Competence level hindering iPad adoption in education?

ipadcompetence - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

The iPad is popping up in educational institutions all over the world (including my college) but the adoption of it as an educational tool seem to have hit a wall in some cases. A six month study conducted in 2010 at the University of San Francisco saw both positive and negative side of using the iPad, where the four major negative points were lack of a USB port, VGA-out issues, keyboard difficulties, and the inability to play Flash video. Other educational institutions have had similar hit or miss results, and a lot of it seems to come down to ability to use technology properly.

While this survey was conducted in 2010 (the fact it took them a year to publish the results is perhaps an indicator of something or the other in itself) I can’t help but point out how their four major points don’t make much sense. The VGA issues were resolved in iOS 5, though that wouldn’t have helped them a year ago – so OK. USB port? For what? External storage? You don’t ever need to connect storage devices to the iPad in a school situation because you’ll never be that far away from a computer that can be sued to send stuff wirelessly through any number services. In fact, you have to actually store stuff on the flash drive in the first place, and that’s more work than just sending it off wirelessly. To me, this seems like a case of looking at a car and complaining there’s no way to attach the horse that drags it.

Keyboard difficulties is also one of those things that I simply don’t get when people or all professions and affiliations bring it up. If you remove the keyboard from a laptop, you’re stuck with the Windows on-screen keyboard and a mouse to control it – a touch screen if you have a tablet. On the iPad, the keyboard is a much more integrated part of the OS, and arguable better to use. If you’re going to compare keyboard use between a tablet and a computer, you have to at least add a hardware keyboard to the tablet, or remove it from the computer. Even in 2010 there were a gazillion wireless and wired keyboard accessories, so if you’re going to whine about the keyboard on a tablet, at least add a keyboard first – or you will have to make the same point with a computer.

Lastly, inability to play Flash video. Wrong. There have been apps capable of doing this for ages. More in 2011 than in 2010, yes, but still. Even more importantly, more websites now use HTML5, making it a complete non-issue either way.

The reason why I feel the need to call this study out is that the entire study in itself is a great show of incompetence. The guy who presented this study did so a year after it was conducted. A year. That’s a decade in the tablet space. Presenting a year old result that weren’t even accurate back then to a crowd of people looking to adopt the iPad in today’s market pisses me off to no end, as it’s a dictionary example of the blind leading the blind. The room was filled to the brim with audience when he did the presentation too, so I don’t dare to think how many people have gotten a backwards view of the iPad’s educational capabilities because faculty members at the University of San Francisco couldn’t figure out how to use the thing a year ago.

[Tabtimes via  TUAW]

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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4 thoughts on “Competence level hindering iPad adoption in education?

  • Avatar of Noigel

    Makes me wonder how an Asus Transformer would have been accepted since it caters to most of those things… I’m betting there would be about the same amount of problems, just different ones. It all extends from the faulty “I want this thing to be a typical computer” mindset.

    • Definitely different problems, not lack of problems. As I use the iPad exclusively in my studies (as in, I don’t even have a single piece of paper or physical book this semester) one of my reasons for ignoring Android is the lack of certain apps that I find absolutely crucial. Specifically, a note taking app that can do such things as import pdf files and let me write on top of them. They actually mention iAnnotate – one of the crappier of such apps- in the original article, as one of the apps thet like the best. I let that slide as there were far fewer such apps a year ago (but still several). Android, on the other hand, still doesn’t have a single one that is adequate.

  • Avatar of Advancedcaveman

    You didn’t actually explain what sorts of classes the students were taking or what specific types of things they’re doing. When I was in college, for instance, I took a lot of film and animation classes (and this survey is from the University of San Francisco so its not a stretch to imagine there’s a population of digital art, animation and film students/teachers in the surveyed group). You’re scoffing at personal storage, physical keyboards, peripheral connectivity, ect, and yet if I had been handed an iPad in collage and told to use it for my classes all of those things would have become issues based on what I had to do.

    You’re claiming incompetence, but then of course you don’t actually break down the specifics of anything. I saw a news report a few months ago that just quoted some infant mortality rate statistics; that was it. No breakdowns or explanations on why infant mortality rates are rising or what demographics they where talking about. This article is very similar to that news report.

    • I’m going by what information is available in the original post and the available resources from the presentation. The original presentation quite literally states “No USB”. I have no clue what they mean by that, which I point out in my article. The keyboard issue is said to be regarding size, which is just stupid since you can connect whatever size USB or Bluetooth keyboard you want to the thing.

      So in response to why I don’t break down the specifics, that’s because the original study here didn’t. That’s the whole point. here you have representatives from a major university who are holding a presentation about the iPad’s use in education, and aside from presenting year old results, they can’t even be bothered to specify exactly what they mean by “No USB”. In the improvement section of the presentation they even list such idiotic things as “USB port”, “ability to create content” etc without actually explain in detail what it is they want. If they actually bother to use proper terminology and explain in detail what it is they have issues with I’d be glad to comment on that sort of presentation, but they didn’t, which is exactly why I’m saying that competence is hindering the adoption of the iPad in education. .


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