waste: (v) 1. to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander: to waste money; to waste words.
I’m just going to come out and say it: iPads waste money.
It’s not that they are useless or don’t provide a benefit. They’re certainly going to allow you to do some things that you can’t do with pencil and paper alone.
But the reason iPads are a waste of money is because you can get other devices that provide the exact same benefits — or can do even more — at a fraction of the cost. This means they are not cost-effective. Whenever you could get the same results for a lower cost by choosing a different alternative, this means you are wasting money.
Some people use false logic by saying “The iPad is very cost effective, because it is cheaper than computers!”
Those people must only be comparing the iPad to other overpriced Apple products. Compared to a ridiculously expensive MacBook Air ($1000), the iPad is a bargain. But that’s like saying a Ferrari 458 ($230,000) is a great deal because it’s cheaper than a Maybach ($400,000). By this logic, Ferrari is the most affordable and cost-effective car out there, and every government institution should only be buying Ferraris because they are so cost-effective!
Obviously, this is absurd. And yet, it is exactly what people are doing when they say iPads are low-cost or cost-effective solutions. Newsflash: There are other computer companies out there besides Apple, and their products aren’t as expensive. So, when you are doing EdTech comparisons and evaluations, you need to look at everything that is available — not just specific, expensive, luxury brand names. In fact, brand name should be one of the last things you look at.
“But Apple computers are better made. They are more durable and reliable, so they provide a lower total cost of ownership.”
That’s an argument a lot of people like to use. Only problem is: it isn’t exactly true. Apple makes some decent products, but they aren’t any better nor are they going to last any longer than other high-quality products made my other manufacturers like Acer, Lenovo, or Samsung. In fact, Consumer Reports notes that there is no meaningful difference in brand reliability between Apple, Acer, Sony, Lenovo, HP, and Toshiba (however, some Dell and Gateway products have been shown to be less reliable than the other brands).
You don’t always get what you pay for. Just because you are paying more for the Apple brand name doesn’t mean you are getting a better product.
At Consumer Reports desktop computer comparison, the 21″ Apple iMac ($1200) is the 2nd most expensive computer on the list, yet it has a worse rating than 11 other computers made by other companies (including Toshiba, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Acer, and Vizio).
Currently, the 11-inch MacBook Air has a lower rating (65) than Acer (72), Sony (75), Lenovo (73), and others… yet it is more expensive than most of them. For $300 less, you can get a better-rated Sony VAIO laptop… and it even has longer battery life, as well! Or, for the same price, you can get the Lenovo Yoga IdeaPad — a convertible laptop which can also function as a tablet.
But how is any of this relevant? Well, it proves one thing: Apple products cost more, but that doesn’t mean they are better or more reliable.They provide a poor return on investment, because you can get something equivalent — or better — for much less.
Sure, iPads are less expensive than MacBooks and other overpriced Apple products. But they are more expensive than…
Android tablets ($350 for equivalent of iPad; less for smaller/weaker tablets)
All of these other devices are about half the cost of iPads, yet they have advantages over the iPad including USB ports, ability to access Flash websites (for an explanation as to why Flash is important in educational settings, see Part 5 of this series), and lower costs for maintenance and upgrades.
In all of my educational technology research, I have not seen a single study that shows iPads are any better for education than other alternatives such as Android tablets… however, I have seen multiple studies showing that computer technology is most effective when we have 1-to-1 computing (ie. one device for each student — or, at the very least, one device for every 2 students who can work as a pair when using it):
So the best thing for our students is not dependent on brand name, it is dependent on getting devices into their hands. This goal is easier to reach with Android tablets, Chromebooks, or netbooks, because you can purchase twice as many of them with the same budget. $7,500 would buy a full class set of 30 Chromebooks or netbooks, yet it would only get you 12 or 13 iPads.
There are more than 55 million K-12 students in the United States. So for us to eventually have 1-to-1 computing in the classrooms, we would require at least 55 million devices. Now, some schools advocate BYOD (or Bring Your Own Device), but that can pose serious problems for schools and teachers, which you can view in my post “Five Serious Drawbacks of BYOD.”
The only real way to avoid the pitfalls of BYOD and still ensure 1 to 1 computing is for schools to purchase the devices themselves. So how much would this cost?
Well, one 32 gigabyte iPad costs $600. An equivalent full-sized Android tablet such as the Acer Iconia Tab A700 is $350.
Some people don’t understand what the big deal is. They might say “It’s only a few hundred dollars. That’s just a drop in the bucket when you look at the big picture.”
But is it? In my opinion, it is never okay to waste money… not even a penny, let alone hundreds of dollar. And the numbers get a lot bigger if our goal is to evolve into paperless classrooms with 1-to-1 computing.
If we multiply those costs per device times the number of students in the US, the numbers don’t look so small and insignificant anymore.
Purchasing an iPad for every student would cost $33 BILLION DOLLARS. The cost of purchasing a similar Android tablet would be $19.25 billion, and the cost of netbooks or Chromebooks would be only $13.75 million.
Of course, you don’t need to replace that iPad every year, so this cost can be spread over several years. But how long do iPads last? There is some debate about this, but it comes with a standard one-year warranty or you can extend it to 2 years if you spend an extra $100 on AppleCare. This implies that you can expect iPads to start having some technical problems at about the 2 year mark. iPods have been out longer and have an official lifespan rating of 4 years, and iPads are built on similar architecture as the iPod, so the lifespan of the average iPad before they start dying is going to be somewhere between 2 and 4 years. Similarly, most laptop computing devices also have a lifespan of about 4 years before they have a serious hardware problem or are rendered obsolete.
Assuming an average scenario that all of these battery-powered computing devices last for 4 years before needing to be replaced, this still comes out to a cost of $8.25 billion per year for iPads versus only $4.8 billion for Android tablets or $3.4 billion for netbooks or Chromebooks.
As you can see, if all schools chose to purchase iPads instead of other alternatives, we would be wasting over 3 billion dollars every year. But the cost difference doesn’t end there.
