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 …

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  1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    "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.

    1. Piro

      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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!)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Soruk
        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.

    4. Erwin Hofmann
      Facepalm

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

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

    5. Triggerfish

      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.

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Meh

    *IT as in

    I have a copy of the IT curriculum.

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: *IT as in

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

      1. Anonymous Coward 15

        Re: *IT as in

        It's 12:00 somewhere.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: *IT as in

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. BorkedAgain

        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...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. BorkedAgain
            Thumb Up

            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.

  3. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          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.

          1. JEDIDIAH
            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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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 :)

      2. jubtastic1

        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.

      3. Vic

        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.

    2. Prof Denzil Dexter
      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.

      1. Prof Denzil Dexter

        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

    3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. DF118

        Re: Completely right on all COUNTS

        That is all.

  4. Thomas 4

    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. =)

    1. sleepy

      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.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      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!

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        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.

        1. Chris King Silver badge

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

          Fondleslab: Jus' say 'AarrghaarrghpleeassennononoUGH'

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
            Coffee/keyboard

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

            Precisely

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

        2. Vic

          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.

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Loads of artists just fat brushes!

        Just try calling one that...

      3. Minophis

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

    3. xnetman

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

      David Hockney famously uses iPads in his work.

      1. Thomas 4
        Thumb Up

        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?

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        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.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge
          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!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

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

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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.

          2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
            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.

          3. John Bailey

            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.

          4. harmjschoonhoven
            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.

        2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          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...

    4. 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

  5. Chris 3

    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.

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      Pythonista is pretty neat too...

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge
        Go

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

        scratch is great. We use ALICE too. Anim8tor is ok for modelling.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      Problem is everyone assumes all kids want to 'program' when in reality the vast majority do not and will never need to.

  6. James Micallef Silver badge

    e-book readers?

    For school environment I think e-book readers would be a much better fit. Firstly students can carry one device instaed of dozens of books. It's possible to make notes on books so surely they can be modified to allow basic text input and files and maybe email. No fancy apps that can distract students. A lot cheaper than tablets, and I think e-ink screens are more robust than LCD panels.

    1. keithpeter

      Re: e-book readers?

      Ask about AlphaSmart keyboards in any schools you go into. Similar relationship to a laptop as an ereader has to a tablet.

    2. Byz
      Unhappy

      Re: e-book readers?

      Tried to do this with a kindle for my children as they were hang to lug textbooks to and from school, however you couldn't buy the textbooks as ebooks :(

    3. clean_state
      FAIL

      Re: e-book readers?

      Well, apart from the fact that all ebook reading apps on the market today are woefully inadequate for text books. They are designed for linear books like novels that you read from page 1 to 500. For books you browse, consult, study with, lookup as reference and so on, the required functionality does not exist. Annotate is the best you can do but good luck for doing something, anything with your annotations.

      There was a good article on El Reg about Kindles in universities:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/26/kindle_flunks_out_of_college/

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: e-book readers?

        "ebook reading apps on the market today are woefully inadequate for text books"

        Probably true but I don't think it would take too much to get eiter the readers or the ebooks up to scratch. Most of that functionality is indexing, text-based search, handwriting recognition, note-adding etc, not a big deal technically.

    4. Darryl

      Re: e-book readers?

      e-book readers are not as sexy and headline-grabbing as iPads

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: e-book readers?

        people also forget about weight. Giving an ipad out is tantamount to fiscal suicide without a decent cover. We used otter covers which were great but added a fair amount of weight. Little'uns did have difficulty in holding them for any period of time.

  7. keithpeter

    Alan Kay said No it isn't a Dynabook

    http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/04/apple-scratch-app/

    Such a shame as tablets generally and iThings in particular are popular with students.

    I'm still hoping for a wacom stylus based tablet with handwriting recognition including maths -> LaTeX and automatic shape recognition before I retire. Oh, plus an embedded version of SAGE Maths (the German Linux based Maths engine, not accounting software), but iPython would do.

    http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2010/12/03/fantastick-intro/

    An iPad makes a nice music software controller....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Indeed

      And it's the lack of a complete educational ecosystem that makes it anything but a Dynabook. And no, merely having text books available to buy from the iBooks store doesn't really cut it. Of course, this isn't just an Apple iPad problem; Android is similarly weak in this area. Perhaps as HTML 5 matures, the web will play a greater role (in which case, all tablets and notebooks would become more Dynabook-like).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: handwriting recognition including maths

      Samsung Note 10.1 does that. Dunno if you can export it to latex, but it's still pretty close to what you want.

      1. keithpeter
        Pint

        Re: handwriting recognition including maths

        Yes, I've seen those mentioned before. I'll see how they go and how the Surface Pro software pool develops. I imagine a fairly stylised 'palm pilot' style of writing maths would make the conversion easier.

  8. Efros
    Pint

    Our School

    Seems to be about to plunge down the iPad slope, the bids offered from various suppliers were less than awe inspiring. The PC offerings were decidedly ordinary, HP netbook, fine for middle schoolers but a little diminutive when handled by a 200lb linebacker. The iPads will be replacing the awful MacBooks which although awful weree actually almost fit for purpose which the iPads are not. As someone said further up the discussion they would be better getting a decent ebook reader.

  9. Rupert Stubbs

    Why no mention of Fraser Speirs?

    Check him out - as the only educator in the UK (that I'm aware of) actually working with tablets on a fundamental basis, he is worth listening to because he can talk from real world experience...

    Gosh, it can't be because he actually uses iPads, can it? Surely El Reg wouldn't be so bigoted...?

    1. keithpeter
      Pint

      Re: Why no mention of Fraser Speirs?

      Thanks for that name Fraser Speirs. His blog has this post on it

      http://speirs.org/blog/2013/3/4/beyond-consumption-vs-creation.html

      In the post there is a chart showing a qualitative relationship between task complexity and duration for each kind of device [phone, tablet, PC]. Quite thought provoking that one.

      Point 1: I'm not sure however that these regions on the complexity/duration plane he is defining are actually distinct. As an old man, I use mainly a laptop which suspends to RAM when the lid is closed. I can use that for quick hops onto wolframalpha or a google OR a sustained piece of writing. No context jump as I decide what device to use... and no limit if a simple thing turns complex

      Point 2: the 'hard' limit on task complexity that Mr Speirs assumes with tablets is interesting. Perhaps that could be to do with the necessarily simplified UI that a tablet device has (ducks for cover on that one...)

      I'm now going to have to cite The Register in my professional development log for this year...

  10. Aldous
    Headmaster

    erm laptops?

    For a few quid more you can equip them with laptops which can be used for virtually anything (art, comp sci etc) and for even more cash you can get toughbooks etc that can be run over by a tank and as an added bonus don't look cool so less nickable. If you really want to save money and stop them installing (without using wine etc) games stick on linux of some description.

    Wait, not shiny, not sci-fi future cool. Never mind nothing to see here.....

    1. Citizen Kaned

      Re: erm laptops?

      you can get an i3 laptop for around £300. so im guessing with mass rates that would be the same as ipads for all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: erm laptops?

      Laptops as bloody silly as tablets more software but even more fragile(yes but have you seen the price of tough books), how about those students where, the dog ate my charger so I couldn't do my homework,the psycos(real educational term) that will eat/have sex with/push things into the ports/ chew them/sell them(got stolen on the bus,train Sir)/swap them/. Teachers that can hardly manage a projector, smartboard, mouse and remote control, teachers that grump and groan about setting home work on showmyhomework.com (slow crap don't do it) let alone creating suitable materials,collecting and marking online homework.

      Oh look it the end of the year and the budget has run out, that broken tablet, PSU, docking station, charger, any other bloody thing, is going to have to wait for the next academic / financial year.

      Then there is the training issues, Oh look a course to send our technicians on, "oh that's expensive - I know we will send a senior teacher and the network manager on it - that will do"

      How about "Can't you just share one?, as Jimmy is new and it takes weeks to get one, as Emma has forgotten hers, no you bloody well can't they are single user devices.

      I have yet to hear of a school (in the UK) successfully(not putting £500000 in every year) using Ipads (for more than the first three weeks), there is bugger all educational software for them. The only people who like them are the suppliers of wireless lans and iPads.

      Oh! the curriculum has had another Govian turn we need new software(not yet available and too expensive)

      Grumpy - perhaps but I've run out of energy rather than things to list that will go wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: erm laptops?

        How about this in the US: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/9522379.stm

        Or in the UK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20930195

        Or this is also interesting: http://schoolofone.org

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: erm laptops?

      ... and you really reckon we will be using keyboards as much in the future - as Scotty said 'Keyboard... how quaint'. Think the keyboard will transition to touch and voice control - surely there is no harm in kids learning both keyboard / mouse and touch / voice?

  11. Radio
    Thumb Up

    SNAP! will do scratch on an ipad

    http://snap.berkeley.edu/

    SNAP! A version of Scratch that does actually work on an iPad. I've not used it enough to see if the dumbing down is a few steps too far, the first thing is that there's not much in terms of sprite support, but the flowcharts seem to work.

  12. JDX Gold badge

    "I find it hard to believe that the life expectancy is as long as two years..."

    "I find it hard to believe that the life expectancy is as long as two years, since that’s about how long the average corporate laptop lasts when given to grownups."

    a)just because a corp replaces things every 2 years, doesn't mean they only last 2 years.

    b)You've not been in a school have you... they often have old PIIs chuntering away, struggling under all the 'security' software (that stops you changing the desktop wallpaper but happily lets you view hard porn), on which kids are supposed to learn about computers. Then the teachers might have 4-5 year old laptops.

    The wife's school has some iPad 1 units that haven't broken yet.

    For very young kids I think tablets are a great resource, you do not see 2-3 year olds able to use keyboard+mouse but they are very easily able to learn how to use an iPad (scarily so, almost - weird to see a kid who can't talk but knows how to find Cars in Video app).

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "I find it hard to believe that the life expectancy is as long as two years..."

      Two years may be the average but the record time I know is 20 minutes from a manager being given a brand new, top end and very pricey laptop to it being a pile of useless junk. It had a docking station. The docking station had latches to hold the laptop firmly. Rather than undoing the latches to release the laptop, the manager (of the system programming group no less) decided levering it free with a big screwdriver must be the obvious and right thing to do.

  13. Gary F

    5 ipads or 10 Android tablets?

    A teacher friend said her school bought 5 ipads to teach pupils. It's not a well funded school so that was a lot of money for them. I was really annoyed they thought they *had* to buy an Apple branded tablet rather than one of many cheaper brands of Android tablets. They could have bought 10 Android tablets for the same money - that's twice as many children using them at once. Double the value for money. It's inevitable that kids will break some of them so it's better to have a cheaper device broken - cheaper to replace.

    There is no disadvantage in buying Android. It's unbalanced and uninformed coverage in the mass media that always refers to ipads when talking about tablets that causes this, plus a bit of Apple snobbery out there too.

    It's like schools who spend £20K on Macs to teach design when they could have bought twice as many PCs for the same money or just saved half the money. You get the same leading software on both platforms so it makes no difference to teaching or the children.

    What's worse is the kids mindset is forced to think they *have* to buy a Mac at home if they want to design at home or do it professionally. Finding the extra money for a Mac is unfair on some families who would have been so grateful to be told that buying a PC for half the price would have been just as good. Apple is a badge and that's what you pay for. They make good machine, I'm not knocking the quality or innovation, but when schools and families are struggling to keep afloat they shouldn't be made to think Apple is the only solution for tablets or computer design.

    1. Steve Todd
      Stop

      Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware

      If they couldn't get the software that they wanted for Android then it doesn't matter how cheap they are, they've waisted their money. Apple have gone out of their way to ensure that plank is in place, complete with a textbook authoring package.

      As for buying Macs for design work, they should be buying whatever is being used out in the real world so that the students know what they are doing when it comes to getting a job. If design houses out in the real world are using Macs (and where I work the design department is a little island of Macs among a sea of PCs) then that's what they buy.

      1. Incandenza

        Re: Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware

        "they've waisted their money"

        or even "wasted" their money.

        No matter how much that iPad of yours costs, it still can't auto-correct worth a damn.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware

          Waisted, wasted? There's an awful lot of peeple I know who turn of autocorrect as a matter of coarse.

          Not lyke me.

      2. cyborg
        FAIL

        Re: Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware

        "As for buying Macs for design work, they should be buying whatever is being used out in the real world so that the students know what they are doing when it comes to getting a job."

