minnesota is giving free iPads to 450 freshman students as a part of a research project being conducted to discover whether iPads change how students learn. Private donations have been used to cover the cost of the iPads, which totals less than $216,000. Because the iPads are lighter than laptops, it is expected that students will bring them to class each day. Teachers will plan lessons requiring students to use the iPads and record not only how they are being used, but also how students respond to using them. With daily use in class, it is presumed that the teachers and students will discover new ways to use the iPads to enhance learning.
An elementary school in Illinois, West Prairie South, is using iPads in its special needs classrooms to assist students with autism spectrum disorder. The interactive properties of many of the iPad’s apps make it a useful tool for these students. Two apps that teachers at West Prairie South have found useful are ABC Pocket Phonics and Proloquo2Go. The first is an interactive phonics program, and the second has text to speech capabilities that help students who have difficulty speaking.
As iPads continue to be used in educational settings, at all levels, more evidence can be gathered as to the impact they have on students as they gain skills, knowledge, and comprehension. In reality, the iPad will not completely change the instructional process. Rather, the iPad is a useful tool that can enhance instruction and learning.