Since iPads can’t access Flash or Java content online, there are millions of free resources you can’t use. iPads are somewhat useless right out of the box — you can surf the web and watch videos, but most of the useful features of a tablet are only going to come from installing apps. There are a few decent free ones, but most of the worthwhile educational apps cost money, and you’re going to need several of them if you want productivity apps and skill-building or practice games and tools for multiple subjects. These apps usually cost about $3 to $7 each (averaging about $5), and you’d probably need about 20 of them on the iPad to make it worthwhile all school year. This adds another $100 onto the cost of the iPad, or an additional $1.375 billion annually, bringing the total annual cost of iPads to $10 billion dollars per year if we were to get one for every K-12 student.
These are costs you wouldn’t need to spend on a netbook computer, because they can access a lot of the same types of resources for free in the form of educational Flash websites (for example, see my videos showcasing Language Arts, Social Studies, and STEM websites). You can also install free productivity tools like Open Office (a free version of Microsoft Office), Audacity (a full-featured audio production tool), GIMP (a Photoshop-like image editor), and Microsoft Movie Maker (free video editing tool).
Maintenance and peripherals also add to the cost of iPads:
If the battery needs to be replaced, you have to pay Apple $100 to do so. A replacement battery for netbooks or Chromebooks can be purchased for $30 and easily swapped out yourself.
Transferring files from iPads will generally require cloud storage, such as DropBox. These tools are free up to a certain storage limit, but if you need more space it will cost you. On an Android you can easily move files directly onto portable storage such as USB flash drives or external hard drives.
On an Android tablet or netbook, you can use better camera equipment such as a DSLR for video or photography, and you can directly plug in and transfer the photos from it. If you want to do this on iPad, you must buy a $30 “camera connector kit.”
Typing on a keyboard improves efficiency of document creation, an important activity in education. If you use tablets, you have to pay extra for bluetooth keyboards.
Many schools are wasting even more money by spending an extra $130 for 3G or 4G enabled iPads even though they aren’t using the cellular service, or paying $100 AppleCare, increasing the cost of the iPad even further.
The bottom line is that nothing will take quite a bite out of your EdTech budget like buying Apple products will.
So if you’re a parent, or a teacher, or just a tax-paying citizen and you are concerned about local schools saying they don’t have money for teachers, for tutors, for sports, or arts, or music, or after school programs, I suggest you contact your local school board or district office and see what kind of technology purchases they are making. And, if they are buying Apple products… where did the funds come from to pay for these more expensive devices?
Or so the commercial catch-phrase / sales-pitch goes.
The only problem is: it’s not true. Now, I’m not going to deny there are a lot of great and useful little apps, for a variety of purposes. Having a smartphone can be sort of like having a digital Swiss Army Knife, complete with tools for taking notes, capturing and organizing data, looking up information or tutorial videos, finding your way around, and all sorts of other things.
But the problem — especially for education — comes when you look at what you lose in order to gain those apps. People like to point out that there are “so many apps” for the iPad, but when you stop and look at the numbers, you are actually getting access to a lot less, despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of apps out there.
This is especially true and important when it comes to education.
“But there are so many apps for iPads — more than anything else!”
False. Over the course of about 3 years, there have been about 300,000 apps developed for the iPad. That is “a lot”, but it’s all relative. People are simply ignorant about the reality — especially people who have not been working with computers, but for some reason have suddenly jumped on board with the iPad as if it allows some sort of functionality we didn’t already have.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: an “app” is nothing new. It’s just a marketing spin (notice that the word “app” is in “apple”??) on the word “application”, which is another word for “computer program.” So, to set the record straight, “app” = “program”; they are synonyms. Thus, apps have been around for as long as computers have existed… for over half a century.
So, let’s look at what you are really getting (and losing) access to, as a net sum, if you buy an iPad:
iPad apps: 300,000 (700,000 if you include all iOS apps such as ones designed for iPhone)
Android apps: 700,000 (same as Apple
But how does the number of iPad apps compare to what you could access if you used, say, a Mac or PC? Because, believe it or not, long-life laptops (aka ultrabooks) work well for education.
One main problem is that the general public is pretty ignorant about Flash. People simply don’t even know what it is or how often it is being used.
Myth #1: Flash is just a type of video. It doesn’t matter because it can be converted to other video types and HTML5.
If Flash were a type of video, this would be true. But Flash is not video. The reason there is so much confusion is because, over the past few years, one of the top uses for Flash was to embed Flash video files. The first big user of this was YouTube. But Flash was not designed for video, and that was never its main purpose. Flash video (.flv) is a completely different file type than regular Flash (.swf) is. Flash video didn’t even exist until Flash version 6. This means Flash had been out for many years before Flash video even existed.
So, what is Flash and what is it used for?
Flash has been around for nearly as long as the World Wide Web has! It started nearly 20 years ago! (the web was invented in 1991/92, and FutureSplash aka Flash came about in 1995.) It runs using a free browser plug-in that is installed on 99% of computers.
Primarily, it’s a vector-graphics (not raster, which is what video and JPEG images use) animation and multimedia program with built-in interactivity features. Vector graphics mean the graphics are defined using shapes and mathematical formulas — this tends to create a “cartoon” look, and is useful for animation. It’s also useful because the graphics can be easily scaled to any size without losing integrity — they will retain crisp, smooth lines and curves even if you zoom in infinitely.
Myth #2: Anything currently in Flash will be converted to HTML5 soon.
It’s true that video was never really a great use of Flash, and anything that is simple video or audio can be easily done using HTML5 instead. But, as I pointed out above, Flash is not just for video. Here are the types of things Flash has been used for over the course of the nearly two decades it has been in use:
Interactive multimedia web experiences (often for branding, including sound, animations, and visuals; also allows for smooth, vector-style embedded fonts, improving the visual experience further)
Educational tutorials, including embedded features such as audio, quizzes, etc. Like learning Open Heart Surgery
Games (one of the most famous being Farmville, but educational examples can be found at Cisco’s PacketVille, PBSKids.org, and many, many other websites)
Interactive visualizations. For example, news media for the 2012 US Presidential Election had live electoral maps that could be clicked or rolled over for more data. These maps were using Flash (and therefore would not work on an iPad.) Another example would be a Rock Cycle Interactive
Web-based productivity tools, used for video editing, map creation, ebooks, timelines, slideshows, charts, graphs, concept maps, and all sorts of other tasks.
