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back to article iPads in education: Not actually evil, but pretty close

Education in the USA has long been a stronghold of Apple, the venerable Apple II being cheap and tough enough to survive in that hostile environment, skool. But Apple’s gouging of UK consumers meant the prices were so high back in the day that it was worth flying to New York and paying air fares hotel and taxes to buy the beast …

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"Why IT teachers are seduced by pretty, but wholly unsuitable toys?"

'Cause they are IT* teachers and not competent CompSci teachers?

*IT as in, I can make a wifi connection work.

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Re: "Why IT teachers are seduced by pretty, but wholly unsuitable toys?"

Can make a WiFi connection work? You really do give too much credit to the common IT teacher. They just tell kids to make powerpoint presentations all day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Why IT teachers are seduced by pretty, but wholly unsuitable toys?"

At least its slightly better than the governors at my sons' secondary school who, when it opened as a new school 6 years ago had ideas of being a "cutting edge" school with electronic learning which would be achieved by equiping all the students with iPaqs (that's not a spelling mistake - it was those HP "palmtops" with screens that today would be small for a smartphone) ... and where would the then cost of £200+/student come from - well, the governors' meeting minutes that described the project indicated that charging parentes £10/month for a couple of years was the solution. Fortunately the idea got dropped (along with most of their ideas to be a "hi-tech school of the future" - i.e. electonic badge cards so students would swipe in and out of school/lessons so everyone knew where everyone is ... though the automated texting of parents of students not recorded on the register has been implemented - sadly not all the teachers always send their registers in by the deadline so reception staff have deal with constant calls from parents asking why they've been told their child is not at school when they are!)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Why IT teachers are seduced by pretty, but wholly unsuitable toys?"

The teacher we had in charge of the new IT room with the new computers etc literally couldnt turn a computer on. She didnt know where the power button was (on the front, big and round) and thought the computer turned on when the monitor was switched on.

She had a copy of my timetable so that when someone needed to move a picture on a word document and asked her, she could send for me wherever I was in the building to come and sort it out.

They also had a room with windows 3.1 machines which I used to maintain with the technicians. Not a suitable environment for any of the teachers though.

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Pint

Re: "Why IT teachers are seduced by pretty, but wholly unsuitable toys?"

This sounds familiar. Back in my junior school days, in a room full of BBC Master machines, there was a worryingly high occurrence of people switching on the machines with books on the keyboard.

For those who need a reminder, switching on a BBC Master (or Archimedes) with the R key held down erases the CMOS RAM - and on the BBC, the defaults were rather less than helpful.

After the first few times I was called out of class to fix it, I started carrying around an ADFS floppy with a !Boot script that fixed the machines automagically. Giving a copy to the IT teacher didn't help, I was still called out to fix the machines. Only then it took me about 15 seconds instead of several minutes typing in a long string of *CONFIGURE (yeah, I know, *CO. worked) commands.

A beer, because I now do on call work on my day job.

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Facepalm

Re: "Why IT teachers are seduced by pretty, but wholly unsuitable toys?"

... it's simple really, the more iToys, the more incompetent ...

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Re: "Why IT teachers are seduced by pretty, but wholly unsuitable toys?"

I hoped that wasn't true, then found out my friend had been asked to teach IT at his school.

Lovely bloke, great at other subjects but feels that technology should have stopped around the age of sail., he doesn't even have an email, it took us years to get him into the idea of texting. He wasn't even offended when I just laughed down the phone as he realised how silly it was.

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Meh

*IT as in

I have a copy of the IT curriculum.

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Re: *IT as in

"...they made the ICT technician redundant and they know I can set the clock on the old VCR's"

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Re: *IT as in

It's 12:00 somewhere.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: *IT as in

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. A clock that's flashing 00:00, only once.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: *IT as in

IT, or ICT as it's now called is not Computer Science, it's very important to understand this. The reason for ICT being in the curriculum is to give pupils a basic understanding of how technology works particularly in reference to work and every day life. This should be covered by all pupils.

Computer Science is programming, algorithms and datasets, etc, not every pupil needs to be learning this, in the same way that they don't all learn French, German and Italian or do all three sciences. There should be a basic grounding however.

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Re: *IT as in

You see, this is where we differ. I'd say every secondary-level pupil SHOULD have a good grounding in all three sciences, plus AS maths and at least one modern language. Also a decent grasp of history, and Computer Science, as in programming. Even if it's the equivalent of logo or Scratch; the principles and what they teach us are what's important.

