Report Card for the IPad

The second generation Apple iPad is out now and many students and professors are taking the opportunity to look back at the iPad's first year in college and see how well it performed.

apple ipad for college professors

Hot (Enough) for Teacher?

The Apple iPad was the world's hottest new toy when it was first released. And as with most of their gadgets, Apple pushed the iPad as an essential new tool for education. The company promoted special apps for education and the use of iTunesU and other multimedia resources for audio, visual and interactive learning - not to mention slogans like 'When you learn on a whole new device, it's a whole new kind of learning.'

Or is it? It's now been a year since the first generation iPad was released and last September the gadget saw it's first new school year. Inevitably, the release of iPad 2 has students and professors reflecting back on just how well the first one served them.

Writers of ProfHacker, an ed-tech blog for professors at The Chronicle of Higher Education, have offered their analysis. The reviews were mostly positive, with an emphasis on convenience. Everyone loves how light it is: One professor commented, 'When I head out, if I'm not up for carrying the laptop, the iPad usually makes the cut.'

The iPad is also pretty popular for easy reference. Several authors expressed surprise at how much they've used it for both collecting information and writing new notes. And many reported doing a lot of reading on the device, from catching up with the morning news to reviewing PDFs they had assigned for courses. Of course, entertainment is a popular use for the iPad. Profs admitted to watching TV and movies, reading magazines or just rocking out with Garage Band.

The professors' most common criticism of the device was its usefulness for significant writing projects. Sure, it performed well for note-taking, but one professor commented that it's still lacking when it comes to 'the core elements of online writing.' It's more difficult to manipulate images and layout or copy URLs and pieces of text. And it's almost impossible to do the citations necessary for long form academic writing.

The professors' conclusion? It's convenient, useful and fun, but not about to replace a real computer for word processing. (B+)

apple ipad for college students

The Student Scoop

What many people really want to know is: What do students think of it? Not only do college students represent a much larger gadget market than their instructors, they're more likely to adapt quickly to new technology due simply to age differences.

And, of course, students are weighing in. Forums on sites like MacRumors.com are bursting with tips, advice and reviews on using the iPad in college.

It's much harder to get an overall 'temperature' from the chorus of student voices. Some love the device - one student commented, 'My iPad is almost irreplaceable when it comes to getting things done at grad school.' Others found it overpriced and under-useful. Another student: 'Mine mostly sits on my desk collecting dust.'

Whether or not you'll like the iPad as a college student seems to come down to how easy it is for you to use it to take notes. Some students adapt well to the virtual keyboard; others say a wireless keyboard is essential, reducing its portability value. There are also some students who find that popular word processing programs like Pages and Evernote work perfectly with their free-flowing note-taking styles. But students who like to use outlines when taking notes find it frustrating to move back and forth between sections.

All students concede that it's useful for reading PDFs, but only a few say that this function alone is worth the price tag. And, surprisingly, very few students even mention the entertainment value. This could be because young people already have many devices that offer video, audio and quick Web browsing, so the iPad isn't unique in this role.

Ultimately, many students seem to feel that a small netbook offers better bang for your college buck than the iPad, even though the 'pretty and cool' factor is a lot lower. (C+)

Teachers: Looking for other devices that might be useful in the classroom? Check out these essential teaching tools for the iPhone.

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