Thousands upon thousands of SCORM-compliant e-learning and lesson modules for learning management systems require Flash. The main SCORM creation tools — Captivate and Articulate — created the modules as Flash format.
Many of these RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) for education are free; often they were developed using grant money from governments, universities, and departments of education.
Converting such applications to HTML5 would be no small task. You can’t simply click a button and make it happen. Converting videos is easy; converting entire interactive experiences is a different process entirely. It would more or less have to be completely re-programmed. That’s a lot of time and money required to re-create something that still works perfectly fine on 90% of devices. Why would you invest a lot of money to re-invent the wheel when 90% of people can still use it as it is? It doesn’t make sense, speaking from an ROI perspective.
In fact, more often what is happening is that some of these things are being released as apps — NOT converted to HTML5. The reason for this may be because Flash now has a tool to allow conversion to app format. This still requires time and money, but a lot of the work that has been done can still be used and tweaked slightly to get it to app format.
However, one problem is that they then charge money for the apps, when the web version is absolutely free. For example, Starfall.com has many great (and free!) online resources for early readers. They require Flash, so they won’t work on iPads. Some of the content is now available as apps… if you pay $2.99 for each app. So, if you spend $6 you can access about HALFof what anybody who doesn’t use an iPad can access for free.
Myth #3: Flash is dead. It’s obsolete.
This idea stems from the fact that in 2011, Adobe announced that they would stop supporting browser-based Flash for mobile. And, a few months ago, they removed Flash installations for Android from the Google Play store.
However, saying that this means “Flash is obsolete” is misleading for a few reasons:
It doesn’t change the fact that there are MILLIONS of existing Flash resources that aren’t going away.
Flash continues to work fine on actual computers. 99% of computers have the Flash player installed on them.
90% of all devices are NOT mobile, so Flash still works fine on those devices.
Flash is still being used to develop apps. In fact, there’s a good chance that if you are on an iPad, at least one of your apps was made with Flash!
Even on Android mobile devices, Flash still works.
When a company says they will “no longer support” something, it doesn’t mean that it goes away. It means that the company will not devote the resources to updating, maintaining, or continuing to evolve that product or feature. What this means is that, going forward, Adobe will not continue to make tweaks and changes to browser-based Flash to ensure that it works on a variety of screens and mobile devices.
However, those Android devices that already have Flash pre-installed will still be able to access all of those thousands upon thousands of great (and free) educational resources.
The point of the matter is that, moving forward, new resources are going to be moving away from web-based Flash. They will start to use HTML5 (which lacks the functionality of Flash and often cannot do the same things) or will export the Flash file as a stand-alone app. That’s fine. It’s the way it should be done. But it doesn’t change the fact that, if you use an iPad, you will (a) have to wait for those things to be developed — and by the time they are, your iPad may be obsolete; (b) you lose out on all the great resources everybody else still gets to access.
And if Flash is “dead”, why did Google go out of their way to be sure they included it in Chrome OS for their Chromebooks?
Why does a Monster.com job search result in over 1,000 jobs currently looking for Flash developers??
Myth #4: There aren’t very many educational sites that require Flash, anyway. We won’t really need it in education.
The number of websites that use Flash is staggering. As you might expect, something that has been around for over 15 years is going to have a lot of content. But I bet you don’t know just how much Flash is out there.
Since it is so suited to interactivity and multimedia, I would venture to guess that the number is even higher for educational sites… I would say at least 50% of educational websites use Flash. This includes the big names like PBS, Nova, BBC, Scholastic, and many more.
This means that when you use an iPad, you lose access to over 100 MILLION WEB RESOURCES. So, you have access to 700,000 apps but lose access to MILLIONS of web resources (most of which are free.)
At the current rate of development (100,000 apps per year), it would take 1,000 years for the number of apps to catch up to the number of Flash resources out there.
Some people have adopted the iPad, only to find out later just how much they really do need to be able to access Flash when it comes to using web resources for education. In fact, there is such high demand for Flash that there have been multiple “cloud browsing” apps developed for the iPad — just so that people can access Flash! Examples include Puffin, SkyFire, iSwifter, CloudBrowse, OnLive, and more…
In fact, teachers and students need Flash so much that iSwifter came out with a cloud browsing app specifically for education, called “Rover.” The only problem is, using Rover uses WAY more bandwidth (and processing power… and battery life) than would be used just by getting a Flash-enabled device in the first place:
Perhaps this is why Google has gone out of their way to ensure that Flash is included and kept up to date on its Chrome OS for Chromebooks. Because, for education, we need it. Maybe not in 5 or 10 years, but for now… we do.
There is this little concept in engineering called BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY. This means that, even if your device is looking toward the future, it needs to work in the present. iPads fail in this regard. Not only do they not include a USB port to have access to standard hardware (pretty much every other device — including Android phones and tablets — still have USB), but they prevent you from accessing a third of the internet.
Sure, as we move forward, people will start to develop things in HTML5, apps, and other formats. That’s going to be a time-consuming process; it’s not going to happen overnight. And it doesn’t erase the fact that there’s a lot of good stuff out there that is still great to use.
As time moves forward, we are starting to move toward e-books. Does that mean we should go ahead and burn all paper books because we don’t need them anyway? I mean, after all, ebooks are the way of the future, right? But what about all those printed materials that aren’t available as an ebook? Does this mean we have no use for them??
If somebody came out with a new car and said “Look, this is a great new car. But you can’t drive it on 33% of the roads out there. And it’s more expensive than the cars that work fine on those roads. But don’t worry! In the future you won’t need those roads. And there will be other roads built which you can drive on. Trust us.” Would you buy that car??
All I’m saying is, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
If there are great education materials and resources out there, and they work, and they are free to access… why would we want to prevent our students from having access to them?
And how can there be “an app for that” when iPad apps only represent 17.5% of the number of Windows programs and 0.7% of the number of Flash web resources available on the Internet?