        Despite what many may think - especially businesses - school is supposed to be an education, not an apprenticeship.

        1. Steve Todd
          FAIL

          Re: Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware - @cyborg

          The job of the school system is to teach BOTH theoretical and practical subjects. It's unlikely that history or religious education, for example, will have much practical application in the real world, but subjects like engineering drawing and IT are pretty relevant. The last thing we want is for one side of the equation to be taught in exclusion to the other, and yes, one of the aims is to prepare students for work in the real world.

          1. cyborg
            Boffin

            Re: Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware - @cyborg

            "The job of the school system is to teach BOTH theoretical and practical subjects."

            As what point does using something practical that may not be the thing used by industry sector X make it not practical? This idea is ass-backwards.

            "subjects like engineering drawing and IT are pretty relevant."

            I don't think I have ever been taught engineering drawing and I didn't learn anything IT relevant from school - if anything I was the one leading the school. Probably not uncommon for anyone of my generation with an interest in computers.

            Apparently those with less aptitude of my age can struggle along anyway so I guess it doesn't matter that none of my peers were using the computers of two decades+ in the future because they didn't exist yet either.

            "The last thing we want is for one side of the equation to be taught in exclusion to the other, and yes, one of the aims is to prepare students for work in the real world."

            And who knows what "the real world" will be like by the time they reach it? Sure as hell the world of IT has changed a lot since I was in primary school. Otherwise I demand compensation for the fact that Folio on the BBC Micro did not prepare me for MS Word!

            I do not like this mindset. I would prefer we teach children to think and have adults capable of adapting to the world they find themselves in.

            Set expectations low and expect them to be met.

            1. Steve Todd
              FAIL

              Re: Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware - @cyborg

              Your point was? Just because you weren't offered engineering drawing as an option at school doesn't mean that it doesn't and shouldn't exist. The failings of your personal IT training also have nothing to do with it. I don't agree with the modern approach to IT (which seems to think that it's fine to teach kids how to use PowerPoint, which is something I've never had occasion to more than view during my whole working life) while not explaining any of the theory and how the hardware works, but I don't suggest that this part of the course or something similar should be dropped entirely.

              Here's the point you seem to be missing, badly: schools should teach BOTH the theory and the practical. If they are teaching the practical then they should be doing so in a way that will be useful if the child ends up working with it in industry. If they get both then they can work out WHY things don't work rather than doing them by rote.

              1. cyborg
                FAIL

                Re: Users buy SOFTWARE, or the ability to run it, not hardware - @cyborg

                "Your point was? Just because you weren't offered engineering drawing as an option at school doesn't mean that it doesn't and shouldn't exist"

                No. Perhaps try reading what I said.

                "The failings of your personal IT training also have nothing to do with it."

                <sarcasm>Yes. I do so weep that I have not had the benefit of primary school or secondary school IT training. Because it's really crippled my IT career. </sarcasm>

                <-- That would be the point by the way.

                "but I don't suggest that this part of the course or something similar should be dropped entirely."

                So explain to me how my peers managed to sort this out when PowerPoint didn't even exist when we were in schools?

                Could it perhaps be because it's just not even slightly challenging to use for what it is mostly used for? That maybe if there is something more advanced maybe they could get their employer's to train them for it rather than for businesses to expect them to be trained by schools?

                "Here's the point you seem to be missing, badly: schools should teach BOTH the theory and the practical."

                Here's the point you seem to be missing, badly: your definition of practical is FUBAR.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 5 ipads or 10 Android tablets?

      Apple have iBooks and far more educational type apps - great support and it's less of a changing target - they typically are supported for longer and are more secure. I'd happy having 5 iPads over 10 cheap Android tablets as in the long run they would be of more use and probably less cost.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure ...

    The primary school, of which I'm one of the community governors, has just purchased a stack of jPad IIs. The Head has £30k that had to be spent...

    It looks like 1 slab between 2 pupils and they will be locked away at night and have those rubber bungy edge protectors.

    My concern is that teachers/heads are taken to expo's where only one kine of hardware (Apple) is demonstrated. I did not know about the loss-leader discounting that my have been offered.

    surely someone else offers a manged solution for 10" android tablets and they /must/ be easier to lock down than the iPad. Also, I'm concerned that the LEA/council has not separated the wifi into corp-admin/Curriculum-pupil.

    It may be my ignorance, but how does iTunes 'lock-in' come into this, as that eco-system seems to be a license to fleece the schools?

    There's a guardian article floating around about how wonderful iPads are in schools, but if they'd used 'slab' as a synonym, then most of the same would apply?

    I don't want the kids asking for an 'iPad' when they should be asking for a 'tablet computer' and investigating what's best for their requirements.

    I'm not concerned about 'programming' at the moment, but we are concerned that 'ICT' is not properly embedded across the curriculum, as opposed to being a separate subject.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not sure ...

      "There's a guardian article floating around about how wonderful iPads are in schools, but if they'd used 'slab' as a synonym"

      ...then "Charles" Apple Arthur would be fired from his Apple Evangelist job.

      The Guardian's technology section is comically biased.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Re: I'm not sure ...

        Unlinke a website not a million miles away?

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: I'm not sure ...

        The bigger problem is actually that "everything is an iPad" - whether it runs Android, Windows or whatever else. They get called iPads, newspapers run articles about using such "iPads" in the classroom, etc.etc.etc. It's like "hoover", it's become synonymous with the product rather than the brand.

        My school have gone through the netbook fad, through the IWB fad, and they are currently in the "iPad" fad. We bought 30 tablets (Android, because we weren't going to waste the money on Apple until we knew that they'd be used) - the teacher in charge literally told me that they have no idea what they'll do with them. Right up until weeks after delivery, they still didn't know what they could do or were going to use them for. In fact, they still don't.

        We gave a handful to the nursery who use a program that takes photos for recording skills. It's basically a photo app where you can tag the child. So we paid £100 per device, plus a site licence of the software, so they can take a photo and mark a child's name on it.

        The rest are earmarked for classroom use but given that in the testing of no less than 6 different models of tablet (none of which we ended up using for the classrooms) we couldn't find more than one or two useful apps for classroom use, I can see them being where the netbooks are now - stuck in a trolley somewhere and wheeled out once-a-year to please the PTA that funded them. Honestly, even when it comes to apps and websites to use, the school have no idea what they can do and have been wowed by flashy presentations and - to be honest - there's not that much that's actually useful as soon as you stop being impressed by someone sharing their screen or similar. I imagine 90% of their use will be to replace the handheld slates, sorry chalkboards, sorry whiteboards, that schools give to pupils about one lesson in 20 so they can write their answer on it to show the teacher.

        People are shocked that, as an IT Manager in schools (everything from sixth form college down to private prep schools), one of the first things I'd do if I were put in charge would be to rip out all the electronics from the classrooms (it now can cost upwards of £10k to kit out an average classroom just for IT) and have a single ICT suite capable of holding 30 kids. There's no need for all that junk and it's not being used and where it IS being used, it provides no measurable advantage over just having that same teacher and NO equipment at all. And the technology is distracting from the things they should be learning.

        Sure, Scratch and other apps are good but the good apps are so dumbed down in their real-world use (i.e. teachers that can't do it themselves and have to follow cheat-sheets) that by the time you price it up, kit it out, teach people how to use it, support it, replace it, etc. then you could have hired another couple of teachers or one who REALLY knows IT in the first place. And they'd be able to teach with a handful of old computers and pen-and-paper.

        1. Bakunin
          Thumb Up

          Re: I'm not sure ...

          The Reg needs a floating comments system so your post can be raised to the top of the stack. It seems a shame that it's buried away here on the second page.

          You've pretty much hit the nail on the head. There seems to be an incredible rush to get new technology into the classroom long before anyone's worked out if it's actually going to be of any use.

          1. cyborg
            Holmes

            Re: I'm not sure ...

            Anyone who has seen Yes Minister might agree with the idea that the reason for this is that government measures activity, not productivity.

            Getting iPads to schools is easy and generates activity. Making them useful... hmmm....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm not sure ...

          Yet we donated an iPad 2 to our kids nursery / pre-school and they think it's fantastic - they can spend a bit of time with each child teaching them letters / numbers and writing skills. They say the kids have responded really well with it - they can use it all day and charge it overnight - doddle to setup and the apps are very useful yet very cheap.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm not sure ...

          You are living in the dark ages. The technology is an enabler or do you really think scrawling in textbooks is the answer for the next 50 days. It may have been how you learned but time moves on...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not sure ...

      "There's a guardian article floating around about how wonderful iPads are in schools, but if they'd used 'slab' as a synonym, then most of the same would apply?"

      Not really true - Apple have done a lot to help ensure they work well in education with things like iBooks Author, iTunes U. At the end of it they tend to last a long time (and still supported) - you can get plenty of accessories for them and there is massive support from app developers.

      Sure some may get broken but I'd imagine the actual lifespan of a typical Apple iPad to be significantly greater than a similar Android tablet. 3GS and iPad 1s are 3-4 years old and still supported - yet so many Android devices are running old / insecure versions of Android and will not get updated.

      Apple also build in tools to aid with security / restrictions and provisioning so the TCO may well be far lower.

  15. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Citizen Kaned

      Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

      how useful is that in the real world though?

      as much as i admire your train of thought teaching kids stuff they will not use outside of school seems to be counter intuitive.

      when they leave school they will work in offices using windows and office or mac and photoshop etc. unless they are server admins they will never see linux again, most probably.

      of course i guess we could change this but then you have millions of linux distros so if they learn on one its not like the next linux machine they will use will be intuitive.

      linux also needs to get rid of the stupid names half of its programs are called, as does android. im trying to teach my dad who has onset dementia and parkinsons how to use his tablet and when he asks how to use the web its bloody stupid i cannot rename chrome to 'internet'. little things like this really dont help.

      at least on my win8 hp tablet (acer iconia tab w700) i can rename all the tiles and have metro for touch and full blown windows for the backend stuff. not that win8 is perfect, i have had loads of issues but not sure if its the OS or the hardware at the moment.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

        Funny, on my htc, I've got a widget on my home screen calldd 'browser'

        But calling it Chrome is no worse than having a car called "Galaxy" or "Proton" or "Yeti"

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

      In theory I'd like to agree with you Eadon, but in the real world we have to teach the kids what they're going to need to know in the real world. As much as I'd love to switch all of our educational computers to Linux we would be doing our kids a huge disservice by doing so. Employers expect them to know Windows and that's not changing any time soon. Can you imagine the difficulty someone who's never run Windows would have in getting an office job? Or worse, can you imagine the headache of trying to figure Windows out on the job when all you've ever used is Linux. The few businesses that use Linux don't expect their employees to come in knowing how to use it already and thus are willing to train them. The same can't be said for the Windows using businesses that make up the vast majority of the business world.

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Facepalm

        Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

        But it IS useless to teach Windows too! Let me explain.

        We teach Windows (let's say) today. 2013. This kid will get a job in... 10 years? 7? 7 years ago, 2006, we were using Windows XP. Microsoft Office did no have the ribbon, Windows had a start menu, and so on.

        I believe it would be much easier to teach Windows 8 to a total newbie than to a skilled Windows XP user. It is SO different that You got lost. And I used Windows, from 3.1 onwards. Even Millenium (ugh).

        People will be exposed to Windows. I doubt they run anything else at home. We should teach "COMPUTER", not "OS".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

        I have to agree here - you need to teach principles, not specific software.

        You say "Employers expect them to know Windows" but what version? Can you expect a non-tech person (i.e. not El Reg reader) to swap between WinXP and Win8 any more easily than between those and Linux? Of course not, it is the same as between Office 2003 and 2007, where going to LibreOffice is easier (no ribbon).

        In all of the above, it matters not what today is, but that they know the underlying ideas and how they work. More importantly, they should be brought up to *expect* an open system and permissive license terms, so in future they will realise when they are being locked in to a closed system.

        Even though who favour Windows know how horrible the un-dead IE6 problem is in industry, a good example of what happens when systems and procedures are designed around a system so troublesome that even MS can't properly implement reverse-compatibility.

        Learn multiple systems (e.g. Windows at home, Linux in school) and hopefully the future of our population won't see that sort of thing.

      3. keithpeter
        Boffin

        Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

        "Can you imagine the difficulty someone who's never run Windows would have in getting an office job?"

