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August 5, 2014 11:48 AM   Subscribe

For an entire school year Hillsborough, New Jersey, educators undertook an experiment, asking: Is the iPad really the best device for interactive learning?
posted by exit (51 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
No mention of the words Obsolete nor Upgrade in the article. Someone recently gave my wife an iPad, she found it to be useless.... and so I tried it... and rapidly agree. Apple for policy reasons won't allow it to run IOS 7, and thus it can't use any modern apps. The Youtube app is incapable of signing in to youtube, and can't be disabled. Safari can't be upgraded, and it crashes on any screen more than about 10 pages long (i.e. Facebook, Metafilter, Slashdot, etc).

Apple is a walled garden, on a conveyor belt, slowly moving towards a landfill, and you have to pay at every move away from the landfill end of the belt.
posted by MikeWarot at 11:56 AM on August 5 [36 favorites]


I sadly can't find the article, but remember reading about wealthy tech-industry parents choosing to send their kids to schools without iPads or computers, in order to focus on critical thinking and creativity. Can't help but see a lot of this stuff being used to indoctrinate well-trained, compliant workers.
posted by ikahime at 11:58 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I volunteer in a school. They gave me an iPad. After 4 months, I switched to a Chromebook. Even with a keyboard for the iPad, I feel the Chromebook is easier to be productive and better integrates with my personal experience using a pc for work and having my gmail accounts.

Having said that, one of my children was in a pilot program where they got iPads from the school and he was much more productive in terms of handing in his projects. In that class they did a lot of group work.
posted by 724A at 12:00 PM on August 5


I agree with MikeWarot that iPads are a particularly bad choice, but these issues exist no matter what you give students.

In my experience at a 1-to-1 school, the bigger issues by far are the numerous technical failures that make teaching a lesson impossible. Say you have a lesson that relies on every student using a computer - what do you do when a student's laptop isn't turning on? What if the internet goes down? If a student loses his/her laptop, can that student just not participate in online activities for the rest of the year? What if the morning of the lesson your IT department decides to block the website you were going to use?
posted by sf2147 at 12:01 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Is this just another Apple versus Google thing?
posted by jillithd at 12:04 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


For my 12 year old, the iPad is for social networking and games while the laptop is for homework and study. The divide is almost never crossed.
posted by colie at 12:07 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I work in education (not at a school, though, I do informal programs with kids), and several of my employers have given me tablets (apple and samsung) in the past couple of years to work with and I have no freaking clue what to do with them. Besides take them home and use them to watch netflix and mess around on facebook, which is what I've done.

Can't type on them, can't attach them to a flash drive or a camera, they take crappy pictures, can't create documents to print out on them, too small to use to show a video or a picture to a large group. Both of the employers have given them to me ostensibly to be used for people to fill out forms on them, but it's just not practical to give them to the public for that purpose--they're harder to use than a sheet of paper and pen, they're hard to see outdoors in the sun where I'm working, and only one person can use them at a time. Plus, if people do fill out the form, then there's a file on the tablet, wich always seems to be a headache to get onto the network because a tablet is not really meant to be used to organize files.

I can't comment on how their used in schools because I don't have enough experience, but for me, tablet=media consumption device, laptop=work device.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:09 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


Is this just another Apple versus Google thing?

Yes, and I cite Aramaic's Rule: all discussions about technology will inevitably devolve into a snarky discussion of Apple-vs-Google brand strategies.
posted by aramaic at 12:12 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]


I have used iPads with our honors students (all of them receive one). Useful for ebooks and some in-class activities--basic group research practice, working w/video, sharing documents for workshopping, etc. WiFi can be pretty etsy-ketsy, though, and for anything more powerful, the kids need a laptop.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:15 PM on August 5


It's almost like the goal of these programs isn't really to better educate students, but instead to continue a march of progress toward the total fungibility of the human beings providing education to students.

Soon, say the technocrats, soon the children won't even have to go to these outdated buildings with their terrible no-good teachers and their terrible no-good teachers' unions. Soon, every child will receive a glorious laptop or iPad, whichever the split test said was best!

In the past, the primary technology children were introduced to and familiarized with in the classroom was the book, a form factor which has changed really very little in operability instructions since the invention of the printing press.