As a teacher, my biggest concern is ensuring that my students are getting the knowledge and 21st century skills they are going to need to compete and survive in the world today. That means when I look at technology, I look at it for what it is: a tool. Like any tool, its use should be driven by a specific need, and those needs are based on what needs to happen in my classroom and what my students need to learn.
It has nothing to do with following trends or fads, or blindly using a tool just because other people are using it. It has nothing to do brand loyalty, or falling for advertising and sales pitches. It has everything to do with (a) what educational needs do I have; (b) what are some simple, effective, and affordable ways to address those needs; (c) are there are any alternatives that are more effective, more efficient, or more affordable?
In other words, I conduct a needs assessment and do my homework, putting in due diligence to determine whether technology can help address those needs, and if so, what different technologies can do so. I am only going to adopt and use a technology if it provides a reasonable return on investment — ie. it improves efficiency or effectiveness of learning — and there is not an alternative device that does the same thing at a more affordable price, or does a better job at the same cost.
Unfortunately, this is not what schools (and even government institutions, who sure know how to waste money like nobody else) are doing when they decide to purchase iPads. If they did, they would come to discover that the iPads are less efficient than some other tech solutions, and more expensive than alternatives that can provide the same kinds of benefits (ie. Android tablets.)
Every educational technology I can think of offers its own challenges and limitations. Although there is still not an ideal, utopian 1:1 technology for schools, iPads are especially problematic due to their limitations. In short, iPads were not designed to be a productivity or education tool, and as a result there are problems caused for management, deployment, tech support, and limited productivity.
Here are my Top 5 most pressing issues that cause iPads to be a poor choice for logistical and productivity reasons:
The lack of a physical keyboard means more time (and frustration) creating written documents.
Despite the fact that we are living in a multimedia age of YouTube and Podcasts, creation of typed documents is till extremely important. If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I have been advocating for “media literacy” — including knowing how to produce multimedia content like graphic design and videos — for a long time (like the past decade).
However, that doesn’t mean that these products can necessarily replace writing. Words, as abstract symbols, have the power to convey ideas and connotations that simply can’t always be expressed using visual formats. And even for most audio-visual products, it all begins with writing.
Our students need to know how to be effective writers more — not less — than ever before. The only difference is that these days the production needs to be typed with a keyboard, not handwritten.Herein lies a problem for tablets: they use a virtual keyboard instead of a hardware one. There is a reason why we still use keyboards after all these years, over 100 years since the QWERTY keyboard first showed its face on a typewriter. The reason is this: it works. When a tool is effective, you don’t mess with it.
Benefits of a hardware keyboard over a virtual, screen-based one include: (a) easier touch-typing technique — being able to sense key edges and location through tactile sense alone improves efficiency; (b) easier to erase and correct mistakes; (c) comfort and potential ergonomic benefits — keyboards provide some shock-absorptive cushioning for your fingers, whereas tapping on a hard surface all day may introduce discomfort or stress to your hands.
It should be no surprise, then, that various studies (like this one) have found that lack of physical keyboard (combined with poor auto-correction, difficulty editing and copying/pasting/moving text) slows typing, limits productivity, and increases frustration when using tablets. Sure, you can buy a bluetooth keyboard, but now you have introduced an additional cost and suddenly are left with a device that has the same — or worse — portability as a laptop, so what was the point??
iPads are not conducive to saving work, taking it home, or printing it out.
When it comes to being able to easily save work, print it out, or submit it to the teacher, iPads are one of the worst choices out there. On Windows computer environments, files can be stored, moved, and printed very easily. One system you can use, for example, is by setting up each student with an Active Directory account, in which they can have a protected folder on a server accessible through the LAN (local area network). Using this system, students can save their work on a central server and access it from any computer on campus; it can be set up so students work is hidden or protected, has automatic backups made, and can be accessed by teachers, or teachers can create hand-in folders for students to submit their work to. This is personally how I have been doing things for the past 8 years as a computer teacher.
One limitation with this setup is that students cannot access those files from home. However, students can use inexpensive portable storage devices (flash drives aka “thumb drives”) to transfer or store files as necessary. This technique can even be used on Android tablets because they have USB ports. iPads have neither LAN directory access nor USB ports, which means you basically have to send any files you create (photos, videos, documents, etc.) through the Internet. A few cloud-based methods people are using include DropBox and apps like DropItToMe. While these are nice services and I have nothing against them, this can be a huge problem for schools because schools have a limited amount of bandwidth on their ISP, and that bandwidth is shared by all teachers and students at the school (for more details, see my video “Cloud Computing is a Dirty Word“).
Why limit yourself by using a device that requires using internet bandwidth just to work with files? Android tablets and ultrabooks can also use DropBox or cloud storage, if so desired, but also have other methods of file management which don’tbog down your school’s internet connection.
Likewise, iPads can only print files to printers with specific wifi/AirPort capabilities… and even then, it’s not easy to specify which printer to print to. The printers at many schools do not currently work for this purpose, which introduces yet another additional cost to get this feature to work.
Installation and maintenance of apps, and general IT management of the device, is a major hassle.
Computers — actual computers (laptop, desktop, ultrabook, etc.) — were designed as enterprise solutions. They were designed as productivity tools, by and large to (*gasp*) get work done. Not to watch videos, not to listen to music, not to play games; not as entertainment devices.It should come as no surprise, then, that computers have great tools for being managed in settings like businesses — and schools. Anywhere you might find multiple people sharing a network and using computer resources.
On laptops and desktops, you can easily: (a) install identical images on multiple machines to quickly install identical software and settings across multiple devices; (b) lock down usage to specific applications, or prevent users from accidentally messing things up; (c) monitor and track users and usage; (d) generally, to maintain control and prevent abuse or mistakes.All of this is difficult (and sometimes impossible) on iPads. As Therese Mageau, Editorial Director of T.H.E. magazine, points out: “Tablets are basically consumer devices. There was no thought in their design for needs like file structures for storing/organizing user work; security features to lock down against unsafe use; supporting multiple users on the same device; purchasing hundreds or even thousands of apps on a single account; managing those apps on hundreds or even thousands of devices.”These devices simply were not designed nor intended for schools or business, and therein lies the rub. Teachers and administrators (because, let’s face it, nobody who actually knows anything about computers would have gone out and bought iPads for schools) decided to buy a home entertainment device and try to use it as an educational and productivity tool. Gee, no wonder it doesn’t work. That’s trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. Why? For what reason? What do they do that, say, netbooks couldn’t have done (and at a lower price)?