        You'd be surprised how fast people can learn when they have to.

        I teach adults, and we have people who have gone from finding the power switch and drawing in Paint to mail-merge/non-trivial spreadsheets in about 18 months. And got a job. And in one case being asked to train the others!

        Just watch what most office staff do with their expensively maintained PCs...

        ...as others have said general problem solving ability and common sense go a long way

    3. Graphsboy

      Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

      You can't give Linux systems to small kids. They're too young to grow beards.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

      Low maintenance is a presumption. Many successful deployments of Linux in education I've seen have a far more than average staffer who know his subject. Not wrong either but I'd be wary of stating it as fact. Owing to the lack of penetration outsourced maintenance ready made for education is also likely to be limited and that can push up the price although for various reason may offer much better value.

      Again much is not ready in the wider ecosystem in the UK up to and including formats used by exams boards and ofsted approvals and the like.

      Even the toddlers paint package used at my daughters school is insanely expensive as its 'approved' for education yet tuxpaint is perfectly adequate for equivalent functionality.

      A big reason and plus for those worried about equality and inclusion to focus on open source however is that the licencing benefits are if anything much wider than stated. No forced upgrades and the ability to let students have access to identical full fat applications at home for nothing especially with the increasing availability of cheap IT platforms and access in libraries etc - although in fairness online systems are good for that too.

      Free copying is often so counter culture now following all the cases over copying in schools over texts and music that it can take quite some repetition for that to sink in in some places. Note to DfE - open source CONTENT projects please. My company once tried to give free content to DfE only to be told it was too hard to assess .... peer review apparently not the in thing.

      As someone said earlier in the thread - i want my child to have an education not an apprenticeship - I do not but the argument about real life use - most children need at least to be introduced to simplified packages first and by the time they reach the labour market UIs and form factors and usage patterns will have changed dramatically.

      Now if anyone can point me at a cheap way to make something like this with an arduino http://www.primaryict.co.uk/tts-rechargeable-bee-bot_el00363_4220.htm I'd be most grateful!

      As it happens I now have to go into my daughters school to do a session with students as I made some glowing eyes for my daughters cardboard puppet with some LEDs and a battery .... the teachers thought that was impressive. Wait until they see 20+ bristle bots running around the class room floor.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  16. Rupert Stubbs

    Anything is better than a suite of old PCs...

    My kid's primary school has a suite of very old PCs that are basically only used for Scratch, web searching, and learning how to use (God help us) PowerPoint and Word.

    According to my daughter, it takes about 15 minutes just for all the class to get logged in, and even then about a quarter of the machines just won't be working, so kids have to double up. These things are slow, and yet still require some serious IT support which costs the school much-needed cash.

    Given that most kids over 10 these days seem to have either iPod Touchs or smartphones - and definitely will have more computing power accessible at home than the entire school suite - having IT as its own separate world is bonkers. Like it or not, the future is one of augmented memory and networking - and technology like tablets work far better than clunky PCs.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. keithpeter
        Linux

        Re: Anything is better than a suite of old PCs...

        "Great, next time I want to edit a complex spreadsheet or create a design in inkscape I'll ditch my mouse and 20-x inch monitor use my fingers on a shiny 10 inch screen."

        Mr Stubbs is talking about primary school.

        A better advocacy tack would be one decent workstation class machine running Edbuntu and the knackered old PCs set up as thin clients. Tuxmaths and Tuxpaint with sound on to wind up the teacher... and sort their tables and cancelling down...

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anything is better than a suite of old PCs...

      Don't worry you can get exactly the same problems with a suite of new computers, particulary when the teachers don't or won't take any notice of Billy Bob messing with the keyboard, mouse, screen , network connection just so long as the Powerpoint can go up on the projector.

      Most kids have what?, well bully for you living in such an area and sod the poor souls that don't have the money to have one, augmented memory is crap when flushed.

    3. Vic

      Re: Anything is better than a suite of old PCs...

      > and even then about a quarter of the machines just won't be working

      Acquiring PCs is trivial. I was at a customer yesterday who was throwing out about 30 P4-grade machines because they are moving all the engineers (for an office refit), and this is the stuff no-one could justify hanging on to any more. I dragged a Core Duo machine out of the pile, and that will be my Fedora machine next week.

      The tricky bit, IME, is to get schools to go looking for such kit; when I worked in a school, no new PCs could be acquired unless they came from RM. So PCs were expensive, and rarely bought. And almost always a shit spec anyway.

      Vic.

      1. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

        Re: Anything is better than a suite of old PCs...

        This is not my final article on UK IT education, the things I am told about RM are so bad that legal issues mean I have to check them first. Not one thing I have heard or seen aobut RM is good.

  17. Rainbird

    Sheep

    IT teacher here. Bsc in Computing. 30 years experience as both hardware and software engineer. I was asked to formulate a school policy for IT development. My solution involved thin client equipped classrooms in each department with music, art/design and IT with custom spec PC's and Mac (that left a bad taste but there you go). A rolling programme of development that took into account upgrading and repair costs. My managers bought 30 tablets as a trial because I hadn't been forward thinking enough. They managed to avoid iPads because I lied and said they wouldn't "integrate with our network". The kids use them to play games and music mostly. The cost of the trial would have equipped a full classroom!. I was told we have to have tablets because the whole world is going that way and we have to follow or be seen as inadequate. All the research I showed them was ignored. I just seems that the managers in education are as stupid and ill informed as all the managers I worked for in industry. SHEEP.

    1. Steve Todd
      FAIL

      Re: Sheep

      So you threw a spanner in the trial due to your personal preferences rather than what would have worked. If you'd gone the iPad route then there would have been more available software and you could have locked them down to prevent the kids loading unwanted games etc.

      1. Rainbird

        Re: Sheep

        would have loved to stop the trial dead and spent the money wisely. I'm happy to see if everyone else fails (or succeeds) before committing thousands of pounds that may be better spent patching holes in the roof. The point is that ALL tablet devices are a luxury that public education can not afford until it has been shown to give definite benefits. We went for two thirds windows devices as the IT manger was more comfortable with those. The Android tablets have had lots more use however as we can write our own apps for them. I have a few colleagues in other schools who have been given iPads as an incentive and the vast majority struggle to know what to do with them. Personally I can get two Android devices for every iPad and that alone directs my spending advice.

        1. Steve Todd
          Stop

          Re: Sheep

          And yet you ignore the link on this thread to an article by an enthusiastic IT teacher who explains how tablets have worked for him and his school in real life over a three year period. The problem here seems to be that your management are right, you aren't forward looking.

          1. Rainbird

            Re: Sheep

            Wow, you must be in education to be that patronising. Yes, there is evidence that tablets can be of value (I wont argue the value of a specific brand, we just get into fan boi territory). There is also evidence that they have little value. To invest hundreds of thousands of pounds on a maybe is foolish. To bring our wi-fi infrastructure up to scratch is going to cost £100,000. If you do work in education you will realise that budgets of that size no longer exist and money we do have needs to be spent on basic things like toilets, furniture, flooring, stationery etc. I need maximum student benefit from minimum cost. Tablets don't meet that need. If you are not in the education industry I'm afraid you have no idea how skint we are.

      2. henrydddd

        Re: Sheep

        Yeah da kids would learn how to use Apple's app store alright, and little else.

    2. keithpeter
      Megaphone

      Re: Sheep

      @Rainbird

      Get a blog set up. Report on successful learning taking place on the thin client/generic software in use each week or so. Offer to speak at other schools. Do the whole marketing thing. It works wonders.

    3. Scroticus Canis
      Gimp

      Re: Sheep

      Well from the lone down vote I see at least one baa-baa has learnt to read!!!!

      What a limited device the iPad is; tried my sister's and talk about frustration trying to type on it or using a browser so stripped down it is nearly non-functional. My sister likes it but then I did have to show her where the power button was on the front of her 42" plasma she has had for five years!! Yes, I used the button to switch the TV off and she couldn't switch it back on - been using the wall switch since it was installed! Given up trying to show her how to use tabs in her browser on her laptop.

    4. Andrew Williams
      Thumb Down

      Re: Sheep

      I take it you have not noticed that tablets make quite serviceable thin clients.

  18. Mick Sheppard

    Any real reporting here?

    Is there any real reporting here or is it all just wild speculation and invective? Oh, I'm on The Register and its an Apple piece so the huge chip on the shoulder comes into play and all attempt at balanced reporting goes out of the window.

    There is a valid point though. We shouldn't be using consumption devices, basically any tablet, to teach IT to kids. Instead we should be using something that provides a similar experience to the Apple II, BBC Micro, et al and lets the kids learn how to program. Though I guess a nicely written website could provide that experience these days and access from a tablet would work.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: Any real reporting here?

      Tablets are okay as replacements for textbooks. Although I would question the value of technology and why they seem to think £500 a pop on tablets is more useful than paper books which cost a lot less.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any real reporting here?

      Clearly an iPad can do a lot more than just teach IT - it can be used with every subject. Pretty sure having 3D animated models you can manipulate and getting live feedback on tests / other work is more useful that handing in a text book - hoping the teacher is not tired / drunk (ha ha) when marking it and you get feedback days later when much is forgotten...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "and lets the kids learn how to program"

      Another one with aurotouret tuned off.

      But ...class of thirty kids.

      2 go into nursing

      2 go into teaching

      2 go into law

      2 go on the game

      2 become delivery drivers

      2 become bricklayers

      2 work in Tesco

      1 becomes a drug dealer

      and 15 go on the dole.

      But they can all program. (allegedly).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "and lets the kids learn how to program"

        Are you implying that the ladies of negotiable affection, at least one of the bricklayers and delivery drivers, and the drug dealer aren't on the dole?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "and lets the kids learn how to program"

          No. The 2 on the game are high class (they can program), the delivery driver works for DHL and the drug dealer is part of a syndicate, but apart from that.....

      2. Gartal
        Childcatcher

        Re: "and lets the kids learn how to program"

        Possibly more to the point is the numbers themselves.

        We can't have and certainly don't want everyone being a programmer. We still need plumbers and nurses and (God!) accountants.

        I agree that kids should be exposed to programming just as they should be exposed to reading 'riting and 'rithmatic.

        Maybe one of the fifteen on the dole becomes a programmer.

    4. Annakan

      Re: Any real reporting here?

      Defines "real reporting" besides "what pleases you and don't offend your Apple gods ?"

      And this is an opinion piece and labelled as such AND for once, all the points are valid and logical.

      But in the face of obviousness, deny reality is the only way right ?

      Schools are not a place to learn to consume it is a place to learn to critics, build, be a citizen, build oneself, have the world opened not virtually but in "physical reality" (from sports to museums, from concentration on difficult topic to the joy of being supported (when you are) in you difficulties and surmount the obstacles thus gaining confidence in yourself ..)

      Schools are not worker drone factories, thank you.

  19. Byz
    Unhappy

    Byz

    I train people for a living and have been into schools to demonstrate programming. In my experience children are much more interested in programming tablets and phones than normal computers.

    I started programming at school in 1977 on an Elliot 903 (paper tape) then Micros and have been in IT all my life, during that time I've done every role in IT.

    If schools did want to get the children to program various tablets they can easily do it as the tools are freely available and will introduce them to object oriented C type languages (Java and Objective-c), however in my experience teachers who run these departments often cannot themselves program and this is the blocker.

    I write apps and with the tools available you can build something basic that children understand in a couple of minutes (much easier than trying to learn Algol when I was a kid) and they can build very complicated application if they so wish (I have taught children to do this in a morning).

    I have even offered to help my old school for free to get up and running in teaching the children to program but they are just not interested (as the head of IT can't program).

    What we need to do is make it compulsory for schools to teach programming and prescribe the languages on the curriculum, not leave it up to the school otherwise they'll just use languages that have no application in the real world.

    What constantly surprises me is that schools feel that programming is too hard prior to gcse, however I learnt Algol for O'level but I had teachers who were very good programmers, whereas these days that quality of teacher is very rare and IT seems to have become humanity subject rather than a science subject as it was when I was young :(

    So don't blame the tools.