Today, the developing, plastic brains of children--marvelous things that can hold onto topics they learn today forever--we're using incredible numbers of hours training them how to use technology that will be outdated by the time they put on their first mortarboard. Not letting them discover it, mind you--training them, the way you'd train an employee on a new piece of software.

And of course, they'll need retrained with every new upgrade, every new software revision. They won't learn to think with a form factor that has lasted a long time, because the primary form factor they rely on is one with constant novelty. Their teachers will complain of the increased rates of ADD, OCD, anxiety, depression, as these students, their brains attenuated to the constant flicker of their Retina Displays (tm), struggle with the fact that they are constantly re-stuffing themselves full of unnecessary operating system revisions and new ways to do the same old thing.

This stuff's already happening. 1-to-1 will just accelerate the pace.

The lack of understanding of infant and child brain development--or rather, the erasure of our hard-earned knowledge of this development in favor of narratives technocapitalists prefer--is something that will haunt us for decades. As it should. Had we created these dystopian classroom environments without knowing how children's minds develop and evolve, it would be almost excusable. After all the work done in the 20th century, though, today's ed schools are full of people whose career depends upon ignoring the actual development of students in favor of finding the next new way to sell school districts a product.
posted by HowardLuckGossage at 12:15 PM on August 5 [24 favorites]


Thanks for the post; I shared the article on my Facebook feed. I live near Hillsborough, and have a number of friends whose kids are in Hillsborough public schools. I'll be curious to hear what their commentary is.
posted by booksherpa at 12:15 PM on August 5


I get confused when I imagine what the stated and unstated goals of these programs are supposed to be.

I can see how in theory it would make it easier for the administration and the teachers perhaps, with respect to a central warehouse for assignments, attendance, etc... with parents able to stay informed, but i'm not sure if that is balanced by what I imagine means at least doubling your IT workload/resources.

If the goal is to supplement the traditional subject matter, than I see a pretty large risk of having the actual education mediated by "software" and not supplemented by it. You've also just given all your students a huge distraction and the clever tech savvy kids are now torrenting pornography.

If the goal is to familiarize/educate about technology itself, it is baffling that this article paints as pretty much the only two choices what seem to be two of the absolute worst devices for this purpose. And the comparison between a two hundred dollar chromebook and a eight hundred dollar surface 3 is asinine in that regard. I have to imagine you can get a sub three hundred dollar windows or linux notebook that will run whatever cloud/web based education platform that the chromebook is running but will also put hardware into the hands of the students that more easily allows them to create, as well as consume.
posted by exit at 12:17 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I can definitely see the need for some computing technology in schools. The most basic argument is that schools teach children the skills they need to succeed in life, and these days a basic ability to use computers and navigate around in a virtual environment are skills that everyone needs to learn. Then there's the freedom to not take notes, just listen to the teacher in class, and review the recording of that same lesson on your computer as a way to study later. And there's some pretty good arguments to be made that interactive environments (like Khan Academy) where the student can do tests to determine their skill levels and then specifically practice the weak parts, are superior to old fashioned one-size-fits-all homework. Then there's the community building aspect of having all your students share a message board or whatever, so they can ask questions and give each other help any time of day or night, regardless of weather.

Lots of positive arguments. But on the other side, this still feels like very early days for computers in the classroom. Ideally, there should be computers designed specifically for education, with standards and actual testing to determine where they can be best used, and when they should be put away. All I know is it should never be all about coming to class and booting up a machine. The focus should be on the things being learned.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:18 PM on August 5


Get those kids some nice Bluetooth keyboards for their iPads to make them more useful for typing up assignments.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:19 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Laptops have always had problems with aging and stuff, too--hell, books have problems with aging, even at different scales. Whatever you're using for learning materials, we kind of at some point have to commit to school funding in such a way that it enables kids to actually have up-to-date tools regardless of their parents' backgrounds.

Long before people were even considering this sort of thing, I was a left-handed kid, and US standards of judging handwriting have always treated us poorly. Given a choice between kids being taught that they must aspire to a particular sort of right-slanted cursive and kids typing, I'd take typing. Or, for example, teaching handwriting on decent-sized tablets where left-handers no longer have to worry about smearing ink and graphite. Just because it's a screen doesn't mean it has to be all low-attention-span novelty apps.

