January 27, 2010 marked the day when the late great Steve Jobs gifted the world of education with the iPad. In his classic presentation where he put up a slide of an iPhone and a Macbook laptop with a question mark set in between, Steve Jobs presented, and successfully created a third category of device in the middle. Users’ and developers’ reaction were lukewarm at first, but when people finally caught on the new technology and saw Jobs’ vision for the iPad, sales sky rocketed, making the iPad Apple’s newest revolutionary darling product.
Joe Hewitt (who wrote the Facebook iPhone and co-created the Firefox Internet browser) summed it up nicely: “The bottom line is, many apps which were cute toys on iPhone can become full-featured power tools on the iPad, making you forget about their desktop/laptop predecessors. We just have to invent them.”
Software developers since then have created applications for the iPad that greatly improved user experience. Edtech apps are now abundant- it is not uncommon to see an iPad inside the classroom. With elearning integration in our educational system, the iPad is a wise investment. Lightweight and portable, the iPad could store an entire library of ebooks. This wonderful device is well-loved by students because it simply makes learning more fun. Interactive educational games are effective ways to engage primary school students. They can also use the device to browse websites and search for information- with the right teacher tools in place, educators need not worry about the internet safety of their charge.
Tap, swipe, pinch to zoom in and zoom out- the iPad’s bigger than an iPhone’s touchscreen is one of its greatest strengths. However, research shows that while this mode of usage is good for primary school students, it is not so for older students. For one, older students do a lot of typing. Typing on the iPad’s screen cannot fully replace the experience of typing on an actual physical keyboard. The classic desktop computer’s mouse is still relevant for it provides navigational ease. Sure, iPad accessories are in the market, but this entails additional expense- the laptop is the more convenient choice. Desktop computers and laptops also have better specifications than the iPad- computer programs used by older students usually require high specifications for them to run. At the moment, multiple windows browsing cannot be done on an iPad screen. This is a liability since older students’ works require them to navigate between and browse multiple windows at the same time.
Perhaps in the future these concerns will be addressed. In the meantime, an older student is better off equipped with a laptop, with an iPad to complement his or her educational gadgetry for added portability.