I'm old-fashioned, though. I know this...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: *IT as in

@Borked again: I'd like to agree, but there is simply too much to include in an education - I would add to your list:

Art

History

Geography

Music

Physical Education of some sort

Philosophy / RE

Politics

Financial / Personal Economic Education

Some sort of work experience in the real world

CDT / Engineering

At some point you're going to have to admit that you can't do everything, so you need to get kids to choose what they're best at/what they are interested in.

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Re: *IT as in

Actually, Anon, I agree with you as well. It shames me that I forgot so many important topics (Art, of course. Music, PE, Philosophy, finances, all good...) but just 'cos there's a lot to get through doesn't mean we shouldn't bother. It means we should bloody well get on with it and stop pussy-footing around.

My old school had time for most of these, PLUS eurythmy, handwork, woodwork and occasional school trips. Slightly science-light, if I'm honest, but that's tree-hugging hippies for you. Sadly, I'm more grateful to them now than they ever knew.

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Completely right on all accounts

Put aside for a moment the lack of programmabilty and access, because it can be reasonably argued that tablets can be used to teach all subjects, not just IT. The real deal-breaker is - who will pay for the lost / broken ones? Many parents will not be able to afford even a cheaper tablet let alone an iPad, or multiples for parents with 2, 3, + kids. For the school to pay, that's money they could be spending elsewhere. And if the school is paying for the lost ones, how do they know it's lost and not 'lost'?

This is true for all tablets not just iPads of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Completely right on all accounts

There is huge potential for iPads etc. in education:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20930195

Wonder if people said this as we transitioned from slates to paper? The opportunity for saving money on textbooks, having richer / multimedia content, monitoring and assisting pupils more easily and personally. Or perhaps it's better to have a teacher scratching chalk on a blackboard for the next 50 years?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Completely right on all accounts

The school saves money on text books, but when your childs school moves to iPads it is you that is expected to pay for the iPad. Not that you own the thing afterwards.

In the case of Harrogate Grammar - you make a £350 donation to the school and before your kid gets to join the iPad club. You have to be have a pretty tough sort of kid to decide that you aren't going to pay up.

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Re: Completely right on all accounts

Education is a pretty big area, the article concentrates on Comp Sci and I'd agree that tablets aren't really suitable for that, elsewhere though, from primary onwards tablets will become the norm.

It's pretty simple really, they make sense for exactly the same reasons that we supply office workers with computers, we don't expect dave in sales to be able to write a program, he just needs the tools to do the job.

As tools for learning go, a good app is better than a good book, interactive content is better than watching an episode of 'Look Around You', screen sharing is better than a smartboard, the web is a better research tool than the Library, online homework is better than printing out bits of paper, distributing them, chasing them up, and hand marking them. Collaboration, messaging etc and so on.

That classrooms are going to transition from pen and paper to digital should be obvious, and if you're handing out computers, tablets are smaller, lighter, have better battery life and are harder to break (software & hardware*), than laptops, and if you've decided on tablets then the app ecosystem, tracking and inherent lockdown are persuasive arguments for selecting iPads. I'm sure that will change over time but it's true enough right now,

*Pour a glass of water on a tablet and it's likely to be fine, do the same on an open laptop and it's likely fucked. How many times do you think you could drop your laptop off a desk without something breaking? mostly it's nunce. One piece solid state devices are simply tougher than hinged part mechanical devices.

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IT Angle

Re: Completely right on all accounts

There seems to be a few arguments here for using tablets / ereaders at textbook replacements. Seems a worthy idea in principle. As I child, I would much prefer walking a nexus to 5 textbooks a day a but I would love to know the figures on books costs vs ebook costs. The publishers make a *mint* on selling text books, often upwards of £30 a pop. University books even more of a killing. The print cost is bugger all of the sale price. I can’t see why they would cannibalise their own margins to sell ebooks cheaply. Its a pretty closed market too, not like another publisher has a volume of GCSE/ SATs accredited levels of study material.

Secondly, textbooks last ages. I’m sure we all remember getting a naff 20th hand textbook and looking in the front cover to see what student it was previously lent to. I started secondary school in 1994. I distinctly remember being given a text book that was printed in 1983, the year I was born. So that book lasted at least 11 years. That wasn’t unusual. You find me any tablet that’ll last typical kids usage for more than 2 years. I can’t see it. I‘m not arguing that we should never update teaching materials, but I’m not yet convinced an ebook is the answer to integrating tech into schools.