And I guess just--generally--well, where were all these objections about technical limitations back when we all had wooden pencils and the school-provided pencil sharpeners were noisy and would shred them to bits? Back when you could tell the difference between the kids whose parents bought them brand-name school supplies and those who got knock-offs because, for example, your notebook paper tore like tissue or your eraser left smears where you'd made a mistake? Ancient textbooks, creative exploits being limited to things that cleaned up easily? There's stuff about this that's better, and stuff that's worse, and stuff that's about the same, but I think overall the "better" looks like it's going to outweigh the "worse". My real concern about doing this now is districts trying to be cheap and therefore getting older hardware, out-of-date stuff, just plain smaller devices that won't necessarily be as usable for things that might involve fine motor skills like drawing or writing. But those devices do exist.

My day-to-day right now switches back and forth between a desktop PC and a 12" Galaxy Note Pro with a lightweight but good-quality keyboard and 90% of why I still use the desktop is just because of software limitations that I expect to be gone in a few years. I would have murdered to have been able to take notes on this in high school. I might have even actually taken notes.
posted by Sequence at 12:19 PM on August 5 [5 favorites]


I sadly can't find the article, but remember reading about wealthy tech-industry parents choosing to send their kids to schools without iPads or computers, in order to focus on critical thinking and creativity. Can't help but see a lot of this stuff being used to indoctrinate well-trained, compliant workers.

Who cannot think independently of their godphone/godtablet, but it makes them look real busy and important, even if they are just sexting the chatbot du jour...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:29 PM on August 5


I sadly can't find the article, but remember reading about wealthy tech-industry parents choosing to send their kids to schools without iPads or computers, in order to focus on critical thinking and creativity.

Sounds like this article about a Waldorf school in Silicon Valley.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:38 PM on August 5


HowardLuckGossage: It's almost like the goal of these programs isn't really to better educate students, but instead to continue a march of progress toward the total fungibility of the human beings providing education to students.

Schools get technology budgets, for whatever reason. Disadvantaged schools (schools with more low-income students and/or with more kids who score poorly on standardized tests) often get even more tech funding. My wife was given an Apple laptop and an iPod Touch, as tools to use in her high school classroom, which also has a Smart Board (fancy/expensive interactive display, like a 21st century overhead projector). But she also has kids using home-made mini white boards (sheets of slick shower wall material, cut into 1 ft squares), so they can write their answers on the boards and hold them up for her to see. Maybe there's some conniving individuals who are bent on making "good little workers" by putting tablets in their hands, but it seems more like a case of "technology" being the lazy band-aid on the broader issues with education (cheaper to buy technology once every few years than pay for more teachers and the associated benefits, year after year).

Kids should use technology in their classrooms, not as the only way to interact with information, but as another tool to learn how to use. Keep having kids take notes, because by taking notes, you have to internalize and think about what you're hearing, helping you remember it letter. Offer classes that teach kids to build and repair technology (this is easier with desktop and even laptop computers, but you could also do this with tablets), and teach them about "safe computing" regarding what information you post online and what information to (probably) trust. More tools means more options for teachers.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:40 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I think if done well, the computers can be used to build community among the students, and give teachers a much better idea of what each student is actually learning. It becomes an interactive system with students and teachers responding to each other's feedback, instead of the old mass education model where a teacher lectures and it's up to students to understand what's coming at them.

But done badly, it could become nothing but a pretty audiovisual show, with the students all receiving the same pre-programmed lesson and the teacher becoming more like a hall monitor, just someone who takes attendance and makes sure the class is quiet and looking at their screens. And the school district becomes a big wallet for computer manufacturers who keep coming up with ways to sell them the latest model every year.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:41 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I have used iPads with our honors students (all of them receive one).

I would be willing to bet that this is the most productive use of iPads in an educational setting yet devised: bribery.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:41 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I'm also located near Hillsborough. It's a pretty wealthy district, and I'd not really been keeping up on the iPad/Chromebook story as much as I should, but I don't have kids so it's hard to care so much about school policies.

