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iPads in Schools August 4, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

My daughter is starting Secondary School soon and in March I think it was, the School announced that they would be using iPads rather than traditional books. Bags have become too heavy and e-learning was the way forward.
We went to a very slick presentation by the company that supplies the iPads and software. They were good but I had nagging doubts, especially as most of the questions on the night weren’t really of that much use.
The cost is high and ebooks aren’t that much cheaper (if they are available , a number of the English novels are not available on the iPad) . It’s more a worry too that the school is following trends and that my daughters class will be the guinea pigs for the iPads, not just them but for the teachers and school too. Simple things like there being enough WiFi capacity or worries about the amount of screen time the children will be having. You can imagine the row that you’ve been looking at a screen all day and done you’re homework on a screen and now you want to spend an hour on the computer, tablet or phone!
Is this move to ICT also being done at least subliminally to cater down the line for an ICT literate ‘workforce’ ?
Anyone with any experience of using (or their children) iPads in schools and thoughts on it?


1. sonofstan - August 4, 2016

Not really answering your question, but I don’t see how being able to use an iPad makes you ICT literate.

Our place decided to give all staff an iPad last year, but the catch was you had to do a 6 hour training programme. Given that ‘turning it on’ and ‘connecting to the wifi’ is about the size of the learning curve, it was a bit of a waste of those hours, although there were some supposedly whizz bang class room applications we could use. Like online polling and questionnaires – why this was better than the traditional show of hands wasn’t clear to me, I must say.

I think it’s a terrible idea for schools. It’s bad enough trying to get kids not to look at their phones in class, but, if they have an iPad open in front of them ‘legitimately,’ how you gonna keep them off whatsapp or whatever?


sonofstan - August 4, 2016

“Our place decided to give all staff an iPad”

Just to be clear, they gave us one each.

Liked by 1 person

irishelectionliterature - August 4, 2016

The ICT literate thing is the type of nonsense Ed Walsh or his ilk would come up with.
Yes not too keen on it myself and I’ve noticed that in a number of the local schools all the announcements regarding the introductions of iPads have come after children were accepted to the schools. So having accepted a place it’s unlikely that you’d then change the school the child went to.
I’ve heard tales this Summer of parents buying the physical books anyhow despite the iPads and ebooks!


6to5against - August 4, 2016

I think in most cases where you buy a hardcopy of a book, you get access to an e-book to if you like, It means that they can use the ipad in school – avoiding the heavy bag prooblem – but they still have a flickable, markable book at home.

Not that I’m a great fan. I really feel that screen addiction is going to be a big thing in the future. this wont help.

On the other hand, heavy bag are a real problem, With sports gear, you can have a 35 kg kid carrying between 10 – 15 kg.

Liked by 2 people

benmadigan - August 5, 2016

have seen Italian kids using sorta floppy suitcases on wheels, a variation on the carry-on trolley bag, instead of back-packs or school-bags. They are about the same price and size but don’t have the structured rectangular frame so they easily hold books, stationery,devices, lunch-box and sports gear etc.


2. EWI - August 4, 2016

Is this move to ICT also being done at least subliminally to cater down the line for an ICT literate ‘workforce’ ?

There’s little ‘ICT litera[cy]’ required to use an iPad – that is, after all, the unique selling point of iPads and iPad clones.

It does, however, oprn the gateways for education ‘reformers’ who want to do away with the teaching profession, one of the last holdouts against the automation of work (BIM will do for the construction industry, and driverless vehicles for driving jobs).


3. Anne - August 4, 2016

My daughter started secondary school with an iPad last September. Firstly, no choice – iPad or nothing. There are other cheaper tablets that would do as good a job. Like all other teaching resources – the iPad is only as good as the teachers who are using it. To be fair some of them are really enterprising about using its potential but for many, it’s a glorified textbook. School bag still weighs a tonne as she has to bring in hard back copybooks. Our firm policy of no devices in the bedroom has taken a hammering as well. All in all, I am not at all convinced.

Liked by 1 person

irishelectionliterature - August 5, 2016

The policy at home is no devices upstairs and that will probably have to change now. As I mentioned Screen time is a worry too.
It does seem that it has been introduced in an effort to appear modern yet as pointed out in another reply the Leaving Cert is unlikely to change radically by the time this crop of students do it.


4. P_MC - August 4, 2016

I’m a newly qualified teacher and just completed a research project on this topic. Amonst my sample of teachers iPads were almost universally despised, even by teachers who liked technology generally. It was felt that the device wasn’t really ready for the classroom, and created additional problems from small admin things like keeping them charged, to larger concerns around bullying and privacy.

The issue is that ICT has been pushed for some time as a method to transform pedagogy in schools. I would be the first to admit that pedagogy needs to change in many a school here. Irish teachers are extremely transfer-focused and didactic. That’s disempowering for students, and has especially deleterious effects on those from working class backgrounds. That said, ICT isn’t the silver bullet that will “modernise” Irish classrooms. The effect of any technology that’s adopted by teachers is mediated by the macro factors of the system, which in the case of post-primary education in Ireland is the massive washback effect of the Leaving Certificate, which has a huge influence on what happens in classrooms. Technologies are either stretched and bent to fit that system, or discarded; which is why iPads get used as fancy, and subpar, textbooks. The Leaving Certificate does not reward creativity and research skills.

The DES largely acknowledges this now, following the failure of successive interventions, such as Martin’s IT2000 which went nowhere. Their recent Digital Strategy for Schools document highlights the need to adopt a constructivist outlook in classrooms. Of course the parallel failure of the dept to gain acceptance for school-based assessment at Junior Cycle means that such orientations are not likely to arise where teachers are pressured by pupils, parents, and principals to practice papers and produce swots to gain a swath of A grades in August.

What’s more worrying is the effect of these technologies on students. I haven’t studied this directly, but the students I spoke to informally expressed concerns that the iPads were ruining their attention spans, that the ease with which they could play games on them meant that they hadn’t listened in class in months, and they feared that another two years with the devices would see them fail their LC. Some of the research coming from those interested in neuroplasticity on the effect of hypertext on people’s brains is interesting and frightening. Nicholas Carr laid it out very well in a book called “The Shallows” some years ago.

To be honest, teachers in Ireland are sleepwalking toward their own destruction as regards tech. By refusing the grasp the nettle of becoming fully autonomous professionals through control of assessment mechanisms, they will potentially make themselves obsolete. The Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) and its neoliberal authors will be happy to have a school system like ours, wholly and increasingly focused on a single rote learning based exam. Technologies like iPads have long been seen by some researchers as perfect for the new flexible GERM school systems. Ireland is fruitful ground for such an experiment: with a public discourse that eschews any deep discussion of the purpose of education; an increasingly deprofessionalised and part-time teaching workforce; industrial division and unrest; and a system that is incredibly centralised and standardised.

The deathknell of the Irish teacher will be the start-up tone of an iPad.

Liked by 4 people

sonofstan - August 4, 2016

That’s really helpful and interesting, thanks.


WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2016


Particularly “iPads were almost universally despised, even by teachers who liked technology generally.” I like tech, got an iPad myself. But the idea of using it in a teaching situation – 2nd or 3rd level – is not something I’d relish. And I know from discussing it with the teachers in the family that the deep antipathy you describe is there – not from luddism but from a simple sense that the tech isn’t either fit or suitable for purpose.


WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2016

Just on the practical when a students iPad runs into an issue that takes it down, or battery runs out, bang, that’s it taken out of commission. The privacy issues are huge (an additional device with camera’s on it)…etc.


irishelectionliterature - August 5, 2016

We were told that not having your iPad charged would be a disciplinary offence.


dublinstreams - August 5, 2016



5. fergal - August 4, 2016

When stuff like this happens- ipads in schools the question that occurs is what evidence is there that this will improve kids’ work/creativity? teachers’ pedagogy?parental autonomy?- I’ve never seen any evidence as to the benefits of ipads etc- which doesn’t mean such evidence doesn’t exist. But isn’t it strange that such a change is introduced without any prima facie evidence that it will be so great- did you get any such evidence irishelectionliterature?
Heavy bags- sure- lockers?
M*****s**t will surely make a huge killing on it…


6. gendjinn - August 4, 2016

Interesting that there’s a big push for iPads when really all you need is a browser and a portal.

Apple has form in education so it would be worth looking at where someone is getting something for free in return for getting the school on board.


EWI - August 4, 2016

Probably not for free – Apple don’t have to bribe people to sell/use their products – but I’d say there’s a steep discount (as well as Apple’s good educational record for thirty years).


7. Torheit - August 4, 2016

Apart from the very dubious pedagogic ‘benefits’, buying into iPads means locking schools into Krapple’s ‘walled garden’, where you pay for every bed you want to plant. And keep paying each time they decide you have to upgrade the bed.

And they don’t let you take the fruit you grow yourself out of the garden.

If they really must use tablets – and I can possibly see it’s value in terms of not having to hand out notes – why not a relatively inexpensive generic yoke running Cyanogenmod (relatively) open source version of Android?

Liked by 1 person

EWI - August 4, 2016

Apart from the very dubious pedagogic ‘benefits’, buying into iPads means locking schools into Krapple’s ‘walled garden’, where you pay for every bed you want to plant. And keep paying each time they decide you have to upgrade the bed.

And they don’t let you take the fruit you grow yourself out of the garden

Sorry, completely lost where that metaphor was going. Is Steve Jobs fluffing the pillows and turning down the beds in this analogy…? What…?

But at least they’re reliable, nigh-unbreakable brand-name devices. You want to really waste everyone’s time and money? Give them Androids. Some (masochistic) geeks may like them, but everyone else would prefer the damned things to just work.


sonofstan - August 4, 2016


that’s one of those Apple legends; I’ve owned two macbooks and endless trouble and overpriced parts and repair. At least I can fix PC issues myself most of the time. And, like a Virginia coal mine, your money is no good outside the company store.


EWI - August 5, 2016

that’s one of those Apple legends; I’ve owned two macbooks and endless trouble and overpriced parts and repair. At least I can fix PC issues myself most of the time.

The hardware is generally better (less cheap crappy plastic parts) but that’s not what I’m talking about; if it’s going to be used as a mandatory, standard tool, then better to have the OS be as simple and straightforward as possible. No viruses, no unauthorised apps (including porn) – and most of all, in a situationwhere children are involved, an immeasurably better attitude to privacy than with Google’s personal information-collection services.

(On the ‘fixing’ front – software side – it’s all very well to say that you or I can fix issues. The average layperson, though? Not so much, and unaware of dangers like side-loading pirate versions of apps)


RosencrantzisDead - August 4, 2016

The point is that Apple devices do ‘work’, but you are locked into using only the apps that Apple itself has approved. You can see how this might be exploited in the future to gouge schools (even more so than now). The terms of the licence agreement with schools mean that it would not be possible to ‘jailbreak’ (unlock and permit unauthorised third party apps) an IPad.

Android is open source which means that open source (i.e. free) apps could be used if the teacher/school so wished. Personally, there are both android and apple products in this house and I find that they both work just fine. Android devices are a lot cheaper though.


WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2016

Oddly in a way, purely from teaching a more constrained locked down approach is probably handier – I use both android and os devices myself and the idea of kids messing around with systems is not something that is particularly great sounding to me. But before we get to that point what precisely is the point of the exercise using these devices? I’m always unclear. And by the by, it’s not as if kids aren’t surrounded by a sea of them, tablets, phones etc. So the tech itself isn’t unfamiliar. But unless it has a clear pedagogical role I think it’s a cul-de-sac. By the way I’ve heard of schools jettisoning them too.


EWI - August 5, 2016

The point is that Apple devices do ‘work’, but you are locked into using only the apps that Apple itself has approved. You can see how this might be exploited in the future to gouge schools (even more so than now)

I would assume (in this case) that it’s actually the schools/the Department, and not Apple, who are mandating certain apps for use. I still agree with people that the use of tablets as textbooks (labs or practical applications would be more suitable) is a terrible idea, on many fronts.

Liked by 1 person

8. Dr. Nightdub - August 4, 2016

My other half teaches in a secondary school that started using iPads for first years the year before last. This year she asked her second years’ opinion of them and was stunned when the kids said they hated them and would rather go back to actual books and pens and paper – apparently, they’re too clunky in terms of use, pages keep freezing and they have to reboot so they’re out of step with the rest of the class, and so on. Many of them have resorted to using the iPads in school but having the actual books at home.

I was amazed, as I thought the younger kids in particular would be the most supportive of tech solutions.

Liked by 1 person

9. Michael Carley - August 4, 2016

Over the last few years I have switched over to printed notes and writing on a board. Students like it a lot better than PowerPoint and they learn a lot more.

Liked by 1 person

sonofstan - August 4, 2016

Haven’t quite gone all the way, but getting down to a handful of slides and lots of whiteboard. legibility still a challenge, though it was worse with chalk.


Michael Carley - August 4, 2016

Legibility is the reason I hand out printed notes …


10. Jolly Red Giant - August 4, 2016

1. iPads are not necessary to provide children with access to textbooks. A much simpler – and cheaper – tablet would be far more useful.
2. If the Dept of Education was serious about the weight of schoolbooks then they would take the printing of textbooks out of the hands of private companies who feel they have to put in countless useless pages to justify charging an arm and a leg for the books.
3. iPads cause many problems in schools – privacy and bullying issues are part of it – another major problem is the impact their use has on the eye-sight of children etc.
4. iPads do nothing to make students ‘tech savvy’ – to do that you need dedicated computer classes on the lines of coder dojo (you could for example scrap all religion classes and replace them with computer classes).
5. iPads in school are broken or no break down all the time. They are a nightmare to maintain.
6. They are expensive – much more expensive than paper textbooks – and you either are on the hook for the money upfront or have to pay like HP.
7. The problem of heavy books can be easily solved – provide every student with two sets of free books, one for use in school and one for home. The students return the books when they are finished using them for them to be recycled to the next cohort of students.

I could go on – but I would be here all day. I am probably the most ‘tech savvy’ teacher in my school (not saying much) and actively promote the use of technology – but I would never use an iPad with students – there are far too many other skills they lose out on.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 5, 2016

“7. The problem of heavy books can be easily solved – provide every student with two sets of free books, one for use in school and one for home. The students return the books when they are finished using them for them to be recycled to the next cohort of students.”

Got to agree there.


Jonah - August 5, 2016

Great post. As someone who neither has kids nor has ever worked in teaching giving children iPads to help them with their schoolwork always sounded like a good idea to me.

Really eye-opening discussion.


11. Tiger2Tea - August 5, 2016

I teach in a school that was part of a pilot scheme with iPads starting in 2011. Every year 1st years were given iPads (for the same book fee). In 2015 we went back to books. Problems such as charging, maintenance, availability of ebooks, distraction and screen time, a lot of which are detailed in previous comments, greatly outweighed the benefits.

At the start of the scheme the move to “e-learning” was used as a way to recruit more students to a school with ever diminishing numbers, and it worked in the very short term. But even then parents were voicing concerns about screen time, screen addiction and detrimental effects on writing skills. Since we went back to books there has been a marked uptick in numbers. Go figure!

Liked by 2 people

gendjinn - August 5, 2016

I’ll bet you were the first to get the Frankie Goes to Hollywood album. And the first to realise it was shite!


12. GW - August 5, 2016

This kind of nonsense is not confined to Ireland but has infected education in Berlin – one of my children’s school has spent enormous amounts of time deciding on iPads.

Not popular with either the teachers or the pupils – a clear case of corporate foot-in-the-door lobbying. Along with electronic whiteboards they cause untold hassle for teaching staff that would be rather doing something else than tech support.

Why buy overpriced hardware from the very worst tax-evading shits in the corporate world – namely Apple? Do you think workers in the Foxconn & other labour camps in China see more money from making ‘up-market’ devices?

Stiglitz calls Apple’s profit reporting in Ireland a fraud.

Here’s a novel idea for improving education: Employ more teachers and perhaps a few technicians on decent wages and long term contracts. Instead of wasting it on techno-fetishism.

Whoever decided on this are fuckwits. In a long line of fuckwits.

Liked by 3 people

EWI - August 6, 2016

Why buy overpriced hardware from the very worst tax-evading shits in the corporate world – namely Apple?

Is there a citation for this? I’m just curious as to whether they really are the ‘worst’ (Google? Microsoft?) – a number of entities were recently reported as only having paid e250 each in taxes. And their devices are made in the very same factories.


13. benmadigan - August 5, 2016

As the EU is promoting this type of thing Italy is also running a pilot scheme .

Teachers were given an up-skilling course on how to prepare lessons because obviously they had to be different from traditional lessons. Some took to the new approach like ducks to water – others hated it

The school kids of all ages loved them and loved the integrated class work etc – mind you italian high school teaching is still very, very traditional so I am sure a hi-tech classroom was a real breath of fresh air for the pupils.

PS Special needs students were able to have more tailored individualised lessons


sonofstan - August 5, 2016

” mind you italian high school teaching is still very, very traditional”

we get quite a few italian students and I’m always really impressed with how well educated they are, certainly compared to their English counterparts.

Liked by 1 person

benmadigan - August 6, 2016

Yes the curriculum is broad right up to school leaving age with lots of compulsory subjects like history, art history, philosphy, a foreign language etc whatever the student is majoring in so they get a very good education in that sense.

A lot of the learning process is by rote though,repeating what the teacher/textbook said which does not stimulate the kids much, particularly the 15-16+ age group and a critical mind is not really encouraged.

The universities are good enough too- after studying science at university in italy my son went for an MSc in Imperial College London and was at exactly the same level as the English and Scottish students in his class


benmadigan - August 6, 2016

Sorry – skipped a word in this sentence:

a foreign language etc besides whatever the student is majoring in


14. An Cathaoirleach - August 6, 2016

I chaired the Board of Management which introduced them some years ago. Initially I was reluctant to go with the idea, but after over 12 months investigation and studying how two other schools operated, I agreed (still with some doubts) to go ahead with the idea.

We looked at opting for Android devices, however ended going with the Apple devices.

The school’s wi-fi system was substantially upgraded to cope with the much increased additional traffic, a capital expenditure which we had not fully appreciated. Teachers were provided with Ipads with the school meeting 50% of the cost. All teachers received substantial training, on moving over.

There were still issues in the first year, despite the planning, and changes were implemented during the year and at year end. Training courses for students were given and there was also an induction course for parents.

Technical support was not an issue. Supplying company provided it.

Failure to charge your Tablet was treated as a disciplinary issue, exactly the same as not bringing your homework.

Breakages were an issue – again insurance covered it, but students were without machine for a few days. (I would suggest schools keep spares for such eventualities.)

Cost is an issue. Printed books are exempt from VAT, electronic books are a service for VAT purposes and are liable at the standard rate.

The operation of the system was heavily monitored in the first year, particularly by the Education sub-committee of the Board of Management and small operational changes were made. More able students performed better, using a wide range of additional sources. The book publishers have provided additional information, updates etc., on their sites, linking into their books. The ability to download additional books, such as those out of copyright has been widely used by some teachers.

After four years, they are accepted as standard. However the presumption that the possession of a Tablet computer, whoever made it, will help educate a child by itself is silly. It is a tool, which if used properly helps. Substantial advance planning & training are required to ensure that all parties, teachers, students and parents are aware of the issues

We also found (after the first year) that many households already owned a suitable Apple device, which obviated the need to buy the hardware, reducing the overall cost.

I don’t, I am afraid, see it all as a neo-liberal conspiracy as is P_MC’s view. My own daughter, who was part of the school’s first cohort of users, finds it OK. It has worked better than I expected, but that was mainly down to the time spent planning in advance.

The option to move to Android devices is much easier now. Five years ago, the publishers and the providers were set up for Apple, but now there is a choice. Schools, therefore have the option. The next step will be a BYOD (Bring your own device) model, which I am told some schools are now considering.

With a computer literate parent at hand, your daughter will have no problems!


irishelectionliterature - August 6, 2016

Thanks for that. I suppose for most parents it’s a step into the unknown , hence the worry.


15. Ivorthorne - August 6, 2016

Asking if iPads in classes are a good idea is like asking if having cars in society is a good idea. It’s the wrong question.

The question isn’t if they are a good idea, it is how do you use them well and if they have advantages over traditional means. I know of good reading apps like Headsprout for reading or Grace a communication app for those with communication difficulties.

The advantage of something like Headsprout would be that students can progress at their own rate and things are taught to mastery and fluency. On the other hand, there’s no massive educational advantage to putting today’s equivalent of “Ann and Barry” on to a screen and a teacher teaching it in the traditional manner.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2016

+1 That’s precisely it ivorthorne. Is there an advantage, is it quantifiable, is it applicable to a classroom, does it have lasting effects, etc? And also what are the disadvantages? Are the advantages sufficient to replace previous approaches? Are the costs low enough to continue year in year out. Etc, etc.


Ivorthorne - August 6, 2016

The problem is that within education, there is a tendency to prioritise expert opinion over actual empirical investigations. When projects or initiatives are examined, the experimental design is often poor.

I could be wrong but years after myths about “learning styles” had been debunked, I found they still featured in curriculum documents published by the DES. Education needs a more scientific approach.


An Cathaoirleach - August 6, 2016

In the case of the school where I was involved, the first group who received them were on an average a very able group, which helped. Comparisons with previous years were not relevant.

While all children improved, those children with greater levels of home support and better educated parents improved far more. This was particularly so around presentations, projects etc. However, as they are also likely to be using family PCs etc., it is unclear how much of this was down to using tablets all of the time.

My experience is that there was a quantifiable improvement, but it was not even.

However, if I was a new parent facing into this this for the first time, I would ask the school what preparation and planning has been done in advance? Have they studied how it has worked in a similar school? Is there complete acceptance from the teaching staff? Otherwise the first group of students become guinea pigs.

On cost, once you move down the road, continuous investment is going to be the issue. Storage of notes, lessons etc. for students, access to ongoing assessments for parents from home are all part of the ongoing developments. Some of the schools who moved early, are already very far down the road.

The strength and abilities of the Board of Management and school’s senior management to ensure that the project is also crucial to success. The Department prefers to remain semi-detached.


16. Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2016

The problem is not with the iPads – it is with the nature of the education system.

An education system that was student orientated, that focussed on developing the talents of students through play/ experimentation/ innovation/ cooperation would allow for the use of IPads and many other forms of technology in an inventive and productive fashion. But our education system is crammed with so much crap – focussed exclusively on exam results – and makes students compete against one another. In my opinion in this environment the use of iPads have a minimal role to play.

I always find that my students learn best when they are playing games and having fun. I use board games that I have made, Jenga that I have adapted, computer games I have made that we use through the interactive whiteboard etc. The impact is demonstrated when students say ‘my mom won’t believe me when I tell her I was playing Jenga in school’. I could use the IPads but in my opinion it would only be beneficial if they could be used to play educational games tied into the subjects I teach.

But I will repeat this – there are issues with the use of iPads. To demonstrate – my daughter recently refinished her college course. There were something like 70 students from Malaysia on the course – all used iPads in school and all were wearing glasses because of eye sight problems.

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