Lack of commonly used web plugins like Java and Flash is still a majorproblem. There is so much misconception and lack of understanding about what Flash is an why it’s important to education, that I plan to devote an entire topic just to that. However, let me start by saying:(a) Flash is NOT a video format. Anyone who thinks that all you miss out on by not being able to use Flash (which is the case for iPads) is YouTube-style videos is very ignorant or delusional. Flash is an entire interactive multimedia system, and has been the #1 choice for games, tutorials, and simulations on the web for over a decade.
(b) Flash is far more prevalent than you think it is. Just a few short years ago, Opera web browser’s MAMA (Metadata Analysis and Mining Application) found that fully one-third of websites use Flash.
(c) Flash is even more important for education. If 1/3 of the whole Web uses Flash, I’d say the number for educational websites is more like 50%+. I haven’t seen any hard numbers in this area, but I can tell you that for every educational app I have seen, I have been able to find about 20 Flash-based websites that can do the same thing… usually for free. Flash was not only essential for web-based games, tutorials, simulations, and activities, but was also the main platform used by programs like Captivate and Articulate for creating thousands of SCORM-compliant eLearning modules. (Captivate is now transitioning to HTML5, but that doesn’t fix the fact that thousands of current SCORM modules still require Flash in order to work.)(d) HTML5 is not replacing Flash very quickly. In fact, very, very few of the educational sites I have used have switched to HTML5 (hint: I can count them on one hand.) Many more have actually released a stand-alone app instead, but even then the number is small (and they charge money for the app, whereas the Flash version online is free.)
(e) Some people claim you can get around the Flash limitation by using apps like Rover, which use cloud-based video streaming to allow you to access Flash sites. These apps will either fail or completely bog down internet bandwidth when used on a shared internet connection, like at schools (see my “Flash on iPad? Review of Rover”video.) It is not really a solution that should be considered by use at any educational institution, it is really only sufficient for use at home.(f) Want examples? Check out my videos STEM Websites… DON’T Work on iPad, English Language Arts Websites DON’T Work on iPad, and History / Social Studies Websites DON’T Work on iPad. (I also use several great websites about art, artists, and classical music with my students — which not only do not work on iPads, but don’t even have comparable apps to replace them.)
With over 100 million Flash websites out there — developed over the course of 15-20 years, with millions of dollars in funding — how long do you think it will take to convert them to apps or HTML5? And what incentive do they have to do so, considering that 90% of devices can still run Flash perfectly fine?? At the current rate of app development, it would take hundreds of years for the number of apps to catch up to the number of Flash sites.
Despite popular belief, iPads are nota good choice for PBL (project-based learning).A big claim by people when rushing to the defense of the iPad is that “it’s not just for games and videos! You can do project-based learning on it!” I call shenanigans. Sure, you can do some projects on iPads. You can do basic document creation, plus some creativity-based things such as ebook creation, artwork, or taking digital photos and videos and utilizing them in certain ways.The problem stems primarily from ignorance over what “project-based learning” (or PBL, for short) actually is. A lot of teachers simply think that “doing projects” or making products constitutes project-based learning. This is not true. If it were, then we have all been doing project based learning all along. Nearly every teacher I know requires his or her students to create products and do projects at some points, whether it is science fairs, models and dioramas, or artwork.This, in and of itself, does not define PBL. I tend to agree with the definition given at PBL-Online.org, a product of the Buck Institute and Boise State Department of Educational Technology: “Project Based Learning is an instructional approach built upon authentic learning activities that engage student interest and motivation. These activities are designed to answer a question or solve a problem and generally reflect the types of learning and work people do in the everyday world outside the classroom. “The key phrases here are “authentic learning activities” and “work people do in the everyday world outside the classroom.” In other words, it’s not enough for learning to involve a project. That project or activity must be relevant to careers outside of academia. In short, PBL is a fusion of fundamental standards-based learning, wrapped in a new form of vocational education. This means students should be using the tools and learning the techniques that practitioners in a field would actually use. As I pointed out in Part 3 of “Just Say NO to iPads for Education”, iPads are not replacing computers in “the real world” and do not reflect the software or techniques being used by professionals. Therefore, it does not fit the “authentic activities” and “real world” requirements of PBL.
Perhaps all of these limitations are why there are now many people waking up and smelling the coffee, pointing out that iPads where not all they were cracked up to be, like saying “Stop Buying iPads, Please“, or reports on the ineffectiveness of iPad pilot programs:
“…the iPad, with the slow finger-typing it requires, actually makes written course work more difficult… early studies indicate that these finger-based tablets are passive devices that have limited use in higher education. When the University of Notre Dame tested iPads in a management class, students said the finger-based interface on its glassy surface was not good for taking class notes and didn’t allow them to mark up readings. For their online final exam, 39 of the 40 students put away their iPads in favor a laptop, because of concerns that the Apple tablet might not save their material.” ( iPads for College Classrooms )
No wonder tablets are being used for consumption and entertainment, not for productivity:
Now, a lot of people are trying to scramble to come up with work-arounds and solutions for all of these problems — mostly, it seems, so that they can save face in light of the poor purchasing decisions they made. A better solution would have been to take the time and do the homework to choose technology solutions which don’t have these drawbacks and limitations in the first place.
It is completely backwards to choose a tool first, and then figure out what it can be used for — yet this is precisely what schools and educators are doing with iPads. They take a “buy first, ask questions later” mentality, and who suffers from it? The students… and school budgets… and the taxpayers who are funding this mess.