I'm glad they chose the Chromebooks. I like the form-factor of tablets, but they're ultimately media consumption machines, and I don't really think kids need to have that facilitated any more than they already do. Laptops are also prone to inspire time wasting, but at least you can learn how to code or write essays or creative pieces.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:43 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


What I found in my child's school was that it was not so much the device as the software. When they started using Google docs in group projects and the teacher was able to comment and make suggestions in almost real time, it made the experience much more productive. The teacher could also see who was contributing and who was observing.
posted by 724A at 12:45 PM on August 5 [8 favorites]


When I was trying to teach someone Excel and they had a hard time using the mouse to click and drag, I realized how much I learned about computers in school. I was really only ever taught word processing - first on an Apple IIe (no mouse) and then on Windows machines using MS Word (moused). I would not have listed "using a mouse" as a skill on my resume for that job, but it was pretty important. I think exposing kids to this tech in school, including troubleshooting, is going to prove pretty important.

I can also probably run a film or overhead projector - not all tech sticks around to become useful
posted by soelo at 12:47 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I feel like I might be being unfair towards tablets by acting like they're solely for media consumption, since they do have a different interface than other computers.

However, I feel like there's not really a killer app for making things with a tablet. The most I've seen is stuff that seems clever, but not unique to a tablet, like people using a stylus to draw on a tablet, or using the USB port on a tablet to control a robotic platform (although that's more commonly done with a smartphone). There might be something really clever and broadly useful in the future, but I doubt it'll happen with today's software and hardware.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:51 PM on August 5


That reminds me of the KoalaPads we hooked up to the Apple IIes for drawing. I guess we did a bit more than typing, but that was the big focus.
posted by soelo at 1:23 PM on August 5


As a parent, I would be disappointed by any school that did not teach computer skills. There is no future in which any child growing up today won't be expected to use computers adeptly, especially in any kind of higher education or professional setting. Getting them in the classroom at the same time as you get books and pen and paper in the classroom seems perfectly reasonable to me. Computers are good learning tools.

Touchscreen devices are a good first computer because they don't require literacy and they are more intuitive to use, but I'm not surprised they aren't panning out in the classroom. I would think most of these kids have been using them at home for years, mostly for playing games and watching movies and the like. This is, by the way, how most adults use them too. So, they grow up seeing mom & dad relaxing on their phone and working at their laptop and they learn that the keyboard + monitor form factor is "for work" while the tablet form factor is "for fun."

In the future, it seems likely to me that non-professional jobs will require touchscreen fluency (cash registers, forms, invoices, inventory management, customer service, etc) in the same way they now require math & literacy. Professional jobs and higher education will require keyboard fluency (scripting, programming, design, data visualization, long-form writing, etc). Responsible schools will embrace that shift and prepare their students appropriately.
posted by annekate at 1:38 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


The fact that it's disadvantaged kids who are getting all this "marvelous" new tech should be setting off huge fucking alarm bells in our heads.
posted by HowardLuckGossage at 1:47 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I think it's mainly because disadvantaged kids are less likely to have a computer at home. If they don't see one in school they might grow up not knowing how to use them, and that would be one more barrier to overcome.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:51 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


However, I feel like there's not really a killer app for making things with a tablet.

That's... kind of a broad category to expect a killer in, isn't it? For me, it's something like the point where a computer could help you do things circa 2001, only prettier and like a hundred times more portable and considerably cheaper. Maybe even a few years later than that. Word processing, software development, digital art, it's not the only way to do any of those things, it's not always the best, but it's perfectly adequate for everyday use. The part to me that's killer is that it can handle everything my computer could a couple years ago--and it's light enough to go everywhere with me and convenient enough to just pull out to check something without needing a desk or even a chair.

Still a way to go before I don't have to constantly be switching devices, but I'm hopeful. But I'm more hopeful about Android than I am about Chromebooks, under the circumstances. They're incredibly limited devices and they would seem to seriously disadvantage kids who don't have high-speed internet at home if they're relying on the cloud for everything. I don't really have a strong opinion on iOS; it's not a good fit for me but I think it's generally fine and some people love it. I think there might be problems with using that as opposed to Android when there are budgetary concerns, though.
posted by Sequence at 2:14 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


While it's obviously not as good as a full-fledged computer, I've written a bunch of stories on an ipad, and it's quite practical.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:22 PM on August 5


My wife has been a public school teacher for eighteen years, most recently in a school that received a big grant for iPads and Chromebooks. I am asking her to read this article, and I will report back here her take on it. Personally, I find a recent NPR report on the achievement gap as related to summer vacation as compelling as this.
posted by 4ster at 2:29 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've written two novels and a bunch of shorter things on my iPad. It works great as a writing device because it's so annoying to edit. It forces me to just keep writing. (Also, proofreading later on my real computer leads to hilarious non-sequitur iPad moments. And now my iPad has learned to autocorrect "I" to "AI". Hmmm...)