    1. Rainbird

      Re: Byz

      Well met. I learned to programme and repair the Elliot 903 in it's military guise as the Elliot 920B. I'm an IT and computing teacher. I assure you I can programme competently in a dozen languages from Algol to C#. However my students (even the best ones) struggle as number bases and boolean logic are no longer in the maths curriculum (I learned both in junior school). I have to start from a very low base and although we have success with this group the less able drop out fast (it's an extra curricular voluntary class). Teaching simple block programming to a mixed class is less successful, they follow tutorials fine but can rarely develop their own code, it's a higher skill that they just don't learn from primary onward. My point....we seem to be in a system that doesn't support this type of learning AND punishes us if we get a C-A pass rate below 65%. If it looks like it will fail most IT teachers wont risk trying it.

      1. Byz

        Re: Byz

        I saved the last working civilian 903 (everyone wanted their power supplies) and gave it to the Science Museum :)

        Before I had access to a computer I had a Sinclair Programable calculator and learnt to write programs for that.

        I think the problem is that children (including my own) want a instant reward whereas we aspired to building something and realised that "Rome wasn't built in a day", however I've found that if I just get children to use storyboarding in Xcode they get that instant hit as they can build simple apps without any coding.

        Then once you have got their attention you can start building code in Xcode by dragging from buttons to code and from Xcode 4.3 it starts adding the basic framework Objective-C code, you then just a line or two of code and suddenly they are coding :)

        Also a few years ago I did a BSc with the OU that taught Java using jumping frogs and the first thing you learnt was to send messages to the frog objects it was a great course (now sadly withdrawn).

        I've looked at scratch which I think is OK for primary school, but children need to be exposed to "C" syntax early on as it has become the Latin of modern computer languages, Python, perl etc.. are all fine languages but they just lack that cutting edge.

        Also my personal view is that rather than Javascript (which is a horror) children should learn Ruby as it gets across the concept of "closures" which are so important for functional programming.

        So in a perfect worldI'd probably go Ruby/Python -> Basic C syntax -> Java/Objective-C, that gives you Functional, Procedural and Object oriented programming - but it's never going to happen :(

        Why no C# well it only runs on PCs, whereas Java and objective-C run on PCs, Macs and Linux.

        Oh just as a side note HTML and CSS ARE NOT PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES as they have no loops or conditions (had to get that off my chest as I so often get told that people have programmed in HTML).

        :o

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All modern tablet computers are pretty useless as education tool.

    Most people are merely users of technology now. When home computers first appeared people would write simple programs and discover how the internals worked.

    These days the internals are so abstracted or hidden that you're not even supposed to know what's in there.

    That said, the reason why the iPad is chosen is the iTextbooks, they're a lot more interactive than an ebook or PDF.

    1. Byz
      Happy

      Programming iOS devices is not hard

      If you download Xcode and then create an new project OSX > Application > Command Line tool.

      You can then write your code in C, C++ or objective C just like the old days :)

      Or if do iOS > Application > single view application or empty application then you can write code to run on a device or make a simple app using storyboards.

      It's not hard just different :)

  21. sleepy

    I disagree

    Of course geeks feel pain and criticise when trivial little ipads take over territory once ruled by geeks. If you then try to use ipads as direct replacements for other teaching resources, then it's you that causes failure. You can't blame the ipad for not being pencil and paper, or a wintel PC, or a violin.

    iPad is primarily for general educational purposes, not for A level computer science. A raspberry pi seems a pretty good addition to an iPad for teaching computer science. And for general education, it's commonly found that attainment levels improve when iPads are introduced.

    Here's a typical subjective description of what iPad brings to education, if you let it:

    http://edudemic.com/2012/11/the-early-results-of-an-ipad-classroom-are-in/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I disagree

      I'm a geek with 4 kids. Luckily 2 had got though school before the idiots that run it got into this. I only had to spend £700 on kit for kids that can't use a bloody phone without breaking it

    2. Tim Almond
      FAIL

      Re: I disagree

      Oh, please. You think Geeks are threatened by iPads? Who do you think is writing all the apps? Who do you think is still maintaining all the network infrastructure that they use? Or the websites that you access? If anything, iPads have earnt me money as I had to replace Flash with jQuery controls.

      There's a lot of smart people in computing, and if they could get their programming done quicker, cheaper or more reliably on an iPad, they would. Same with authors, graphic designers and accountants. But, and I cannot emphasise this strongly enough, almost no-one is using an iPad as a device to produce things. If you want kids to learn how to play Angry Birds, post on Facebook or look at cat photos, fine, but I thought schools had loftier aims than that.

      As for that article that you linked to, there is nothing in there that couldn't also be done with a laptop.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPads and any other tablet don't have anything to do with computer skills programming in schools, they are replacements for traditional learning materials (text books, audio taped devices, note books, libraries)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with many of the people on here is their objection is not just the technology - it's 'APPLE' - if they were Android tablets that would probably be ok / more acceptable?

    Problem is we don't need to add security issues and loads of different makes and models to the mix.

    Realistically it will probably cost around £300-400 per child every 2 years and most of that offset by reduced photocopying / paper textbooks but that's missing the value of it in improved learning. In terms of 'damage' you can get things like a Griffin Survivor case for about £30 and it provides a decent level of protection.

    1. rich_a

      "The problem with many of the people on here is their objection is not just the technology - it's 'APPLE' - if they were Android tablets that would probably be ok / more acceptable?"

      I'm not sure it's entirely an anti-apple thing. I think the problem is that iPads are a media consumption device, whereas for the same price you could get a decent i3 laptop which offers more: software that apple would deem unacceptable, a real keyboard and access to multiple programming languages.

      It seems silly to give kids something so restrictive. They can't write essays on it (well, they could, but it'd take an age with the onscreen keyboard), the apps they create are limited unless they opt for one of the kludgebodge workarounds mentioned and the school has to junk all their current PC software and buy new shinier software.

      It would be more productive if the schools bought a few iPads (or Android tablets) and taught kids how they go about building software on their existing kit that will end up running on the tablet.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC 11:30

      No, it's not an anti-Apple thing, it's an anti-spaffing-money-on-needlessly-expensive-and-restrictive-toys-pretending-to-be-teaching-tools thing.

      An iPad, or an Android tablet, is designed to be a consumption device. The teaching you can do with it will be limited to that context. A laptop (even a cheap one priced similarly to an iPad) provides a much wider context, in that it allows greater flexibility for doing things to the device (whether that's using alternative OSs or writing code). Nothing about the iPad is required to teach students about information literacy, and while exposing students to different computing environments is undoubtedly a good idea so that they can understand the difference between a generalised solution to a problem and specific implementations of it, that does not translate to "give everyone an iPad and magically they'll learn better".

      The problem with the kind of anecdotal evidence bandied around in the "iPads make teaching better" camp is that they don't factor in any of the correlated factors almost certainly present in schools which can find the budget to splash the cash for an iPad per student and the attendant management. Pretty sure that schools with that money would be better than schools without it regardless of whether they contribute to Apple's bottom line.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC 11:30

        "An iPad, or an Android tablet, is designed to be a consumption device" Can 2010 have it's thinking back?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC 11:30

          Sure, when you explain to me exactly how much stuff can only be done on an iPad and not on, you know, any other computer? Extra points if you can avoid answers like "holding it with one hand" or "using a touch interface". I've seen bits and pieces about how we're now starting to see tools for video editing that would allow the iPad to be part of the operational process for large scale film productions, for example; I've also seen some impressive outputs from various art programs on the iPad (though less impressive than what can be created on devices which have stylus support).

          None of that says that an iPad (or in fact any tablet device) is necessarily better than an actual computer - especially if we're talking about factory-standard tablets rather than unlocked ones which would at least provide some freedom. Yes, they might be fun to use, but teaching kids How To Use An IPad is like Teaching Kids How To Use MS Word - it may be better than not teaching them anything in that area, but it's still less good than teaching them how to understand the generalised form of that approach, instead of pretending that one specific implementation is The One True Way.

  24. chuBb.
    FAIL

    Better than some ideas i have seen

    Used to work in "e-learning" there were conferences on how the educational qualities of PSP's and Nintendo DS's (i.e. brain training) could be exploited

    Also pots of money available to get smart phones to give to kids so that they could do educational things with them i.e. take photo's for course work, of course no one thought that kids would have a camera phone of there own???.

    Or how about txt the answer to the white board, cus you know kids want to spend there credit answering questions in class

    All in all a load of shite, mainly used by self promoting academics to get a conference fee with 0 educational benefit, bottom line is teacher wants and ipad, teacher cant afford ipad, teacher bullshits some dubious claim of educational value, techophobes at the top go ohh shiny innovative IT, every one loses especially the kids.

  25. Gordon Pryra

    Leave the IT teachers alone

    Poor bastards have it hard enough.

    Not only do they have to contend with a shit wage, a syllabus that they know is out of date before they even start to teach the scum (sorry children) they also have their hands tied by why they can buy to teach kids on.

    Even using Mac desktop/laptops is pretty stupid. The idea is to give kids a grounding in how a computer works, on an IBM compatible XT this was possible and would at least give them an idea on what to expect when they actually got into a working environment (90% of the time, it wont be an office full of Macs) On a Mac, much like the tablets, how the thing works is hidden away (I was going to say like Win 8, but noone will ever buy that)

    That said, I am surprised that any school has ever brought their pupils an Apple tablet, for all of the above reasons and the fact that schools tend not to get ANYTHING new unless there's a reason for it (like someone funded the new school hall, so we buy our toner cartridges from the benefactors company) etc

    Last word, many thanks to Mr Reed who successfully taught me how a Winchester drive works and gave an overview on MFM and RLL controllers while also telling me that these technologies were outdated already by the time they were introduced to the "need to know" section.

  26. Mage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Oh Dear

    Where is the upvote link gone for brilliant articles?

    Of course this is telling anyone with two brain cells what they already know.

    And as an eReader?

    Battery life too low, size too small. Even the kindle is a failure as a School / College eText book because it's best suited for linear consumption of a Novel or small magazine, the booking marking and "random" access of multiple texts is too inflexible.

    Always the same mistakes. Computers, Laptops, tablets to class without giving the Teacher a personal one 6mths+ earlier and training.

    When I trained trainee secretaries in the mid 1990s the best students had come from schools with no computers.

  27. David Evans
    Childcatcher

    Who said iPads are used for IT?

    While I kind of agree with the central thesis (iPads are expensive m'kay?), it seems to be coming from the idea that any computing device used in schools is there primarily to teach IT, which seems a bit...well...1980s in its thinking.

    I always assumed iPads would be primarily used as a general textbook replacement with added whistles and bells (timetables, report writing etc.), and to a certain extent a degree of lockdown might be useful in that kind of environment. However, the Apple tax is a big problem for education content, and unlike paper text books, you've still got VAT to consider on top of that; so not only is an iPad a fairly flimsy and stealable piece of hardware, it doesn't really pass muster on the content side either at a time when parents bemoan the fortunes they need to spend on text books for approved syllabuses (syllabi?) - and that assumes such text books are actually available as ebooks in the first place.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Who said iPads are used for IT?

      In fact, I'd suggest that the VAT element is the clincher: ebooks do not qualify for VAT exemption like printed matter. By switching to iPads - or indeed any tablet or computer edition - the cost of school books will rise 20% immediately.

  28. returnmyjedi

    Used by kids, built by kids

    It makes perfect sense that schools buy tablets for use by children, should also be assembled on happy production lines by beaming children.

  29. Terry 6 Silver badge

    School decisions

    Schools, heads and the local authority people who advise them have a long tradition of trying to jump onto the back of whatever bandwagon is passing. (Not just in IT).

    From some this is pure politics, being seen to be cutting edge without actually doing anything that might be original (i.e. risky).

    From most though, this is purely driven by fear. If they don't keep up with the current trend (however barmy) they will be caught in the firing line.

    (Remember: No one ever used to get fired for buying IBM).

  30. Van

    build quality

    "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 "

    Are you sure it was down to "gouging" and not the weak pound?

    Also IIRC, the build quality of American computers tended to be strong and tough to meet more stringent US standards.

    The Atari 800 was also found in schools. It was a metal tank covered in hard Plastic, removable hard plastic covered RAM and ROM . I'm sure I read this build quality was partly why it was priced highly in the UK, compared to the flimsy un-shielded Uk offerings.

    Funny that build quality and metal casings are actually deemed worthy of the extra dosh today. Often described in reg's own reviews as "classy" Another reason the Atari 8-bits were ahead of their time ;)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whatever happended to EDUCATION?