Let’s look at a possible scenario for educational needs in a classroom. Let’s say we are teaching 5th grade math, and the standards are broken down into different topics based on how important or essential it is to learn those particular topics in 5th grade. The breakdown of the number of questions that will be on the standardized test at the end of the year looks like this:
Based on this example, what would you teach to your students? Of course, it is all important, but what would you spend most of your time making sure they really knew and understood? The largest piece of the pie, of course. Well, the same type of thinking should apply to what we teach and use with regards to computer technology.
As I discussed in my video “iPads: Wave of the Future or Passing Fad”, nobody knows what the distant future holds for computing. And, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what the distant future holds, because computer devices die out and become obsolete within a few years anyway… this goes for any computer device, but especially battery-powered ones like laptops and iPads. A good general guideline is that computer devices last about 4 years before they need to be replaced or upgraded.
What really matters when it comes to educational technology is not the distant future, but what type of device is going to best prepare our students for the world of today and tomorrow. So we must ask ourselves: what are the educational needs of today?
The central purpose of education has been debated throughout history, but a primary goal of education is to prepare students to be independent, responsible workers and citizens. So, the end goal is being employed and productive members of society. There are many steps to reach that end goal, such as early foundations in math and literacy, which then progress to more complex thinking and problem solving in middle school and high school. But the end goal remains being gainfully employed in the real world.
Every step along the educational ladder should be concerned with preparing our students for the next steps ahead, so let’s start at the end of the educational journey, which these days usually means at least an undergraduate degree.
SUMMARY: Colleges and universities don’t care if students know how to use tablets or smartphones; they want them to know how to use productivity software on actual computers — they want them to use Mac or (even more often) Windows desktop or laptop computers. They want them to be able to navigate a computer operating system, to create Microsoft Office documents, and to be proficient with a mouse and keyboard. This is reflected in the technology recommendations schools make to students.
Most major institutions of higher learning recommend either a Mac or Windows laptop or desktop:
Some schools, like Syracuse University, break down the recommended technology by different schools or colleges, which makes a lot of sense. In many cases, a Mac or PC will work. For video production and graphic design, Macs are used because they are generally an industry standard. For schools of business and government, Windows PCs are required:
Some schools, like Roanoke College, specifically support only Windows computers:
In none of these instances is the iPad indicated as an acceptable alternative to an actual computer.
In fact, many universities explicitly advise not to use an iPad instead of a computer:
Are these schools just out of touch or behind the times?
No. Remember that math example I showed you earlier? It wasn’t a breakdown of math standards. It’s a chart showing the actual percentage of devices that use various operating systems, according to NetMarketShare.com:
You can see that 84% of devices in the real world are still Windows computers. Like it or not, this means that there is a very good chance that right now, a graduating student will be attending a university or being hired by an employer that will require them to be proficient with using a laptop or desktop computer, and it will probably be a Windows PC. Only 6% of devices run iOS — and that number includes not only iPads but also iPhones and even iPod Touch. Out of all of the iOS devices that have been sold, about a quarter of them are iPads. So 90% of devices out there are actual computers, whileless than 2% are iPads.
So how will becoming proficient with an iPad in school help our students when they graduate to college and the real world outside of the classroom doors?
If we look at what people are actually using in the workplace, and what kinds of skills employers are looking for, they strongly want their employees to know how to use actual computers, not other devices like smartphones or tablets.
To give an example, let’s just look at Monster.com job listings for the nearest big city to me: San Francisco, California. I will type in a variety of technology-related job skills and see how many job listings require those skills (and this area is going to be even more skewed in favor of Apple products, because Apple HQ is based in the Bay Area and a lot of other SF companies are in the multimedia/graphic design/advertising industry, which tends to use Macs):
Windows: 308 jobs Mac OS: 53 jobs Microsoft Office: 871 jobs Adobe Creative Suite (requires Windows or Mac): 147 jobs Chromebooks: “Sorry, no jobs were found that match your criteria” iPad: 137 jobs ← However, it is important to see what these jobs actually are. Here’s the first page of listings:
Notice any common thread in these jobs? 100% of jobs that list “iPad” or “iPhone” or “iOS” as a required skill are job postings looking for developers (a.k.a. computer programmers.) Why is this important? Because development doesn’t occur on a tablet or smartphone; development is done using — you guessed it — an actual laptop or desktop computer! So even for jobs requiring knowledge of iPads, you still have to be proficient in using a computer — it can’t be replaced by an iPad!
Why is this? Maybe because actual desktop and laptop computers are far more useful for productivity and creation tasks. Tablets and smartphones are more of a consumer device – you use them to consume things like books and videos. They are not nearly as useful for production. A survey by Google’s AdMob subsidiary found that only 7% of people use tablets at work. And, despite the claim that they are “mobile” devices, they really aren’t — as I pointed out in my last video, iPads are far too bulky to truly be mobile. I mean, you can’t easily stick one in your pocket. They are more like laptops, but they are essentially used as personal entertainment devices. Only 11% of people use them on the go. 82% of use occurs primarily at home.
And what do they use them for? Video games, surfing the web, emailing, watching videos and listening to music, and logging onto Facebook. Less than half of tablet owners even use them for reading e-books (which, in my opinion, is one of their best uses.)
How is a home entertainment device like this going to help our students acquire the problem solving and productivity skills they will need for their future careers?
Our job as educators is not to teach our kids how to be mere consumers — they will do that all on their own. They will learn how to watch YouTube videos, play video games, listen to music, and other leisure time activities simply because they have an innate desire to be entertained. No, my job as a teacher is to ensure that I give my students the skills to be producers, not just consumers. This means teaching them the skills employers are looking for… and that means using real computers and real productivity software, so that students can be prepared to work in the real world. And in the real world (not the world of advertisements, sales pitches, or misguided technology purchases by schools), tablets are not replacing computers. At least 2/3 of people who own a tablet still use their other devices the same amount — or more — than they used to.
Here are some pictures of work in the real world:
Notice anything? Computers are not being replaced by iPads. Not at NASA, not at the Wall Street Journal. Not even at cutting edge companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter. Not at Rovio, makers of the infamous Angry Birds app.
Not even at Apple Headquarters.
