iPads: The Wrong Tool for 21st-Century Learning

Jake Hadley, Contributor

Last year, the school district passed the 1:1 initiative, giving all Prior Lake high school and middle school students and teachers school-issued iPads. According to the school website, they did this hoping to enhance student’s learning and strengthen vital technological skills for future success.

Many students, including myself, were excited about the rollout and thought that the iPads would be a great tool and make many things more accessible while arguing they would not be too distracting.

This, of course, was wishful thinking, and the iPads proved to be too much of a distraction and did more harm than good. Many students agree and admit that their attention level has dropped and they find themselves playing games instead of taking notes more often than not, myself included.

Chris Curry said this about the iPads being a distraction, “It’s really hard to resist not playing games during class. I’ve found myself multiple times playing games during notes and missing important stuff for upcoming tests.”

The school attempts to combat this issue with their “screens down” policy, but ir is rarely used in class and most teachers have given up on enforcing these policies and will just let students play games and be distracted.

The school has made efforts to stop this by blocking certain apps or games and not allowing students to use VPNs, but students always seem to find a new way around it.

The bigger and more frustrating issue is the size of the iPad and the inconvenience that comes from trying to write papers or use others tools that are no problem on a computer but not conducive to iPad. The iPad screen and keyboard are too small and make it too difficult to write papers efficiently. Some students have purchased Bluetooth keyboards for easier use, but they too are often small and can cost over $100.

Having this technology in school is a tremendous tool and provides incredible opportunities for students to grow and gain new skills that will help them succeed in the future, but iPads are not the right fit.

One possible solution to this problem is the Google Chromebook. The school has a few Chromebook carts and I for one would much rather use those than the iPads. Being a laptop, they are much easier to use and can do almost everything the iPad can when it comes to tools and programs students use.

Not only are the Chromebooks a better fit for students’ needs, they also cost less. A 32 GB iPad Mini 4 is listed at $399 on Apple.com, while the Acer Chromebook R11, one of the newer and higher rated models of Chromebooks, is listed at $299.99 on the Google store.

What makes this model of Chromebook even better is that it is a laptop and tablet, giving students the option to use it whichever way they prefer while costing $100 less than the iPad Mini.

While there will be some students who will continue to play games and find themselves distracted by the Chromebooks, I believe it would be significantly less than what it is currently with iPads.  Most of all, students can actually use a keyboard to write and format efficiently.

Technology is proving vital for success in the future, and the Google Chromebook would do so much more for students and their needs than the current iPads.