Well, it’s about time to wrap up this blog. One year has gone by, and we can summarize the experience of our 6th grader with a single direct quote:
“I’d rather have a laptop”
There you have it. Over the past year, almost nothing in the 6th grade curriculum required a tablet interface, and lot of the curriculum could have benefited from a laptop.
For those entering 6h grade this year, here is some advice from our middle school iPad veteran: “16GB is not enough memory, buy more. You need to buy a bluetooth keyboard because the virtual keyboard is too small and typing on glass is hard. Don’t bother with a stylus, it often doesn’t register. Your finger is actually better. My Homework is easy to access on the web from a laptop.”
Finally, here’s a repost of some content from last Spring:
Our experience continues to be that the iPad is a very poor device for entering content. Our 6th grader struggles to use word processing programs for anything beyond extremely rudimentary tasks. Typing large amounts of text, copy-paste, adding graphics, or doing complicated formatting are all extremely tedious on the iPad (and any other touch tablet). Spreadsheets and graphs are so simplified as to be nearly useless. The smaller tablet screen adds to the problem, both visually and by exacerbating the limitations of the touch interface. A laptop computer is a much better device for content generation, and manipulation of data on screen.
Second, the incredible growth in personal electronic devices means that many families already have smart phones and tablets, often with more powerful processors and greater memory than the school model. In addition, upgrade cycles are now incredibly short, and many devices get replaced every two years. After three years, a device is essentially obsolete for the most cutting edge applications. Long gone are the days when computer equipment could be treated as a relatively long-lived capital asset. Personal computing is now an ongoing expense.
Bottom line, the best device for real learning — even in 6th grade — is a laptop or laptop-tablet hybrid. And the best way to run the program is to simply design the curriculum so that it is web-based and platform agnostic. Nearly every useful tool we’ve seen to date is available as a laptop or web-based (platform agnostic) option. Essentially no applications require a tablet interface.
Note that full-powered laptops can now be purchased for $450 or less, and Chromebooks are available for under $300 — significantly less expensive and yet more capable than iPads. Mandating iPads for middle school was a mistake.