This is not to say that smartphones and tablets can’t have any use in the workplace. Smartphones can be essential communication tools, especially for workers that are on the go or frequently need to travel. Likewise, tablets can be useful for things like bringing to on-site locations for quick photos and documentation, or for showing a portfolio of proposals or previous work to a client. But the point is that these devices are not replacing computers – they are being used in addition to computers; as a peripheral device. Which is what they were designed to be.
A big problem for education is that schools are not using them this way. They are purchasing iPads instead of computers. If students are only exposed to iPads, how and when are they going to get the computer skills and experience they need to be successful in college and in the workforce? A lot of teachers argue that foregoing computers and using tablets instead is okay because we only need to focus on “the basics” such as reading e-books or playing math games for practice; that we don’t need to worry about computer literacy, we just need to worry about whether kids are learning those basic things they would have done even without the technology device.
Sure, we can always pass the buck and say “well, they’ll learn it later”, but how do we know that will happen? And when? If everybody from K through 12 takes this mentality, students enter into college unprepared and computer-illiterate. I would argue there is no reason not to have students using actual computers, laptops or netbooks starting as young as possible, so that they will become proficient in the computer skills that are going to give them a competitive advantage in the future. Elementary-age students can be just as proficient at using computers as they are with iPads… and ultrabook laptops (and possibly even Chromebooks) can do more than iPads at a much lower cost, while also giving students the skills and experience they will need in high school, college, and beyond.
Let me put this another way: If a standardized test was going to test your students on these skills, which ones would you try to make sure they know? Would you want them to practice the one that has a 10% likelihood of showing up on the test? Or the one that has a 90% likelihood of being required knowledge?
But this is not a standardized test. It’s more important. It’s real life.
So, to all you colleges, universities, and employers: You can expect your incoming students and employees to have less computer literacy, worse typing and keyboarding skills, and lower productivity, all thanks to the iPad being purchased at K-12 schools.
Having our students use iPads instead of computers is like teaching them finger painting instead of science.
A lot of people are claiming that tablets like iPads are the “Wave of the Future”, but what are they basing this on? When it comes to technology, the only thing we can be certain of is that nobody is certain what the future holds. Some technologies that have been declared the wave of the future have included Laser Discs and Palm Pilots. But these are only recent examples. We can see many such flawed examples of technological soothsaying in a US News and World Report article titled “The Perils of Prediction”:
“I think there is a world market for about five computers.”
–Thomas Watson Sr., founder of IBM, 1943.
“Computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weigh 1 1/2 tons.”
–Popular Mechanics, 1949.
And ninety years ago, there was similar hype about the use of film for education… In 1922, Thomas Edison declared, “I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.” And yet, almost one hundred years later, this still has not happened.
I personally do not think iPads – or tablets in general – are the wave of the future. In fact, I see very little purpose for them even today. Why? Well, my question is: what pressing problem do they solve?
When we look at the evolution of computers over the past century we can see that we started with bulky machines designed for work and business. The personal computer changed all that to be small enough and affordable enough to fit in any home or office. That was revolutionary, allowing people to get work done in ways not previously available to the average person. As technology advanced, people realized they sometimes had a need to take their computing with them, and this need was met through the invention of notebook or laptop computers. However, laptops have limitations, and two of those limitations have been their bulky size and short battery life. These problems were solved through the introduction of netbooks, which are essentially small laptops – they are capable of doing almost everything a normal computer can do, but they are more portable and have much longer battery life, capable of lasting a whole work day on one charge.
However, even a netbook can’t fit in your pocket, so it only makes sense that smartphones like the iPhone are so popular. The advent of the smartphone means that people can basically have a portable computer with them wherever they go.
So we got to a point where computers became portable enough that we could have one with us wherever we go. So the next logical step is to… introduce a device that is bigger and less portable than the smartphone? Wait, what?? This makes it kind of like a laptop, except not as powerful or capable of doing as much. Really?? That’s the wave of the future?
Who’s to say that the next step in computing won’t be a piece of technology that is even smaller, even more powerful, and more integrated into our everyday lives… like into a wearable set of glasses. In fact, Google is already spearheading this idea…
Some people say that the iPad has revolutionized computing, but that is hardly the case. The idea of using a touch-screen is not revolutionary technology. Capacitive touch-screens were invented in the 1960s — they were around before Apple was even founded. Here’s a picture of a capacitive touch screen from 1971:
Revolutionary? Wave of the future? Hardly. Microsoft’s Kinect system, which allows for real-time recognition of points in 3D space for a home consumer price… that’s pretty revolutionary. Google developing wearable computers with heads-up displays and augmented reality, or cars that can drive themselves… that’s pretty revolutionary. But there’s nothing new or wonderful about a jumbo iPod Touch.
And you simply can’t replace a real computer with an iPad. For one thing, you have to plug an iPad into a computer just to get it to run — this means it is a peripheral device. It is designed to supplement a computer, not to be used instead of a computer. And guess what? The apps you run on an iPad were not made using iPads… they were developed on actual computers. Without desktop or laptop computers — and people who know how to use them — you would have no apps to run on your iPad.
I’m not the only one to say that you can’t replace a computer with an iPad. Some pretty smart people who know a lot about technology have said the same thing… like this guy:
“I think the PC, this general purpose device, is going to continue to be with us.” — Steve Jobs
So… where exactly does the iPad fit in? It’s not as portable as a smartphone — it’s about the same size as a netbook or ultrabook laptop and has about the same battery life… and yet it is capable of doing much less. It’s not a stand-alone computer… in fact, you have to plug it into a computer just to get it to work. There are millions of websites it can’t access. So what, exactly, does an iPad provide that we didn’t already have? A touch-screen? Do we really need a touch-screen? What major problems do we solve by having a touch-screen?
