Readers: Seven ways to make the iPad better for education

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor
July 27th, 2012

“I want to monitor students’ reading comprehension, math skills, and problem solving progress,” said one reader.

iPad adoption in schools is growing at a phenomenal rate, as we reported last year, and some educators call the devices a game-changer.

But besides its sleek style, portability, and access to apps and the internet, is the iPad efficient for teacher and student work—more so, say, than other tablets or mobile devices? At the current cost of the iPad, one would hope so.

We recently asked readers: “If there was one feature/app/design spec you’d like to see on the iPad (or any other mobile device) to help you teach in the classroom or make your job more efficient, what would it be and why?”

And though there are many mobile devices on the market, our readers were like the coach who picks on the star player to make him or her even better: Most commented on how the iPad could be better for education. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most readers focused on functionality and compatibility with other software and hardware already within the classroom environment.

Do you agree with these suggestions? Have any of your own? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

(Some comments edited for brevity.)

1. Show some Flash.

“It would be great if iPads were compatible with Flash! We are rolling out a [one-to-one computing program] in August with our sixth grade. It has been so difficult to try to work around the inability to play Flash content. Many software companies are creating their resources in HTML 5 format, but there is still so much out there that won’t work on the iPad.” —Angela Woolsey, technology integration specialist, MSD of Mt. Vernon

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7 Responses to “Readers: Seven ways to make the iPad better for education”

July 27, 2012

How did a USB port get left out of the suggestions? That would be a wonderful addition as well. Our students go back and forth between Macs and PCs as well as moving from home to school. We’ve tried Dropbox and Skydrive, but have found glitches in both. Sometimes a flashdrive is the answer, however, we can’t move anything via USB to the iPad. Why?

July 27, 2012

Some of these wish list items are not as big an issue as you might think. For instance, Rover or Photon are apps that can be used to display Flash content. There are a growing number of collaborative apps like BaiBoard that allow multiple users to collaborate on the same board, and although it is a little unwieldy on the iPad, there are collaborative elements to Google Docs.

For more control, apps like Nearpod give you just that for a locked in classroom presentation, and Apple’s iOS 6 will introduce Guided Access which will also give options for locking an iPad on a specific app.

Progress monitoring varies from app to app, but free options like Socrative can be a great way to help monitor student progress, while things like ClassDojo can be used to monitor behavior. Hardware restrictions will prevent controlling an iPad from a whiteboard, but SMART are releasing an iPad version of Notebook soon and Promethean have one too.

As for instructions, there is an iPad manual on the Apple support site, and an online manual is added by default to the bookmarks on the Safari browser. All iPad owners have that and it shows you how to operate the device.

July 30, 2012

It would be great if ALL students had access to the iPad. In my district only one elementary school has a set because a local university adopted that school. I would like a set to use with my students especially for struggling readers.

August 6, 2012

These are all interesting suggestions, but miss the target on the most important element of all: advancing individual learning, long term.

Delivering one to many teaching over a tablet is not 1:1 personalized learning and does very, very, little, if anything, to advance individual learning, long term.

For tablets to have any real educational value, they must deliver, brain based, research proven, classroom proven, long term, learning methodologies, to each and every student to advance individual learning long term.

August 10, 2012

Some of these suggestions aren’t about the iPad per se, but the apps. For example “What is most important to me … is the ability to monitor and track student progress and performance in a given program.”

What you need are apps that are designed to be curriculum aligned and track student progress. One such app is SOLARO Mobile ( 100% State Standards aligned lessons and practice questions (with full solutions) for Mathematics, Sciences and English Language Arts 3rd through 12th grades.

SOLARO also has apps to turn those mobile devices into an ad hoc audience response system (with tracking) using the SOLARO Respond app.

Connect your iPad2 to the digital projector/whiteboard or use the Web-based application on a computer and you have a cross-platform, curriculum aligned solution which can help teachers by providing resources and students by providing unlimited opportunities for practice and feedback.