I also regularly use it for work, by which I mostly mean reading/annotating PDFs and remote conferencing. I would dearly love to rely on it for giving presentations, but due to obnoxious version issues Keynote files made on my desktop have never played nice with my iPad. Heck, I've even used it to remotely connect to my work computer and restart a crashed program while traveling.

So it's certainly possible to use a tablet for more than media consumption, but depends a lot on the quality of apps and how the teacher integrates it into the lessons. And that's a lot squishier and harder to get right than just "buy 500 of the latest iDevice".
posted by puffyn at 2:52 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


The stuff Frasier Speirs has done seems pretty interesting, but it's also really well manage at all steps along he way by people who know how to use the technology, well, for education. It's also a small school that is allowed to experiment, though.

For my $500, though, a non-first-generation iPad generally ages rather more gracefully than a comparably priced laptop, and has the significant benefit of not needing to be tethered to a power outlet for a full day's use.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:28 PM on August 5


(And yeah, you do absolutely need a better strategy than "buy one X for each student and then you're done")
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:29 PM on August 5


I think what I've decided is that touch is awesome for window management and scrolling, plus "coarse" interaction, like clicking buttons and the like.

A pen or mouse is great at fine control of the cursor, handwriting is still really awkward (something about a super-slick surface, tiny but maddening delays in input, not having the line appear right at the end of the pen but slightly below it...combine to make it not great) but drawing and other manipulations are good.

And a keyboard is the only real way to get work done if you're programming or writing. Plus, at the end of the day, it's really, really hard to have too much screen space. I have two 1920 x 1200 monitors and still want another.

So, yeah, tablets by their nature are going to restrict what you can offer to students as far as software goes. And software adds another maddening aspects. Some very large percentage of applications have awful, non-intuitive interfaces. Most have very limited content. And perhaps counter-intuitively, educational applications often really enforce "inside the box" thinking and leave little room for experimentation or discovery.
posted by maxwelton at 4:37 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Sorry, where I was going with that is that we're not yet at a device that has enough of each of those to be really compelling as a classroom thing.
posted by maxwelton at 4:39 PM on August 5


filthy light thief: "Schools get technology budgets, for whatever reason."

Because the tech world very successfully lobbied for schools to get large technology budgets, which are generally restricted to purchasing hardware, which Apple (in particular) conveniently provides in large-bundle educational discounts.

The technology funding provides only the smallest grants for infrastructure (wiring up the joint, putting in wifi, etc.); no money for maintenance; no money for software; and no money for IT staff. It's purely a hardware-buying program that funnels huge amounts of government money to hardware manufacturers via schools. The government gets to say they're putting technology in the hands of students, Apple gets money and locked-in users, and schools feel like they can't turn down millions of dollars in funding, even if it's not quite targeted properly.

We have smartboards that the federal government bought us, but the lightbulbs for the projectors for them cost AN ARM AND A LEG and when they burn out, can't be bought with technology funds, because it isn't hardware.

We have teachers who use technology really awesomely and teachers who use it really poorly, and I hope that as we sort it out more we can get the awesome into more and more classrooms, and use it where it makes sense. I'm not anti-technology-in-the-classroom. But the reason for the dedicated money for this is totally about tax dollars going to private corporations.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:51 PM on August 5 [9 favorites]


Can't type on them, can't attach them to a flash drive or a camera, they take crappy pictures, can't create documents to print out on them, too small to use to show a video or a picture to a large group.

Hah, this is why I haven't given a shit about getting an iPad. Meanwhile, my work hands them out to the managers as a mini-laptop. I don't know if any of them do anything with it besides have them sit out as meetings.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:18 PM on August 5


we're using incredible numbers of hours training them how to use technology that will be outdated by the time they put on their first mortarboard. Not letting them discover it, mind you--training them, the way you'd train an employee on a new piece of software.

This is hilarious. Kids pick up new software incredibly quickly. Training? Like you sit them down for a few hours and walk them through an app? Perhaps if it's a super technical app, or just realllyyy poorly designed.

