iPads are becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Other than for playing FlappyBird (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQz6xhlOt18 from 4:15), iPads are now used in education. As classrooms are gravitating towards a more technological approach, some schools are going an extra mile and buying iPads, sometimes even for whole classrooms. As with all new technology, iPads have advantages and disadvantages.
First off, the main thing that comes to mind when thinking of buying iPads for a whole classroom is cost. iPads are expensive and fragile. One could wonder if it really is a good idea to give a 700$ machine to a child that might not understand its value. Solving this problem is not difficult is is just costly. For one, buying sturdy cases is a good idea when giving iPads or tablets to children, but this solution adds another few hundred dollars spent per class. The other solution would be to forgo iPads with younger children and use more child friendly tablets (http://www.trustedreviews.com/best-tablet-for-kids_round-up_Page-1). http://fluency21.com/blog/2013/09/17/10-big-concerns-about-tablets-in-the-classroom/
Other than the price, iPads or tablets can be a great tool for students to have a more interactive learning experience. For teamwork, an iPad is great because children can pass it around easily and move things on it and touch it. I think projects become more concrete when children can have more direct contact with them. Another advantage with tablets is that they are portable, if children are learning about trees or leaves it is possible to bring the iPads on the school grounds to look around and research nature at the same time. iPads become much more than what a computer could be, they are not just a note-taking device but can become a door to plenty of information and learning for children.
iPads are also much harder to lose than paper assignments or handouts. A mother here says her son always knows where to find his iPad but always looses loose sheets (http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/nov/23/tablets-are-changing-the-classroom/) This is a great advantage that iPads have, students like them and become attached to them. Sheets of paper do not have the same emotional value or use to students and so they don’t care if they loose a sheet, but loosing their iPad is a tragedy.
Also, tablets are a way to have everything at the same place, assignments, homework, notes taken in class. Everything. Of course, a laptop can do the same but is much heavier and difficult for a child to carry. Laptops are also much more expensive. iPads are light and portable, they can easily slip into a child’s backpack. Another thing about iPads is that they can also be kept in class. Teachers and school tech-support can control what apps go on the iPads and also can restrict the AppStore and internet access to keep the students on task even with the new exciting technology.
There are many good apps on tablets that can be useful for students. There is EverNote so students can take notes during class and even do assignments and even record important points in class and make lists. Students can record what is said in class directly in EverNote to access it later. They can also attach the class files to the notes they take in EverNote and have everything for one class in the same place. This makes being organized much easier. In an ESL I think the recording feature could be very useful when the teacher is demonstrating pronunciation or new words. I also think that because students can take pictures and attach them in EverNote, they can keep important information with their class notes to add depth to their studies.
For ESL and second languages in general, there is also Duolingo that offers classes in Spanish, Portugese, English, French and German. I tried Duolingo for learning Spanish and I thought it was really user friendly and the exercises were fun and tailored to my language level. When I started Duolingo, I had to do a test to determine my level, I think this is great because the app then makes every exercise useful and meaningful. Duolingo even sends reminders by e-mail so students don’t forget to do the daily exercises (http://www.teachthought.com/apps-2/the-55-best-best-free-education-apps-for-ipad/). Duolingo would be great in an ESL class because it is directly on the iPad and its cute layout is motivating for the students. I think the exercises are simple, fun and especially effective.
All in all, i think iPads or tablets are a potentially good tool to use but that teachers and schools really have reflect on the implications before taking the iPad plunge. If they do decide to do it, I think there are so many possibilities to make classes more interesting and more motivating.