    It seems, from the article and most of the comments, that you all think schools are there to train little apprentices for the work place, rather than educate pupils to be intelligent, able, flexible and open thinkers and problem solvers with a grasp of their own culture. The former passes over half understood drone material, almost certainly based on technology and methods that will certainly be out-of-date before the pupil leaves school for university, apprenticeship or simply a job. The latter equips people with a sound basis from which to make choices, be flexible as job needs, personal inclination or experience change, as well as some tools for the enjoyment and improvement of everyday life. What use is a drone well trained in "open systems" software or the innards of an Intel PC or how to write in some aging computer language, if in fact his workplace is using tablets for its salesman of handmade carpets (I know of such a firm, quite successful) or programming some machine using some new hardware architecture in an as yet unheard of language? Or even maintaining some preshistoric automation hardware and software in a pharmaceutical firm (know one of those too)?

    What does the poor drone do when, actually, there is no work in the area for which they were trained at school and when they have not got the EDUCATION to make rounded judgements and change career direction?

    Personally, I think it makes more sense to ban IT from schools and make really sure that the pupils are educated in a rounded and complete fashion to be literate, numerate, know some foreign languages, some culture, solid, basic science and be able to choose in context, think broadly and be trainable for a wide range of different work in an always changing world. Computers, like it or not, are just one part of that world, that most workers only ever use as a "consumer" device, even if using it to present a business slide show or a spread sheet. In the latter case, they would be better off with good numeracy and statistics so that they had a chance of using correct data in a useful way to derive logical and supportable decisions, rather than hiding behind a package and trusting the authors to have got it right without any understanding of the assumptions and models behind it.

    Nowadays, it is usually the case that, well, it must be right: the computer says so and if it says 2 + 2 = 3.999, well, it's more accurate than a human.

  32. John Sanders
    Linux

    Oh boy...

    """effectively designed to stop computer education""

    The desktop is dead haven't you heard?

  33. Ian 55

    Quite. Anyone in charge of the budget who cannot think of ten things that would be better value for money than the 'on rails' iPad is not fit to be there.

  34. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "Specialist Technology College"

    My youngest is doing A levels at what is described as a "Specialist Technology College".

    I got a text last Thursday asking him to attend a special session in the Media centre.

    When he came home, he had been told that because of a "computer failure", all of this years assessed media work would have to be redone, because it had all been lost. His timetabe for this week was suspended, and he was expected to spend the whole week just catching up.

    Whatever "computer" they were talking about was not the only failure.

    Icon speaks for itself.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paid? Some school techs are simply "volunteers"!

    "a teacher upon whom £5k has been spent on upgrading their skills ?"

    Dream on! My Missus works as a nursery teacher, they have a guy from the local authority who comes in, refuses to touch Apple kit, "It's a bit naff and nowhere as resiient as a good Windows PC!". So once they started getting more iPads and MacBooks in the school it was only my Missus' interest that keeps the Apple kit ticking over. She's not a techie she's just a user, she gets the same rate as all the other teachers and she often does an hour or two extra a day to make sure the Apple kit is running OK. She only does it as the teachers can see a real interest and excitement among the kids when they get their hands on them. They have about 20 iPads for about 40 kids and they've only managed to break one in about the last 12 months which for 40 kids between 3-5 years old is not bad going. Some of the kids she works with come from very tough backgrounds, neglect or special needs so it's a really great way for them to get to use technology they wouldn't be able to afford at home.

    However they also use them at my daughter's junior school and there it is pure brainwashing. The first year they turned up every kid in the school wanted one that Xmas, it's a marketing ploy. Apple will do bulk deals to ensure they get into the local education system as it gets the kids used to the half-bitten fruity logo, straight home and pester-power kicks in for the next birthday and Xmas present. Give my daughter some credit, she wanted one so she asked if she could dip into her savings plus any money she got for her birthday, so she could get an iPad2. I use a Android tablet, we have Mac, Windows and Linux machines at home so she's used to jumping from system to system and she know's what's inside a PC, granted she's not interested in learning about developing software but at least she's not a complete muppet about tech.

    1. Darryl

      Re: Paid? Some school techs are simply "volunteers"!

      I'm not sure about the UK, but over here on the other side of the Atlantic, I think the main reason that Apple used to sell any computers/laptops outside of graphic design was because of all of the Apple Education programs - put Macs in all of the classrooms and the kids will be after their parents to get them a Mac for Christmas.

      Then the kid got out into the real world, and couldn't figure out the Windows/Office box sitting on their desk.

      1. PJI

        Re: Paid? Some school techs are simply "volunteers"!

        Is Apple so evil? Microsoft did it. Heavens, AT&T or Bell labs. or whoever it was at the time gave UNIX to Berkely and now look where we are, or are you all UNIX haters as well? Suppose so, as OS X is BSD based, must be bad.

        Some in this forum even argue it must be Linux and open source only, to indoctrinate the children in those.

        Leave fantasy behind: of course firms give bargains for long term gain as well as generosity. I wonder, do you all work for nothing?

  36. Chris1984
    Megaphone

    We actually manage them for schools

    I won't get involved in the good/bad debate. But a lot of schools will just buy iPads expecting them to work without any IT management as they are sold as CONSUMER devices with fancy TV adverts.

    1. Does the LEA firewall actually allow you to use App Store, FaceTime, APNS, etc. ? Headteacher: I can facetime another head teacher now. US: No you can't, LEA don't allow it.

    2. How are you licencing apps? Don't forget ownership of the app passes to the apple id that is on the device, unless it's supervised. Are the school happy to give away apps as they do paper and pens?

    3. You can only register for an Apple ID if you are over 13...Student iPads need to be "institutional"

    4. Tell the school to purchase a Mac with optional MDM service and have them setup correctly.

    Don't forget they are NOT a replacement for a PC.

    Don't ask to plug them in to a projector...unless you have an Apple TV and HDMI projector (or POWERED converter).

    Don't ask to print unless it's an AirPlay printer.

  37. minlongley

    Re: Education - Closed Source Priorietary systems ARE evil

    Although Scratch doesn't work on iPads, Snap does.

    http://snap.berkeley.edu/

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Not biased at all. Oh no.

    Register editors - I am genuinely puzzled as to what exactly the point is of having such articles written by people who clearly cannot get past their bizarre hatred for a company that makes a particular product. This entire article is simply a 'lets bash Apple' diatribe with absolutely nothing of worth contained within.

    More and more The Register seems to be devolving into an anti-Apple circle jerk. Please can we have some constructive articles.

    1. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Re: Not biased at all. Oh no.

      I read it as a "whats the point in wasting money on tablets diatribe". Which makes sense to me as tablets seem like an unnecessary luxury. A computer with a proper keyboard is a necessity. My nephews school has every kid with a decent ruggedised Windows 7 laptop - makes much more sense.

  39. strangelybrown
    Thumb Down

    It's all about the shiny

    Unsurprisingly enough, my teenager's school has just announced every one of the kids is to have an iPad or iPad mini... funded by the parents for the most part. Being a geek, and in the mobile/mobility space, I actually deemed it worthwhile going to the presentation, as you never know, with my 16 years IT knowledge, and having sold the things into Banks and stuff, I might actually have an idea of what they can and can't do.

    The presentation was given with the help of some Apple salesman, and my questioning did cause some squirming... well, rather a lot of squirming actually. Especially once it had dawned on me that precisely no thought had gone into this whatsoever. Still, I did enjoy myself tearing apart the hapless board of governors, teachers, and assembled muppetry for 90s minutes. A Phrryic victory, but a victory nonetheless.

    In a nutshell, none of the self-congratulatory leftie halfwits had thought to consider than 1500+ kids in uniform carrying £300 devices in any way presented a security risk. None could articulate what actual benefit having an iPad would bring the classroom that didn't already exist with current tools. No plans were put forward to accommodate the built-in redundancy of Apple devices. Nor were they able to explain the selection process for the associated MDM software (after I'd explained what MDM means).

    Just for japes I asked whether they'd considered something like the Chromebook. It has a keyboard, no data on the thing, longer battery life, is fixable should the screen get broken, far more useful for actual computing tasks, can be used for writing homework on, and in all probability Google would give them away for nothing, and a Cloud OS gets round the problem of people leaving the things on buses/in the dog. Again, had never occurred to them.

    Then the final thing, which probably aggravated me more than anything else - yes, the school will continue to expect homework and coursework to be created in Word, Powerpoint, and Excel.

    Bloody fools, the lot of them.

    My own, geeky, view is that if you want to encourage an interest in IT/programming/software a far better plan would be to set as 3rd year (whatever that is in modern terminology) curriculum with "Here's a Citrix licence and 2FA fob. Now, get yourself online. Minimum specification is on this sheet of paper. Go off and learn about IT - it really isn't that difficult. Extra points/marks awarded for the least amount of money spent. Extra marks if you buy the thing off eBay and completely replace the OS. Automatic A++ Distinction if you rock up with a £30 old 10" netbook now running a new OS and with a Pixel Qi screen." Yes, it would be absolute chaos, but probably cheaper than forcing iPads on everyone... keep the IT Teacher busy though.

    Most kids are remarkably technically capable, more than most of us older generation will give them credit for. My 'don't give a monkeys about computers' teenager figured out torrent on her laptop, how to bypass or disable most of the security/content controls I put on, and then when I took to turning off the Wi-Fi at 11pm she broke into next door's WPA2 network... (although oddly still doesn't understand about clearing temp folders).

    Anyway, the penny dropped at the end when the head said something along the lines of "this will improve the teaching experience at the school". Which is basically what this is all about - teaching. 'Learning' is something else entirely, and doesn't seem to figure.

  40. dz-015

    "money that could have been used to hire a competent CompSci teacher"

    It could be argued that it's far more important for all kids to learn how to use modern technology properly than it is for a few geek-kids to have an extra computer studies teacher.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      modern technology

      So, what an 8 year old is taught to use today will be "modern technology" when they leave school/college/university?

      The skills that must be taught to children are the ability to read, to write, to spell, to be creative, imaginative. Those skills will still be relevant in 10, 15, 50 years time. How to use an iPad, or any other bit of modern technology will be obsolete before it is of any use.

      1. dz-015

        Re: modern technology

        So you think kids should be plunged into a technological black hole in which they leave school literate and able to write a story or draw a picture, but with no clue how to operate a computing device?

        Yes, that really sounds like a great idea.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: modern technology @dz-015

          The amount of 'learning' necessary to get an iPad working is minimal. The one good thing about what Apple have done is to make it so any fool can use one with little to no training. And even if they did not have one provided by the school, a large majority of kids will learn transferable skills from their own devices. If there is any benefit, it will be having a standardized device for distributing learning material, but there are other probably for more practical and better value devices for this.

          Owning a tablet myself, I can understand that using a media consumption device may be useful, but I actually don't find it very useful for my work, because of the difficulty of getting information on and off because of the (very sensible) security policies of where I work. Schools would be no different, especially when you use such a controlled device as an iPad without some sort of relaxation of the restrictions. So unless you categorize learning as another type of consuming media (maybe it is), I find that the overall value of providing iPads is poor compared to other uses for the money.

          Over the years, I've seen technological aids used in teaching, using slide and film projectors, television, video-recorders, audio tape based language, micro-film and fiche based interactive courses and finally various generations of computer based training. But do they work better than a good teacher and appropriate books? I'm not sure, and I think back to the most memorable years of school when a sometimes boring subject was brought to life by a capable and enthusiastic teacher with nothing more than a blackboard and text books.

          Give the kids an appropriate understanding of how they (computing devices) work, together with the correct amount of other real life skills (reading, writing, basic maths, contemporary history, nutrition), and that will be a much better use of time and resource.

          I am still waiting for the delivery of the promise of natural language recognition combined with Artificial Intelligence (always 5 years away for the last 30 or so) that will make interacting with your information system like interacting with another person. When we get this, all this crap about learning how to use a computing device will become obsolete, and we can go back to learning useful knowledge rather than teaching the current in-vogue fad!

          1. dz-015

            Re: modern technology @dz-015

            "Give the kids an appropriate understanding of how they (computing devices) work"

            Why? Most kids don't need to know how a computer works. They just need to know how to use one when they get out into real life. I'm able to cook a decent steak but I don't have a clue how to farm cattle.

            iPads aren't just about consuming media. They also function as photo editing devices, electronic canvases for artists, all-in-one recording studios, and so forth. Not only do they provide a cheap way for kids to have a go at all sorts of exciting creative activities in addition to everything else they can do, but the act of kids seeing just what you can really do with technology and how far you can push it is important in itself.

