I’m not concerned that kids can’t learn to write English on an iPad, I’m concerned they can’t learn to write Python. If you believe that learning to code is a vital skill for young people, then the iPad is not the device for you. The block programming languages basically don’t work. There is no Terminal or Putty or iPython Notebook. To teach kids to code, they need a real computer. (If someone has a robust counter-argument to that assertion, I’m all ears.) We should be very, very clear that if we are putting all of our financial eggs in the iPad basket, there are real opportunities that we are foreclosing.
Justin has a very balanced approach to thinking about the iPad which he clearly articulates in the full post. Unfortunately, few people who I’ve talked to who have made large scale purchases/implementations of tablets into classrooms are able to have such a nuanced discussion of their merits and weaknesses. For most, the iPad ROI is about earning style points with parents, about lightening up backpacks, or about “increasing student engagement.” (I always love that one. Engagement problems are curriculum/pedagogy problems, not technology problems.)
The really frustrating thing is that most decision makers are unable or unwilling to invest the time to dive deeply into the technologies that they expect their students to use, which, of course, sets a low bar for that use in the first place. Meanwhile, the potentials for computers and computing to “amplify student learning” are lost, to quote my friend Gary Stager.