And of course, they'll need retrained with every new upgrade, every new software revision. They won't learn to think with a form factor that has lasted a long time, because the primary form factor they rely on is one with constant novelty.

No, they'll learn how to adapt and figure out new software as needed. Their minds will be nimble and able to quickly incorporate new paradigms.

I'm not an ipads-for-education fanboy — I believe strongly in Right Tool, Right Student, Right Time. But this alarmist critique is pretty far off base, IMHO. The fact that students will need to learn new software is so far down the list of concerns as to be absurd.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:45 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


I was disappointed in the article because it didn't really address what the underlying goal of using these devices was supposed to be. That is always my critique of these technology-in-the-classroom programs, which is that we get excited about a cool new tool and try to shoehorn it in, rather than thinking about, "What problems are we trying to solve? Does this new tool help us solve them? Does it solve more problems than it creates?"

My kid's school has smartboard equipped classrooms. They're really cool! In the two years he's been in school, I've seen them used for kids to choose their lunch option in the morning by moving their name to the right category, and to watch educational videos during quiet time (he's in the kindergarten years). And one of his two teachers didn't even use it for the lunch choices; she made magnetic name cards and the kids moved those instead. It will be interesting to see, as he moves into the older elementary years, whether the teachers are doing anything with the smartboards that justifies the expense of them.
posted by not that girl at 7:18 AM on August 6


Thanks, the agents of KAOS! That's the one.
posted by ikahime at 8:38 AM on August 6


With locked-down devices like iPads and Chromebooks, students are much less likely to learn how computers actually work.
posted by anemone of the state at 8:55 AM on August 6


Can't type on them, can't attach them to a flash drive or a camera, they take crappy pictures, can't create documents to print out on them, too small to use to show a video or a picture to a large group

I type a lot on my Ipad 2. You can attach a camera to it (in the sense of "hook my camera up i order to download photos I have taken"--the webcam built into the Ipad seems adequate for Skyping etc.). I have an app that lets me connect wirelessly to my printer, but in fact when I want to print out documents I usually just upload them to my Google drive and print them from my laptop or even just email them to myself--both very easily done.

I have my own doubts about the usefulness of the Ipad in the classroom (although Ipads are better, IMO, as etext readers than laptops, and if you use the Ipad as Universal Textbook that, in itself, is pretty useful), but some of the things being said about the limitations of tablets in this thread are just not true. Toss a portable bluetooth keyboard in front of my Ipad and it's essentially no different in functionality than a laptop.
posted by yoink at 9:27 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


With locked-down devices like iPads and Chromebooks, students are much less likely to learn how computers actually work.

This is silly. I have a very powerful MacBook Pro (that I use for software programming and design, no less) and I could probably not tell you much more about how it works than a fifth grader could. Using a sophisticated machine does not mean you understand the innards of that sophisticated machine. Nor should you have to, in most cases.

Cars are safer today than ever, largely because computers make up the majority of the control systems, and much of the mechanical complexity is hidden to make driving the vehicle as simple and bulletproof as possible. How many people today can disassemble and perform maintenance on their own cars? Does that mean we should not be teaching people to drive? Or that cars should be more complicated and less safe, so people who just need to get to work are forced to think about how they work?
posted by annekate at 9:45 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


This is silly. I have a very powerful MacBook Pro (that I use for software programming and design, no less) and I could probably not tell you much more about how it works than a fifth grader could. Using a sophisticated machine does not mean you understand the innards of that sophisticated machine. Nor should you have to, in most cases.

That's not the point. The point is you can't. Interested in building your own app? Get a laptop. You can't do it on an ipad. No way. I learned how to program on a TI-85 calculator with TI BASIC, because I was curious, and it was an option. Most of my classmates didn't, and that was fine, but we could. And that is the crux of the argument.
posted by defcom1 at 10:03 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Interested in building your own app? Get a laptop. You can't do it on an ipad. No way.

There are programming apps for the Ipad (e.g. Codea and Codify). They have their limitations, to be sure, but it's not true that there is "no way" for kids to learn programming or build usable apps on an Ipad.
posted by yoink at 10:14 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


My impression is that this is about using computers as learning tools, not teaching kids to program. Obviously yes, you need a different type of computer for that. (You still don't need to know how it works, though. I've written iPhone apps and it's all done with a relatively user-friendly IDE and a set of frameworks that abstract away most of the complicated stuff.)