***The below numbers are estimates. If you know better, feel free to correct. I’d love to see some proper maths***

Lets say a small secondary school has 5 year groups, 2 classes per Year group (30 per class). Thats a total of 60 students per year, and 300 students in all. Each student needs 8 textbooks per year for a variety of subjects.

Working to the assumption that a text book costs £30 and an e version costs £20. (go on amazon, even chart retail books are usually barely discounted)

Also assuming the school avoids a £300 iPad and buys a £150 budget jobbie

*Option 1*

School buys old style text book. Each book lasts a decade.

School buys £30 text book x 8 per student x 300 students = £72,000

Total cost of Paper text books is £72000. Lifespans of 10 years, Thats £7,200 per year.

Lets say the books only last 6 years, thats £12,000 per year

*Option 2*

School buys cheap 10” tablet per student and 1e licence per student per subject. The e licence is permanent and therefore is transferrable to subsequent students.

Licence cost is £20 licence x 8 per student x 300 students = £48,000

Hardware cost is £150 per tablet x 300 students = £45000. Hardware lasts 2 years (MAX) so over a decade will need to buy 5 times = £225,000

Total cost of electronic text books is £225,000 over 10 years. Thats £22,500 per year.

Lets say the project lasts 6 years, Thats still £48000 in licences. Lets just argue they get a tablet to last 3 years, albeit unlikely. Thats 2 purchases = £90,000. So a total of £138,000 for a cost of £23,000 p/a

I’ve not even mentioned the cost of charging the devices. I agree it is unlikely to be huge, but equally, it is unlikely to be negligible. 300 tablets twice a week at £0.10 a time is still £3000+ a year. I guess its just the parents who will foot that.

Again, to add, I am happy to be corrected. I currently work in tech and have previously at a publisher of educational books though. A reasonable knowledge of the print industry.

I love tech, and it makes sense to integrate the next generation. I can’t help but get the feeling tablet tech is brought into schools for the kudos rather than any defined savings or advantages. Hubris.

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Re: Completely right on all accounts

They save no money on text books, if the article is to be believed, as it's more expensive than paper.

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got my figures wrong on option 2

the ebook is even more expensive, forgot to add the ebook licences

would be £273,000 over 10 years, or £27,300 p/a

£183,000 over 6 years, or £30,500 p/a

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Linux

Re: Completely right on all accounts

The cost of textbooks was never about the paper. It was always about minor revisions forced down your throat every semester. A lot of subjects could be taught out of 50 year old books and you might actually find that it's an improvement. As long as you have middlemen trying to take a thick percentage, it will always be a scam perpetrated upon public school boards and debt ridden college students.

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Anonymous Coward

@JEDIDIAH

It was a book printed 20+ yrs prior to a presentation I made in university which provided the information I used to answer the 'catch you out' question. After I answered the question the tutor had to ask if that was the honest answer or if I made it up. She learned something that day.

In IT above all other subjects I find that nothing has changed, just more compatible. We keep shuffling which is the client and which is the server. We still write code when the fancy flowcharty tools require an actual action. As much as some people think we can just buy a faster computer the good programming practices of long gone are still useful and needed to reduce CPU/memory usage and even time. The raspberry pi has brought the spec of one of my earliest computers back, but with a HDMI cable.

And carrying a good book will give you strong shoulders :)

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Re: Completely right on all COUNTS

That is all.

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Vic
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Re: Completely right on all accounts

> The opportunity for saving money on textbooks

... Is zero.

> having richer / multimedia content

Why do you think that increased spoonfeeding leads to better education?

> monitoring and assisting pupils more easily and personally

Tablets make no difference whatosever to that.

> Or perhaps it's better to have a teacher scratching chalk on a blackboard for the next 50 years?

Better than having tablets for every child? YEs, I'd say it is, actually.

Vic.

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Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

With any kind of drawing, you need a high degree of accuracy, which you're unlikely to get with fingertips. Even when you have a slab more suited to it, like the Galaxy Note 10.1, there's still limits to what you can reasonably do.

I'd be really interested in hearing from the artsy or graphic designs section of El Reg on this - does anyone use a fondleslab as their main artwork tool? (Please note I'm not referring to the Wacom and its ilk, which I know from first hand experience to be delightfully useful gadgets. =)

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

David Hockney dun it. No paint on kid's clothes makes iPads good for art.