            I'd argue that this sort of stuff is way more important for most kids than whatever the modern equivalent is of learning how to program BASIC on a BBC Micro.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: modern technology @dz-015

              Why? Because some of them may actually think of working in the field, and they cannot make a decision about whether they would be able to until they have relevant knowledge. It's truly shocking how little almost all kids know about how computers work when they leave school.

              I'm not saying that there is no value to iPads, but that there are better ways to obtain the skills. In their day, BBC micros could do representative actions for almost the whole spectrum of contemporary computing skills (I know, I built and ran a lab of them in the early '80s at Newcastle Polytechnic that was used to teach computer appreciation), as well as learning to program. I used it to teach structured programming in BBC Basic and Pascal, assembler programming, word processing, spreadsheets, graphics (including basic design using a digitiser, WIMP and touch screens), robotics, basic networking (putting an oscilloscope on the Econet cable was a real eye opener for the students), and many more things than I can remember.

              Tablets can do some of these, but I think that as a representative computing device, they are poor. It really does depend on whether they are the ONLY devices available in the schools.

              Photo, music and video editing can be done, but would be better on a machine with more memory and disk, for anything except the smallest project.

              For an art and design tool, something that had the accuracy of a Wacom digitiser is essential.

              And about cooking a steak. You don't need to know how to farm just like you don't need to know how to fabricate a CPU or memory chip, but you need to know how to use the cooker, pans an utensils in order to perform the creative culinary part of cooking. Using an iPad is like knowing what seasoning to use.

  41. Alan Denman

    peasant users

    indeed,

    but not knowing what they want they can all bleat out 'It does what I want'.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is timely...

    My mother works part-time at a rural UK primary school.

    It seems that said school has a high enough percentage of kids on free school meals to qualify for some kind of grant.

    Headteacher decides to spend said grant on two iPads for the school (which has about 30-40 kids in two classes), bought via the local council spin-off company who manages teaching and IT support services.

    iPads arrive with helldesk geek, who meekly points out that the school doesn't have wireless, so the ipads are pretty much pointless.

    Price for wireless in 2 classes for 2 iPads? £180. Bit steep for two access points...

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: This is timely...

      I pay £200 for 3 ubiquiti unifis. Buy ruckus ones and you can multiply that by 3. sure you can buy an access point for £15 but will it let you roam? Have SSIDs for guest portals on a VLAN? beam form between them? Throttle high bandwidth users? show reports on which ones are getting more use (before handing off to load balance on another)

      £180 seems ok if they are reasonable wifi units.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is timely...

        This is for a primary school with two physical classrooms, a bit of structured CAT5 and an ADSL router.

        The only wireless clients would be those two iPads

        OK, so you could spend £90 a throw on two top-line access points for the two classes, which would probably never be used to their full potential....

        Or get two £15-£40 access points, set them to the same SSID and password and simply use them to extend the wired CAT5 networks to the two tablets. There's no need to provide for guest use etc.

        Personally, I'd have spent the price of the two iPads on some decent printer/PC upgrades, but it's not my shout.

  43. sisk Silver badge

    1 to 1 with iPads

    We have a one to one program with iPads in the district I work for. I was against it to, until I saw what a savvy teacher who's not wasting their time railing against it could do with the things. Quite frankly it's amazing how interactive a classroom suddenly becomes when every kid has an iPad.

    I will also point out, backed by several years of experience in school based IT, that kids are actually easier on technology than grownups. I can hear you scoffing now, but it's true. 75% of our broken laptops have been due to abuse by teachers. Everything from coffee being spilled on them to them getting left of top of a car. Yes we have the occasional malicious kid. The one who threw a laptop out a 2nd floor window because 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' sticks in my mind, but that really was an anomaly.

    We also have a number of measures in place for lost or damaged iPads. Each kid pays $40 for insurance which goes into a pool for replacing them when the need arises. We also have an iPad repair class (which Apple doesn't like, but meh) and some locator app that allows the people in charge of the iPad program to locate them anywhere in the world as long as they have internet access. Only twice has an iPad been lost and not recovered. One is somewhere in the high school. Somewhere in one of 4 classrooms covered by a single wifi access point in fact. When the battery finally died it hadn't moved for most of a week, but no one's been able to find it. The other one was stolen and has not yet popped up on the internet for us to track, possibly because the thief didn't grab the charger.

    We've also saved a bundle in text books by using the iPads as ebook readers. Not quite the cost of the iPad itself, but one thing I will point out: the article is wrong about the cost of textbooks. They're $50-$90 a piece and most high school kids have 6-10 of them. They cost far more than iPads even before the hefty discount that we get.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: 1 to 1 with iPads

      Text books are a racket. The same books that schools buy for that $50-$90 can be had on Amazon or home schooling websites for $20-$30. The publishers work very hard to get their books blessed as the only one certified for use in a particular state by the public school system. Once that's done, they can charge all the market will bear. The upside is that the books are usually well made and will survive at least 2 or 3 school years. Electronics, especially consumer electronics, are obsolete when they come out and antiquated a year later. Apple has been one of the worse manufacturers when it comes to serviceability. Their stuff, and I do use a Mac, is getting next to impossible to do simple things like replace batteries. I haven't seen any numbers on how well iPad batteries are holding up. I've noticed on most of my stuff that around a year is pretty much the viable limit on batteries in devices I used regularly.

      While there may be some instances where an outstanding teacher has made good use from tablets or laptops in their classrooms, there also many where they are nothing but a distraction. At one point it was important that kids were introduced to computers so they could be more valuable to their masters (employers) when they left school, but these days are likely to be miles ahead of their teachers especially in the basic operation of a computer. Maybe 6 year old's will be slightly behind, but they'll have neural implants by the time they are 18 so learning on an iPad isn't going to help in the long run.

      Note: Read "Oath of Fealty" by Larry Niven for a tale that includes human/computer links.

  44. Hooksie

    I think I might cry

    An article on the register that is about iPads and Apple products that doesn't fall over itself to fawn on the big fruity one. Kudos to the author for pointing out the fallacy of using iPads for IT education - it's an absolute nonsense.

    Windows tablets would be of some use but they too are prohibitvely expensive so I would have thought that if you were going to use tablets for IT education then Android would be the way to go. Cheaper, open source, can be rooted and booted as many times as you like, you could even install Ubuntu on some of them. Coding should be fine and you can even get kids to write their own apps, sideload them and possibly submit them to the Play Store, maybe do a class project to fork a ROM. Even showing kids the coding behind some of the stuff they take for granted is bound to open their minds to new possibilities. Unlike the aforementioned iPads which only serve to open your wallet!

    First El Reg article I've read in ages that didn't make me want to shout at the computer.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: I think I might cry

      so who is going to root, setup, maintain 1000 android tablets? Even if it takes 1 hour per tablet, that is 1000 man hours alone!

      PCs mean you can sysprep an image and blast an entire room. Use a program like FOG and you simply boot each one off the network, supply a domain computername and will be greeted with a (multicasted roomfull of) working w7 PC joined to the domain in under 30 mins.

      Tablets cannot do this so you are at the mercy of the admin tools for each one.

  45. Dave 15

    It teachers - pathetic standards

    Much higher standards than for other subjects. My local school employs the former PE teacher as its science teacher - qualifications for the job? er, no, he didn't even do O level science, but he was a teacher which made him a better bet than employing someone with a science degree, a science directed teaching qualification and several years industrial experience.

    Basically the schools won't employ people who have ever worked anywhere else because if they do these people cause trouble by asking awkward questions, motivating children and generally showing the rest of the no hope waste of space 'teachers' up.

    Come the glorious day... politicians first, bankers second, CEO's third, teachers forth (by that time the wall will be a mess but never mind).

  46. Skizz

    iPads in Schools

    I remember a year or so back my sons' school (state primary) handed out leaflets about the future of the IT in the school. "Our Apple Vision" was the headline and it extolled the virtues of the device. Needless to say, most of the use cases for the device involved going to the iTunes store for apps and (Apple authorised, American) text books, admittedly most of it was advertised as being free. There was a very biased questionnaire attached, questions like "Which iPad/iPod would you buy", no suggestion that there were non-Apple alternatives available.

    So I and my wife wrote very lengthy replies, she took the social angle (kids as mugging targets, breakages, cost, etc) and I took a tech angle (consumer device, no scope for CompSci work, networking, etc). Needless to say, there's been no word on the subject since and the teacher that was the main driving force behind the plan has since left.

    Oh, and did I mention the all expenses paid Apple-in-Education junket the head and IT teacher went on at St Pancras?

    Finally, one use for an iPod touch - use the stopwatch app to time races. Good grief.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to work in local government, and now work as a contractor for local government. Councils are obsessed with foisting these things on people. The political counter argument is usually: councillors getting toys on the rates (http://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/local/council-defends-switch-to-ipads-1-4155303), but my argument was: but you can't actually *DO* anything with these things.

    I'm now working in a programme "upgrading" social workers' computers to tablets, and *they* are saying: but you can't actually *DO* anything with these things. Why can't I have a desktop like I used to? When I've been around some months later to do post-installation checks I've found almost all of them are locked in a drawer with a cable snaking out connecting to a proper keyboard and monitor.

    AC for obvious reasons.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I find it hard to believe that the life expectancy is as long as two years, since that’s about how long the average corporate laptop lasts when given to grownups. My last tablet, which was an Archos (avoid), lasted nine months - and I’m a grownup. On the Tube I see a good number of cracked but mostly still working tablets, again owned by responsible adults. Repair is almost impossible, apparently again by intent, so after the sort of drop a book wouldn’t care about £250 is gone."

    Rubbish. If your corporate laptop actually breaks in two years *and you're not in the armed forces* then you *are* being too rough on it.

  49. eciehx

    eReaders for school textbooks - good as supplement, not replacement

    My daughters school introduced iPads to replace textbooks, but we've bought all of the books anyway. The iPad is great as a weight-saving device, and also ensures books aren't forgotten in the morning, reducing stress for everyone.

    However, the quality of the ebooks is very poor, as they are effectively just PDFs of the print textbook. You need to zoom in to read any page, and traversing pages quickly is therefore quite difficult. They are hopeless for doing homework at home, hence the need for printed textbooks.

    I can imagine that in class, where a teacher may concentrate on a page at a time, they may be OK to use.

    A major issue is that they are so easy to skive off on, and addictive, that kids quickly get distracted.

    I think a better approach would be a very simple (and hopefully cheap) ereader with an A4-size screen just for reading existing print textbooks easily, but without all the iPad/Android extras like messaging, youtube, etc.

    In Ireland where I live, the educational book/software market is so small and money-conscious that it is impossible for publishers to create useful resources economically. Even subjects like mathematics are not culture-neutral, as Ireland uses different currency, weights and measures (euro, kilometres, kilograms) from any other English-speaking countries. So one of the main possible advantages of using computers, to enhance subject-specific learning, is a non-runner.

    1. Jim O'Reilly
      Headmaster

      Re: eReaders for school textbooks - good as supplement, not replacement

      I think you're very perceptive. The quality of the experience has to be better than the textbook in every way. Just a poor resolution PDF isn't good enough. I've seen too many of them in the "free-books" section of Amazon and B&N for instance. And limiting non-school apps to certain times such as breaks or a few minutes between classes is not beyond the average software vendor like Google.

      The solution is offering a big enough market to make an educational tablet worth customizing from the general purpose. The US government should spend some money on that rather than coming up with new tests for schools.

  50. CCD

    What about evidence?

    It's probably too much to ask, but don't you think use of technology in education should be based on objective evidence, rather than like or dislike of a large US corporation, or religious arguments about open and closed source? For instance, there's a growing body of proof that the iPad is helping to deliver better educational outcomes for children with learning disabilities, like ASD, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Let's face it: using a conventional computer with its screen, keyboard and mouse has more in common with driving a car than with other everyday activities, and we wouldn't expect these kids to drive cars. I frequently see first-hand how children who don't have the hand-eye co-ordination to use a PC or Mac, or the fine motor control to pick up and move paper cards, can succeed using suitably designed apps on an iPad, and there's data to show their resulting progress in literacy and numeracy.

