$1 Billion in sales to schools this quarter. That’s the staggering number from Apple this week. But it’s not desktop computers; these are all iPads. Schools are buying up iPads in droves, and giving them to students.
But is this a good idea?
In September, the Los Angeles Unified School District purchased and distributed iPads to 30,000 students. They uploaded education software to the iPads, and locked them so students couldn’t download any games or social media programs.
Guess how long that lasted? Yep, within days the kids bypassed the block and enabled Facebook and music sites like Pandora on the iPad. However in Burlington, a town outside Boston, the iPads were distributed to students without restrictions (except porn). After a few months of heavy gaming use, the students settled down and used the iPads more for studying, with great results.
Of course, all of this discussion about iPads in classrooms is moot for much of the country. The economic divide in the United States has expanded into a digital divide as well. I know our local school district hasn’t handed out iPads to anyone; we’re in a poor area where the school district tests lower than nearby Philadelphia schools and that’s saying something.
However, cheaper alternatives to the iPad are beginning to enter schools; Chromebooks are less expensive, as are Microsoft’s Surface tablets (which offer a full desktop experience, unlike other tablets). It’s hard to know if Apple will continue to hold such a big share of the tablet market in schools.
My daughter is incredibly savvy when it comes to using the iPad. While for now she’s happy respecting the limits I set both in time and in what she can do with the tablet it’s pretty unlikely that will remain true forever. I suspect that adjusting our expectations for our kids is going to be more important than restricting their access. What do you think?