Programming is not the end-all be-all of what you can do with a computer. Just look at the people in this thread who have written novels on touchscreen devices.
posted by annekate at 10:24 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


That's not the point. The point is you can't.
Because a tool can't do everything, we shouldn't use it?
posted by soelo at 11:42 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Part of the learning experience with traditional computers was that you could hack them and sometimes break them, which would require further hacking so you could use your computer again.

You might learn to crack software by editing registry keys, discourage computer time hogs by configuring .hosts to redirect Runescape to something boring like Diane Reem or shocking like Suicidegirls, learn to use the Windows NT net send functionality to send instant messages to any PC on the network, or repartition the hard drive to install BeOS and Red Hat.

Today, the computers in schools are completely locked down. An iPad might let kids use a sandboxed programming environment with a toy programming language, but that's it. The systems of control are much stronger, and students lose.

SOFTWARE TERMINOLOGY.PNG
posted by anemone of the state at 6:34 PM on August 6


Because a tool can't do everything, we shouldn't use it?

Nobody is saying that; they're suggesting perhaps we should use the more versatile tools.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:11 AM on August 7


you know, the above comments of "it gets obsolete too quickly", that seems like a good thing.

When i was in high school, my school had REALLY outdated piece of shit computers. They were so old, and had so little ram that any modern website even for the decade-ago times was a complete joke. they barely ran anything. but the school held on to them since they still ran XP, which was of course supported then(it was what, 4 years old at that point? heh) so they were "fine"

Ignoring the fact that only the first gen ipad got the shaft, and it looks like the ipad 2 is on track to probably get more than one more update and still be current when it turns 5 even, having to bump down the old ipads because they wont run the latest software is a feature, not a bug.

If it forces them to upgrade every 4 years, that's not a "conveyor belt to a landfill" in a bad way, it's forcing them to not use crap when its 10 years old and barely still works.

Because yea, my school kept those computers even after i left. It wouldn't surprise me if they had them for 10 years, running like absolute shit for the last 5 or so.

It's not conducive to learning when the entire time limited class has to sit while one kids computer reboots because it crashed from running out of ram, or everyone sits for 5 minutes while some program opens, or whatever.

I also think there's a lot of upsides to apple specifically, with how much fine-grained control you have over the device and what it's about to do. I just deployed ipod touches at my work, and i was really impressed with the tools and restrictions stuff they give you.

There's also just a lot of elements of mechanical simplicity that make an ipad superior for this. Everyone i know who got an ipad 2 has at this point, had it longer than any laptop i've owned in the past 5-6 years. There's no hinges, there's no moving parts, there's no fans or vents to get clogged, the batteries don't go south after 6 months if you're discharging them every day*. They don't overheat, they don't get viruses when the kids worm their way around your browser rules with proxies, they're very hard to steal.

I could probably come up with a bunch more bullet points, but yea. I think a lot of the outrage here is that apple is sort of seen as the BMW of computers, and there's a certain amount of "welfare queens with cadillacs" outrage here and elsewhere when they're just buying the right tool for the job in a lot of ways. And, speaking of a lot of ways, this is really the machine now. The brunt of software dev for consumers, schools, and business is going towards iOS and the ipad. Like it or not, this is basically the equivalent of having a current windows machine and the internet in 1999.

Also, anyone who thinks they're spending even $400 is a rube. Apple does not charge you retail prices if you're a school and you're ordering 900 of them. Or even 100. I honestly think an ipad with a keyboard case smacks the shit out of a chromebook, too. Have you actually used one of those things? My friend got one of the nicest ones for free, and it's a hunk of crap for a lot of tasks. An ipad is only restricted if you want it to be. A chromebook is kind of always hobbled. And there's not really the option of software, just the internet. They also all have like... normal laptop battery life.


i still don't understand what the fuck magic apple is using here. They say their batteries will last 1000 cycles and they mean it. everything else i own with a rechargeable battery is fucking toast after a year or so, even expensive well made stuff. And especially things with removable batteries like... essentially all non apple laptops. My ipad 3 has a ridiculous number of cycles on it, and it still lasts two days of all-day use easily, or 3-4 of normal use. whaaat.
posted by emptythought at 9:53 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


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