    As for the Apple vs Android debate, I've had enough experience developing for both to know that in many cases what we can do easily on iOS is much harder to accomplish robustly on Android, and that whereas Apple acknowledges bug reports and often fixes the problems, reporting Android bugs and limitations is a rather more fruitless exercise (especially as any fix will never make it on to most existing devices). Android also poses usability issues for the children we work with, because the on screen navigation bar gets poked (accidentally or deliberately) and neither it nor the physical buttons on an Android device can be disabled effectively. Apple's "Guided Access" feature that locks the user into a single app is invaluable and has no Android equivalent.

  51. paulll Bronze badge
    Headmaster

    "flow of control"

    Control of flow, surely?

  52. Danny 14 Silver badge
    Stop

    Well ive been an ICT teacher and a school sysadmin and now the director of ICT at a school so I have some experience in this. I have tried to roll out a small tablet infrastructure and it didnt work. ICT is more than computers at least it was for the iGCSE that we run. Tablets dont help in a lot of things, you cant do decent database design on one, making websites is quite hard (we only teach basic javascript and HTML but it is all notepad++ esq rather than drag and drop). Creating movies (in editting) was quite easy on ipads however it was much better to use a standalone camera to get a better movie in the first place, getting the movies elsewhere off the ipad was an exercise in head against wall banging initially (this was ipad 2 first release time, things are nicer now you can simply copy things off - previously it was an itunes sync). robotics would have been pointless, we use lego and lego C to do our robotics lessons.

    Itunes did not sit nicely on a corporate based firewall system. The perpetual logon prompts are a nightmare. Users with default profiles are also treat to a barrage of screens too.

    I think I paid about 6k for a trolley, 16 ipad2's we run ubiquiti unifis which worked ok for what we wanted. Overall, laptops are still the best compromise. They can be cleared away when you need lab space and brought out for use. Can they be used in other classes? Probably, what would be the probability that someone forgot to charge theirs? Cannot annotate books as easily. Locking down ipads is possible but a real pain, I believe there are newer enterprise esq tools available now to massrollout ipads.

    ipads are a tool and should be used as such. I think they are too expensive and not flexible enough for a large network for what they do.

  53. graeme leggett

    In defence of text books

    I'd like to just defend textbooks for a moment.

    1) Textbooks degrade with use but generally remain usable - a text book with the last 20% of pages gone is 80% useful; an electrical device with 20% damage is probably completely U/S

    2) textbooks can have a long lifespan - so long as they're not about rapidly changing subjects - so rapid updating is not a great issue. Sulphur still forms the same compounds, Wellington and Blucher won at Waterloo.

    3) you can tell at a glance if a pupil is in the right place in a text book, and not reading Harry Potter.

    4) carrying heavy books is character forming - or muscle forming - and encourages planning and forethought in students. So they can avoid strains and RSI.

    5) no-one nicks a textbook to play games, even noughts-and-crosses in the margin.

    6) getting the last year's hand-me-downs with annotations is more useful than a wiped and reset device

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In defence of text books

      "no-one nicks a textbook to play games"

      Our VIth Form common room used to play table tennis with everyone in a circle round a large study table. Each player played the current ball in flight - then the circle moved on one place. Text books were used for bats - and were chosen for size and heft. After two years' daily use certain favoured text books were decidedly worse for wear.

  54. Andy Baird

    andybaird@earthlink.net

    This writer (and many of the commenters) makes the underlying assumption that if a computing device--whether desktop PC, laptop or tablet--is used in the classroom, then it must be used to teach computer programming. The iPad can't be programmed, these people assert, so it has no place in a school. (Never mind that there are several ways to write iPad apps on an iPad, and even more ways to use an iPad to code in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other useful languages.)

    In short, the only legitimate educational use for a computer-based device is to teach computer programming, according to these folks. Most of the complaints asserted here derive from that logic, which is pretty silly when you think about it for more than half a second.

    A tablet is a tool for presenting educational content. So is a book, but nobody's advocating banning those from classrooms. Nobody whinges about that fact that you can't rewrite a book's contents using only the book... but put a microprocessor into a book, and suddenly "presenting content" is somehow not good enough to justify its existence.

    A few here have suggested that ereaders would be more cost-effective than tablets in a classroom setting. That argument sounds reasonable, and in some cases it may even be valid. But a tablet is hugely more versatile than an E-ink-based reader. It offers color, it can show video, it can access the web, and there's a world of educational software available for it. None of these are true for ereaders. (Yes, I know you can load a web page on a Kindle. Ever tried it? I have. The experience ranks with listening to music-on-hold with a mobile phone.)

    The writer does raise some legitimate drawbacks of tablets: cost, risk of theft, and vulnerability to breakage. A sturdy "kid-proof" case can reduce the latter, but the relatively high cost and risk of theft remain. Those could be legitimate reasons to choose not to deploy tablets in classrooms, especially in the lower grades.

    But let's weigh the benefits and drawbacks realistically... not with a bogus "can it be used to teach programming" criterion. I know this hurts IT professionals to hear, but learning to program a computer is not an essential life skill. iPads can be very effective tools for teaching the skills that are essential, such as reading, writing and 'rithmetic.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: andybaird@earthlink.net

      ... and the writer is right. Here is what "Lee D" wrote earlier in this thread technology is distracting from the things they should be learning.

      Unless it is technology that kids need to learn, the tablets do not help but only make it more difficult. Yes the tablets can, occasionally, be used in the class - just like TV can. But, for the time being, the cost and trouble does not justify (potential) benefits.

    2. moronatwork
      Unhappy

      Re: andybaird@earthlink.net

      My god! Who allowed you in? Common sense on the Internet? What would they think of next?

      Come on, the guys need to get their whining in!

      But yeah, somehow, stick a cpu in it, and people's brains turn to mush.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just schools

    As a university support droid, I speculate that schools are full of iPads for the same sorts of reasons universities are seeing more and more of the damn things: a combination of

    a) Senior staff want shinies and find it easier to justify the spend if they are "teaching devices", and

    b) Senior, non-technical staff who know nothing about actual technology demand that teaching methods and techniques are "kept up to date", and demand that iPads are used because those are the things with which they are familiar via advertising - which is basically the sales argument, ie "We'll look backwards if we don't have these", and I suspect is most often actually a cunning cover for a) above.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Not just schools

      When I started secondary school 30-odd years ago I learned French and German. One day rummaging through a cupboard we found loads of "cutting-edge" "must-have" one-to-one language learning tape player headphone combo thingies. Shiny Shiny for the '70s.

  56. Prof Denzil Dexter

    Kensington Lock?

    Just realised, would be mighty handy if the tablet of choice could have a kensington lock slot.

    1. Captain Underpants

      Re: Kensington Lock?

      Nah, Apple have decided those are aesthetically unpleasing. Besides which, allowing you to lock up your expensive new iDevice deprives Apple of the profits from your replacement when it gets stolen deprives you of the privilege of visiting an Apple Store and buying a replacement if your original were to unfortunately be stolen.

  57. Jim O'Reilly
    Headmaster

    Why iPads

    This is a bit like getting kids a Ferrari to learn to drive in. The iPad is bling, and not just a tablet. Where schools get the money for bling is anyone's guess.

    This is where DoE needs to get cozy with Google and Amazon. Nook is rumored to be for sale. Maybe DoE could partner to bring it to schools, with Amazon supplying eTextbooks, and Google handling the homework queries and class content.

    Let's get creative here. Oh, and let's specify that the Nooks-for-Schools be assembled in the US!

  58. Eponymous Bastard

    Books or trips anyone

    "down to about 250-300 quid each . . . . "

    That's quite a few books or nice little trips out to the park or the beach or the ghetto even. I hope nobody in teaching has the balls to turn around and say that education is underfunded in this god-forsaken cold grey country because they need . . . . it'll be censored or the thought police will smash down my front door if I type it. I will get my "outerwear".

  59. Frank Bough
    FAIL

    Straw Man

    iPads et al used in the classroom are not there to teach programming or replace PCs, except insofar as the PC was doing a bad job of running whatever app type the iPad is more suited to.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    iPads and graphein pencils ..

    No doubt and similarly to the graphein pencil, the kids will use them for doodling drawings of genetalia on these infernal iPads ..

    --

    where's the technology angle to this anti-Apple diatribe ...

  61. Dana W
    Happy

    An iPad won't last because his Archos tablet failed? And steak hurts my teeth because soup bones are way too tough?

    The best part about Apple kit is after three years when I sell it it's always just fine.

    Soon we will get a story about how android tablets are the perfect thing for all school systems, and there will be a mass of smiling and nodding Fandroids to back it up.

  62. moronatwork
    WTF?

    does no one like python?

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pythonista/id528579881?mt=8

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/codea/id439571171?mt=8

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scriptkit-drag-drop-programming/id549348390?mt=8

  63. Gartal
    Headmaster

    Wither Education

    I am a relative new comer to computers having only started as a tech in 1991.

    I started at a strip shopping centre computer shop upgrading XTs to 286s and 386s, learning the ropes and getting to know about Data Recovery and Notworks.

    A large percentage of the people we sold new 386 33s to with DOS 5.00 and Windows 3.1 were parents who felt that shelling out $4,000.00 for a computer would help their kids along the way, that by not doing so they were in some way short changing them educationally . The press was full of The Need To Educate Kids In Computers. What the experts were saying is that we needed children to get into science, into electronic engineering, Applied Physics, software design and wrapping it up in `Computers` . The press devolved that idea into just `computers`. Parents who did not know because they devolved the idea further, just went out and bought a computer. They would have probably done better to buy more Lego and Meccano. And books.

    In the primary school classroom as of about four years ago, `Learning Computers` meant understanding a user name and password , navigating Word, Power Point, email and a corralled of bit of the Web.

    In about 1995 there was a research study done in Germany which asked about 180,000 people in (I think) OECD countries to consider wether computers conferred and educational advantage.

    The findings were something I had already felt though still surprising. The overwhelming response was that the thing which conferred the greatest benefit to education was not a computer but living in a house with 500 or more books. The benefit to education of a computer was likened to being able to use a street directory or navigate the index of a book. Not having books and having a computer showed a measurable negative benefit.

    And that has not changed.

    Education is as old as humanity. Not schools in the formal sense of today to be sure, but the passing on of information on how to make a stone axe, skin a cat, how to till the soil, worship The God(s) of Your Choice etc.

    Socrates got by just holding classes under a tree and being smart. All of the nobility of just about any country were taught things by people who knew stuff. The Clergy maintained their Scriptoria.

    The chalk board was a technological revolution. Children could to learn to write as well as read. The steel pen nib meant that once paper became cheap, people could write `CRTL S` on the page and then fold it up and put it in their pocket for later, something difficult to manage with your average chalkboard.

    The school I went to in the sixties had a pretty good library, (I think I still have to return a few of the books), there was one telephone in the Head Master's office and we had a single monochrome 22" TV on which the whole school watched the Moon Landing.

    In High School at the start of Third Form we bought slide rules. Half way through the year we were given the option of purchasing Texas Instruments pocket calculators. Naturally I wanted the scientific one with 21 functions which cost just a bit more than a week’s wages. It was a very impressive piece of grey plastic with red LEDs to ensure that battery life was piss poor. I got as far as the equation the answer to which is SHELLOIL. I knew that COS, SIN and TAN were buttons on the machine but then like now I have no understanding of the answer I get when I use them. I had and have no mathematical ability beyond basic arithmatic. A complete waste of just a bit more than a weeks wages.

    We had black boards at the time, now there are whiteboards because chalk dust causes underage pregnancy or brain tumours in desks.

    Now in the (State) primary school which until a couple of years ago my children attended, each class room has a telephone, they all have computers, most of the senior school (grade three and up) classes have electronic whiteboards, yet another solution looking for a problem. There are Teacher’s Aides and volunteering parents to help with reading and learning difficulties. There is a School Nurse. The school has a Sharepoint portal so that reports and the rest are now available electronically.

    But the national education standards tests reveal that there are still loads of kids who are functionally illiterate and innumerate. Universities graduate students who cannot string together a cogent argument and who cannot précis. (I know, but I didn't even get to University.)

    It is appropriate that children gain exposure to the reigning technologies of the day. Look back at the school books of the 1920s and 30s. They are full of things like how to calculate how many bushels of corn make a furlong and how many BTUs you can get from various grades of coal for steam generation. They reflect the technology of the day.

    During the World War that came Second, it was realised that Science was the way of the future and so every high school got science rooms so that everyone could makes stinks and bangs and electrocute a vivisected frog.

    All of those things aided in the expansion of experience for Young Minds.