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JDX
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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

You don't need accuracy for art. You need accuracy for some sorts of art. Loads of artists just fat brushes!

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

My kids much prefer to get their hands (and everything else in a 5 furlong radius) dirty with REAL paint, or real clay, rather than using a screen (they also like that, but the real deal is more fun).

I also totally agree that a device on which you cannot programme, and which is not sergeant-Detritus-proof, is not a good tool for IT in the classroom.

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

David Hockney famously uses iPads in his work.

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

Oh neat.

Just did a Google Image Search on David Hockney and if he drew all those on an iPad it completely blows my argument out of the water. They're pretty amazing - which program did he use?

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Happy

Re: Loads of artists just fat brushes!

Just try calling one that...

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"...and which is not sergeant-Detritus-proof"

Fondleslab: Jus' say 'AarrghaarrghpleeassennononoUGH'

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

Most people are not David Hockney.

Good photographers can take stunning photos with a Kodak Diskman, 110 or Instamatic. But the rest of us are better off with "proper" cameras and curiously unless it's Kodak funded Competition the good Photographers normally use a camera x100 the cost of an Instamatic.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: "... Fondleslab: Jus' say 'AarrghaarrghpleeassennononoUGH'"

Precisely

And of course, when a troll fondles a slab the fingers go through the screen

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Coat

Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

Most people are not David Hockney.

Quite...

I tried painting on an iPad - turned out to be load of Pollocks!

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Anonymous Coward

Have an up-vote sir for an art joke on a tech forum!

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Coat

Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art? Pollocks to you too

What do you mean, an Atlantic pollock or a European pollock

Huh? I... I don't know that.

Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuugggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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Anonymous Coward

"Have an up-vote sir for an art joke on a tech forum!"

That old joke was used in a Paul Hogan ITV advert for an Australian lager. Surprisingly not on YouTube.

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

"I tried painting on an iPad - turned out to be load of Pollocks!"

Well it would do.. It takes practice. You must use it Dali.

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Happy

Re: I tried painting on an iPad - turned out to be load of Pollocks!

You should have sold the iPad at auction.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Pollock:

In November 2006, Pollock's No. 5, 1948 became the world's most expensive painting, when it was sold privately to an undisclosed buyer for the sum of $140,000,000.

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

"You need accuracy for some sorts of art"

For other sorts of art you need a big piece of paper, some pots of brightly coloured poster paint and your fingers. That is the sort of art that tablets are well suited to replace but they usually stop teaching that when you turn 6.

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rjp

Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

What about hearing from someone who draws New Yorker covers on an iPhone (and latterly an iPad)?

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/01/cover-story-finger-paintings.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

"That is the sort of art that tablets are well suited to replace but they usually stop teaching that when you turn 6."

It has been said that the modern art establishment favours that style - as it requires neither competence or talent in either students or teaching staff. All that is necessary is to follow a "trend" that galleries and auction houses can promote as a fashionable inflated investment.

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Vic
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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

> My kids much prefer to get their hands ... dirty with REAL paint, or real clay

David Hockney said something similar on Radio 4 one evening. He got into something of a rant about computers in general.

I was quite surprised to see the comments elsewhere in this thread that he now uses an iPad...

Vic.

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Re: Why do people put forward the idea that iPads are good for art?

@Mage: spot on. Also, David Hockney did not learn using an iPad, he learned all sorts of "traditional" methods, and using his skill and experience he effectively exploits the capabilities of that particular tool. Someone whose learning is limited to the iPad is going to be unprepared for (e.g.) charcoal, oil paints, fine pencil work, and sculpture...

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I have an iPad which I love...

... however I'm very concerned by the large number of posts that seem to pop up on iPad forums which effectively say "Hi, I'm a teacher and our school has purchased a lot of iPads. Has anyone got any suggestions for good educational software we can run on them?".

And when I say 'concerned' I mean angry.

Just a couple of things to add to Dominic's article.

Apparently there is a version of Scratch under development for the iPad, I'd also recommend looking up Codea, which is a very nice fully featured dev environment based on Lua which lets you write apps that run on your iPad.

Finally for old skool guys like me, there's a really very nice Basic interpreter called "Basic!" that sells for a couple of quid and is really nice to play with.

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Re: I have an iPad which I love...

Yes, but with whom should you be angry? The decision to buy those iPads probably wasn't made by people who knew they wouldn't know what to do with them.

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