It seems as though officials at the Maine Department of Education are finally coming to terms with something that many in the tech community have been saying for years: tablets can often be a poor substitute for full-fledged computers in the classroom, especially in higher grades. Instead of being used as educational tools to help supplement traditional classroom lessons and aide in completing assignments, iPads in the classroom are being used for gaming while at the same time serving as a poor replacement for laptops when it comes to productivity.
The Auburn School Department decided to survey its students and teachers to see if the district should continue using the iPads or opt for more traditional devices like laptops. Needless to say, the results were very telling. 74 percent of students (in grades 7 through 12) and 88.5 percent of teachers said that they preferred to use laptops over iPads.
This sentiment has echoed throughout the state of Maine, which has Apple now giving Maine schools an alternate option. Apple will give schools the opportunity to swap out their iPads for MacBook Airs. Interestingly enough, the MacBook Airs actually cost less than what the schools paid for the iPads when they first went in to service three years ago. This “refresh” swap as its being called is available at no added cost to schools for the 2016-2017 school year. After that, the swap will cost an additional $30 per student.
Given the results of its survey, it should come as no surprise that the Auburn School Department is going to take Apple up on its offer to receive more capable laptops that can actually be used to do things like write reports without resorting to pecking on a glass screen. Auburn School Department Technology Director Peter Robinson said that while iPads have been used with some success in elementary-age children, the “one size fits all” strategy doesn’t work when it comes to older children — especially those in high school.
Teachers were dismissive of the iPads in the survey, with one writing that they “provide no educational function in the classroom. Students use them as toys. Word processing is near to impossible.” Another wrote, “The iPads are a disaster.”
The state “underestimated how different an iPad is from a laptop,” said Maine Learning and Technology Initiative Director Mike Muir, which is quite the understatement given the overwhelming disdain for the iPads from students and teachers.
If this whole situation sounds familiar, it’s because the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) came to a similar realization that iPads weren’t a good fit for its students. The LAUSD eventually ended up replacing many of its iPads with much cheaper Windows- and Chrome OS-based laptops and convertibles.