    Humans best remember things when there are at least two different re-enforcements of the information given. When I was studying Nursing in the 80s the teacher would write black board after blackboard full of stuff and we would copy it down verbatim after which we would discuss it. Then at home we would write it down again and the stuff stuck like shit to a blanket. The information could have been given out as a photocopy, we could have read it from a book but to make sure we learned it, we had to discuss it and write it out twice. Not quite rote learning but certainly learning by repetition and re-enforcement.

    I am going back a way but who remembers more than about two pages of John and Betty or Dick and Jane? Only those with a photographic memory. But who remembers all of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had a Little Lamb? You forget the former because you only read it, you remember the latter because it is re-enforced by being stored in two parts of the brain. It is remembered linguistically and musically.

    About two years ago one of the American Universities released a study (I think I read about it on the Reg) which showed that students were disinclined to remember things that they thought they would be able to find with a web search. They were/are abrogating their own memories in favour of a bright and shiny trinket.

    What many many people forget is that computers are just a tool. True they are the closest thing yet to a truly Universal Tool, but they are as yet just a tool. They are a huge step forward from the telephone, the steel nib pen, the chalk board and the stone axe but they are still just a tool, not an end in themselves. They can be repositories like a library but like a library, they do not in themselves constitute knowledge, only data. People take the data and do something with it, making it knowledge. A library is just a building with books in it. Education is to my way of thinking supposed to be about how to learn, not just pushing buttons or opening the doors of the library.

    Schooling is a process of passing knowledge from the `Knowlegable` to the Ignorant. There are ways to facilitate that passage but it is the passing and the knowledge that are important, not the aid. As Einstein famously said, "The main thing is the main thing". The main thing in Education is to have highly intelligent, well paid, well supported Teachers to pass on information, anything that detracts from that detracts from that.

    Computers are a pen, a telephone, a television, a street directory and an index, they are tools, they are aids but they are not in themselves an education or educating.

    The iPad glisters but is not gold.

  64. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Old Fashioned Tablets

    When I was in grammar school.. many moons ago... we had really fancy tablets. The chalkboards in the classrooms were being updated from the old black ones to the new and improved green ones. The old boards were cut up into squares and we used those in class. I thought it was "pretty neat". I was around 7 or 8 and so easily amused.

    I don't get all of this bother about putting technology into the classroom. I received a good education and my generation wasn't provided with free laptops. The fact that the computers had to be plugged into some pretty serious mains and took a forklift to move about may have entered into it. Putting one in your lap would have been lethal. Treeware works much better and doesn't require a staff to keep running.

    If the school boards would forget the high tech, take the money and pay teachers more, they could attract even better teachers. That would make a much bigger difference than some kit that going to be obsolete in 6 months. Disregard the 2 years. The batteries will stop holding a charge long before 2 years.

    I had some incredibly good teachers and some very dismal ones. I can remember being much more motivated to work hard and received much better grades when I had good teachers. I really bombed with the bad ones although I did catch up on sleep during those classes. Classroom equipment had nothing to do with the quality of education I received (apart from chemistry, that would have been boring without gear).

  65. Philius

    iPad bashing

    As fond of iPad bashing as I am due to their lack of openness, some of the comments point out how software (even open source software) present themselves as homogeneous blobs, written in inscrutable C++/Java/whatever incantations.

    It can be argued that such is the state of the art - we've moved on from punched cards, at least.

    But neither hardware nor software particularly lends itself to education, it's all about getting it done, protecting your interests (complexity brings obfuscation, a form of encryption) and waiting for fashion to move along so you can do it again in another language/paradigm/form-factor.

    To really make a difference in education, fashion would need to make an unexpected turn - favoring the users, which won't happen as long as they're consumers, in whatever form.

    Two things would make this happen

    1. Tin of beans guarantee - it contains what it says on the tin

    So an iPad would have "consumer appliance" on it, which is what it is, not for IT education

    A Raspberry Pi would have "IT kit" on it

    2. Be amenable to tweaking/tinkering/reprogramming/developing-software-on

    Ordinary PCs go some of the way, the Raspberry Pi goes further, and with OpenCL it would go all the way.

    Ultimately only open software on open hardware can seriously claim to earn the badge "an IT educators must-have".

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is more to life

    The author is right about tablets being bad, or at least lacking for teaching software development. But mastering computers today is about more than learning to program. Learning to be savvy and smart consumers are important too. Learning to use software well, is just as useful as creating software, even more so for those who want to use computers as tools rather than an occupation.

    I am a software developer, but long before that I was a user. Being screwed by iTunes might just be the right kind of lesson budding computer masters need to learn at a young age ;) And besides that, ipads and androids can be wonderful teaching tools for classic skills like reading, geography, math, etc, if used properly and deployed wisely. But programming, no. The author is right about that.

    Sorry for bad English.

  67. MrZoolook
    Thumb Down

    Why are we giving these playthings of the Devil to kids?

    Because your average school student nowadays can't read, so has to have interactive visual aids to understand the most basic things?

    Because students have no respect for education or educational practices that it needs to be disguised as entertainment for them to give a rats ass?

    Because Apple have patented "the teaching or learning of a subject, in an establishment specifically set up to teach."

  68. Vladimir
    Linux

    ebooks, maybe; tablets NO, applied concepts ABSOLUTELY.

    I've long objected to publicly funded teaching of a specific platform or office suite. Even if you never use anything EXCEPT MS Office/Windows, the changes from version X to version Y instantly makes you obsolete. Though Apple has fewer frustrating changes with each version (at least since OSX replaced 9), I think any desktop in Linux is less transitory than either OSX or Windows.

    And why on earth learn specifics of any software suite (even OpenOffice or LibreOffice) when that feature may be located in a completely different place next time?

    Doesn't it make more sense to learn what types of things are possible, which menu is most likely to have that feature, and how to use the in-program help?

    As for tablets: I love my tablet as a book reader, and 10" replacement for my PDA apps (calendar, contacts, taking notes.) I don't see that any young student NEEDS more than the ebook part. Unless the initial + maintennance + replacement/damage/service costs drop below books + desktops, I think it's foolish to even think of spending that kind of money.

    The only justification I agree with is the insane amount of homework being dished out to young students. Are we trying to combat inactive lifestyles by forcing every student to haul twice his body-weight in books each school day? **

    I would like to see high school (15-18yrs) and maybe junior high (11-15yrs) adopt ebooks if:

    1) steep volume discounts are offered from nook/kindle (they ARE building a customer base)

    2) steep discounts from textbook publishers (after all, their PUBLISHING cost is nill.)

    3) more steeply discounted UPDATES for texts in rapidly changing subjects (like science)

    ** (Here's a recent example of school busywork run amok in the USA from s/f writer Orson Scott Card. http://hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2011-10-06.shtml)

  69. the idiotuk

    It's all arse about face..

    The problem is not the fact that are no useful apps out there or that iPads are locked down. The problem is that most of the curriculum is delivered through the use of Word and Power Point. Still.

    ICT needs to move toward platform agnostic solutions to educational tasks, not how do we emulate Word on this or that platform.

    Identify the learning outcome and what skills and resources you'd need and then explore methods of achieving it. For example project work entails researching, collating, assembling and presenting material. Does it matter which platform this is achieved on? No not really. It should be possible to traverse platforms and environments, confidently, and produce the desired result.

    In the school I work in we are moving toward platform agnosticism. I'm encouraging a mixed environment where no platform is dominant and work can be carried out on the best machine for the job. This is a big shift in the way we do things and conceptually is testing for teachers who struggle with the tech we already have. Children, on the other hand already do this without thinking about it, and can and do happily jump from phone to tablet to pc and back again. If we're going to keep them engaged and indeed keep up with them, we'd better get used to this, fast!.

  70. MrMilligan
    Thumb Down

    iPads

    I was very disappointed to read this article along with many of the others who obviously 'don't get' the iPad. The iPad is not a replacement for traditional methods of handwriting, painting and creativity. It is simply an all round tool which enables teachers & learners be more efficient with the very limited time they have in school.

    Anybody who thinks the iPad is going to make their school become completely paperless just doesn't 'Get it'.

    In every area of as school the iPad transforms the learning process to a whole new level. It's not a case of IT people in schools being sheep, these devices are now in the hands of many children and parents in every day life. If education doesn't embrace this then we are going to demotivate the children and staff alike. Bored teachers teaching bored kids!

    It's amazing how many senior leaders in schools 'don't get it' either. The cost centre for a 1:1 ipad roll out is 'Whole School' not ICT.

    There are a few visionary leaders who have seen the power of the iPad and completely transformed the whole school ecosystem.

    I welcome your comments.

    1. Crash!

      Re: iPads

      Please tell me about the "whole new level". I'll buy 1700 on Tuesday if your argument is good enough.

  71. Tufty Squirrel

    Programming on fondleslabs is certainly possible...

    ... but far from optimal. As well as the (platform specific) solutions out there (codea, pjs4ipad, and so on), there's a whole bunch of web-based IDEs for various programming languages which work relatively well on tablet devices. The main downside being that programming is generally text-based, and, as such, programming environments require large amounts of text input. Perhaps our mutant-thumbed txt-generation can handle text input using an OSK, but I can't...

    The only concrete and usable implementation of a tablet-based programming environment I've come across so far is "Lisping" (http://slidetocode.com). There'e a load of research projects out there as well, but nothing particularly solid yet AFAIK.

  72. chrismeggs

    ipads in edukashun

    Sounds like a long preamble to a Pi-based plug. which is cheap and programmable and british and small and grey or black or any other colour you want.

  73. Nick Pettefar

    Pascal

    I have both Pascal and Python on my iPad.

    Sorry to disprove your rubbish with actual facts.

    1. Vic

      Re: Pascal

      > I have both Pascal and Python on my iPad.

      I have Perl on my phone.

      Doesn't make it a useful programming environment, though...

      Vic.

  74. Crash!
    Childcatcher

    Tech in Schools

    School IT Manager here.

    I was asked to look into iPads for all and consulted relevant department heads about their use. They all though they would be great, but couldn't come up with a single use for for them. It was a solution to no requirement.

    Having taken on the role when there was very little IT in the organisation and listened to teachers complain on a daily basis about it, I did some serious research into what technology can be beneficial in a classroom.

    IT suites are obviously a must, but on top of that, a single computer with decent speakers and a projector were added to each classroom. It provides the teacher with the ability to use different media resources in lessons. Pupils will also subconsciously learn about computer usage by seeing them in use. Additionally, different people learn in different ways. Providing video and audio can actually increase the amount of knowledge absorbed.

    We trialed a single interactive whiteboard, but pretty much everyone agreed that the extra cost over the projector basically provided some theatre.

    Giving expensive tech to students to carry around is a recipe for disaster. Not only could they be forgotten (like books), but they can be easily broken, lost, stolen, run out of power, require knowledge for use and added administration. eBooks fall into this category. Just use books.

    There is another serious issue here. Kids need to learn how to write. Not just with a pen, they need to learn how to write something in a linear fashion. You start at the begining, don't make mistakes and finish at the end. Being able to insert, delete and spellcheck does not help a child either devlop that skill or pass exams.

    Lastly, giving children internet connected devices requires that the parents allow them to have such things. Not all do.

    Tech in schools isn't rocket surgery. You just need to be sensible. Look at what you're trying to achieve and put the tech in place to meet those needs.

  75. steve3007

    Sadly, I agree

    I am currently in the process of designing educational software for the iPad, aimed at schools, so I have a vested interest in disagreeing with this article. Unfortunately, I think that most of what it says is probably all too true. But, given that schools do, like it or not, seem to be blowing huge sums on iPads my attitude is that the best I can do is to try to help make that decision work as well as it possibly can by writing useful educational software.

  76. Watashi

    Wot, no computers

    Imagine being told that you were only allowed to use your work computer for one hour a day, perhaps two. And that for the rest of the time you would have no access at all to your email or internet. If there was any work you couldn't get done between 9 and 5, you'd have to finish at home with your own personal computer. If that computer broke, you'd have to buy a new one or risk loosing your job.

    Welcome to the world of school education.

    The iPad may not be the ideal solution, but it is a solution to a problem many teachers don't want to admit to. Not surprising, really, as teachers do not work in the real world. A large number of kids in today's schools will be entering a University or workplace environment unprepared for the computer use requirements that will be placed upon them. Being able to use Google is now as important as being able to use a library, while using a spreadsheet to process data is as important as GCSE maths.

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