To see just how unnecessary the iPad is, we don’t have to look any further than their own advertisement touting its uses for learning:
Watching movies? We’ve had educational films in the classroom for decades. As we already mentioned, Thomas Edison swore educational films were the way to go back in the 1920s. Their popularity increased with training programs and initiatives started by the Army in the 1940s and 50s. And, of course, we’ve been able to easily access streaming videos online from any type of computer device for the past decade. Nothing new here…
Writing and drawing with our fingers? What, are we cavemen?? There’s a reason writing and drawing tools and implements were invented thousands of years ago. Never mind the fact that the iPad doesn’t give us an advantage here… it just lets us do what we’ve been doing all along with paper and pencils. Granted, it’s nice to save those natural resources and go paperless… but if you really want to do that, tablet PC laptops have been out for about a decade now — one example is my Toshiba Portege tablet I’ve had since 2004. These older style of tablets actually work better for writing and drawing purposes because they were not designed to be used with your fingers, so the stylus has a thinner point allowing for more precision, and you don’t have to worry about your hand bumping the screen. Some of them are even pressure-sensitive and respond to different levels of pressure to affect things like brush strokes. Sorry, the existing technology that was out worked just as well — if not better — than the iPad.
E-books are nice, but they are nothing new. Digital books have been around for decades, and they have long been supported with features like the built-in dictionary shown here. In fact, many of them used to be called CD-ROM Books, so that tells you how old this concept is. You can do this on pretty much any laptop, computer, tablet, or e-reader — you don’t need an iPad.
Interactive graphics and 3D visualizations of concepts like these science ones are great. But they’re not anything you couldn’t already do on a regular computer. I used to access multimedia supports like this on my Microsoft Encarta CD back in the 90s. Certainly anything we see here is something we could already do on laptop or desktop computers.
Learning and playing chess electronically is one of the oldest concepts around. I don’t see how the iPad makes it any different or better than it used to be. Electronic chess boards and chess trainer computers have been around for over 30 years! Heck, IBM’s Deep Blue computer was able to beat World Champion chess player Gary Kasparov 15 years ago in 1997. As a kid growing up I enjoyed playing games like Chessmaster. You could play this game on the Apple II in 1986. Once again, the iPad doesn’t bring anything new or innovative to the table.
Finally we have a truly useful and innovative purpose of the touch-screen tablet: music. Everything else we’ve seen could be done just as well or better with a mouse or a stylus pen, but the instantaneous and tactile nature of playing music makes the iPad a natural fit. This is one use where a touch-screen tablet is just a great idea. I have two music apps on my iPad — GarageBand and BeatPad, and they were both good deals at $5 each. However, you don’t HAVE to use an iPad for this purpose — you can get other, more affordable Android tablets that also work great for musical purposes.
And this one is just laughable. Shouldn’t we be teaching our kids to domore with modern technology than they were able to do 100 years ago? Yet here we have an activity that essentially mimics using a flash card on the left combined with a slate chalk board on the right. Ridiculous. Since when does moving forward mean we simply mimic what we did in the past?
Now, I’m not saying that iPads can’t be used for education. Of course they can be used for educational purposes – but the problem is that many teachers incorporating them into the classroom have never tried any other technologies. So they’re not comparing apples to apples… they’re not even comparing apples to oranges. They’re comparing apples to… nothing. When people are seeing benefits of iPads with students, it’s not necessarily because they are iPads, it’s because the teachers are finally providing students with access to technology, whereas previously students didn’t have access to anything. The idea that one-to-one access to computer technology can provide benefits to your students is nothing new… educational technologists could have told you that, and in fact they have been saying that for over 20 years now.
But lots of things can be useful for learning. I could educate my students using a pile of rocks. We could…
Investigate the properties and characteristics of different types of rocks to teach mass, density, geological processes, or scientific classification skills.
Write in the sand to teach reading and writing
Break it apart or use multiple rocks to teach division, multiplication, subtraction, addition.
Does all of this mean that a rock is a really great educational technology?
Does this mean we should go out and spend $500 or more to buy a pile of rocks? After all, look at all of the cool educational stuff you can do with it!
Of course not… just because something can be used for education doesn’t mean it is the best tool for the job.
Sure, there are a few purposes where tablets may come in handy. For example, the intuitive touch-screen interface may be very beneficial for working with developmentally disabled students or very young children such as pre-schoolers, and there are certainly some great musical applications like we saw in the commercial. But we need to consider whether the iPad can provide more educational opportunities than other alternative devices can, and the simple answer is that it does not really offer any new or innovative educational functions… and yet it costs more than netbooks, laptops, computers, or even other tablets.
No, I don’t see iPads as being the wave of the future, but regardless of what the distant future holds, we need to be preparing our students to enter the world they will be living in today, or in the very near future. And what does the world of today and tomorrow look like? I will address that in my next video about Why iPads Do Not Meet Today’s Educational Needs. In the meantime, I’d love to know where I get a crystal ball like so many people seem to think they have… maybe I should ask the Magic 8 Ball.
Magic 8-Ball, are iPads the wave of the future?
Well, there you have it folks… that’s the definitive answer, because the Magic 8 Ball knows what the future holds just as well as your or I do.
This video gives just a few examples of why iPads are not sufficient for education. In this video, I sample just a small number of useful (and often free) websites that CANNOT be used by iPads because a great many of these educational websites require web plug-ins like Flash, Shockwave, Java, or Unity. Android tablets CAN access websites that run Flash, and ALL of these websites can be accessed on desktop or laptop (or netbook/ultrabook) computers running Windows or Mac OS.
Websites introduced in this video are websites exploring history, cultures, and geography, including:
This video gives just a few examples of why iPads are not sufficient for education. In this video, I sample just a small number of useful (and often free) websites that CANNOT be used by iPads because a great many of these educational websites require web plug-ins like Flash, Shockwave, Java, or Unity. Android tablets CAN access websites that run Flash, and ALL of these websites can be accessed on desktop or laptop (or netbook/ultrabook) computers running Windows or Mac OS.
Websites introduced in this video are English-learning and content/story-creation tools including:
This video gives just a few examples of why iPads are not sufficient for education. In this video, I sample just a small number of websites that are useful for project-based and problem-based learning in the common-core (and often free) but CANNOT be used by iPads because a great many of these educational websites require web plugins like Flash, Shockwave, Java, or Unity. Android tablets CAN access websites that run Flash, and ALL of these websites can be accessed on desktop or laptop (or netbook/ultrabook) computers running Windows or Mac OS.
Websites introduced in this video are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) resources including: