School & District Management

Maine Teachers Are Trading in Their iPads for Laptops

By Elisha McNeil — May 27, 2016 3 min read
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Middle and high schools in Maine are returning their iPads and switching back to laptops after a survey found that 88.5 percent of teachers and 74 percent of students in one district preferred laptops for schoolwork and classroom instruction, reports the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.

The Maine Department of Education and Apple are offering a “refresh” swap deal to school districts at no additional cost. Old devices can be traded in for new MacBooks (or new iPads, since both devices have been upgraded). Already, 1,718 laptops are set to be delivered in the fall—no word on whether any schools made the trade for new iPads.

Apple had initially offered better priced and designed iPads and Macbooks for Maine schools after hearing that schools were complaining about the iPads and opting instead for less expensive computers such as Chromebooks, which are made by Google.

The swap deal comes following the results of a survey given to Auburn School Department students and teachers in grades seven through 12, conducted by the district’s technology director Peter Robinson, according to Hot HardWare.

Robinson told the Sun Journal that the results, which he presented last week, are “pretty darn clear” and “made the decision for us.”

He said after seeing the success with iPads in primary grades three years ago, he thought iPads were “absolutely the right choice,” but has since realized that iPads have shortcomings for older students.

Students and teachers felt that iPads are often used to play games in class, while laptops allow students to do more for schoolwork and are better devices for coding and programming, for example.

According to the Sun Journal, a teacher participating in the survey wrote that iPads “provide no educational function in the classroom” and “word processing is near to impossible.”

“The iPads are largely students’ gaming devices,” another teacher wrote, while yet another called them “a disaster.”

Students seemed to share the same perspective, according to the Sun Journal. One wrote “WE NEED LAPTOPS!!!” three times in the study. Another said that iPads are “easier to play games on and get addicted to.”

The state “underestimated how different an iPad is from a laptop,” said Mike Muir, policy director for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. Muir also noted that student use of iPads could have been more effective if the state department of education had encouraged more teacher training.

Teachers have long called for more professional development and training with technological tools in the classroom. For instance, training and technical support were among the many issues plaguing the Los Angeles Unified School District’s iPad program, with reports finding that iPads and other devices were “used in ways that did not take advantage of the 1-to-1 device availability for students” and showed “limited potential to engage students in new or exciting learning opportunities.”

At the same time, a recent meta-analysis examining 15 years of research found that 1-to-1 laptop programs increased student achievement and student engagement, and had a positive impact on student test scores in English/language arts, writing, math, and science.

While schools wrestle with whether to use a mix of devices or to rely heavily on one type of technology to build their 1-to-1 computing programs, research has found that choosing the right digital learning device for each specific grade level can be the key factor in determining how technology is effectively integrated into the classroom.

Photo by Flickr user Lucélia Ribeiro; licensed under Creative Commons.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.