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BlogFuture of Schooling

Are iPads the uber-ubis we imagined?

By May 10, 2011June 14th, 201613 Comments

Last year, McREL released The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020 (Solution Tree, 2010), which looked at four possible scenarios of education. Our scenarios were dependent upon known certainties, such as advances in technology and changes in populations, while also looking at how critical uncertainties could impact education.

One scenario, Who Killed Buster the Bearcat?, highlighted student and teacher use of a tool known as “uber-ubis,” or tools that were uber-ubiquitous in this particular world. These tools served as e-readers, Internet browsers, video conferencing devices, and numerous other applications.

When the authors wrote these scenarios in the fall of 2009, the iPad was unheard of for most of the population. And yet…

Now we have a device that does indeed serve as an e-reader. It’s a device that can be used to regularly look up information, read and answer e-mails, video conference using Facetime, keep track of travel, and organize calendars. Educational apps such as eClicker are beginning to serve as quick assessment tools for teachers. Hundreds of educational games have emerged to help students practice basic skills as well as apps that allow the user to create movies, drawings, music, and pictures.

Is the iPad (or similar device) the uber-ubi? Time will tell, but it certainly seems as though it is headed in that direction.

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.


  • C Hilliard says:

    I recently participated in a PLC for my school where we discussed this topic in particular. We looked at the importance of technology and how it can be used to keep the motivation of our students. Today’s “teaching,” when you look at technology, is not that much different than teaching 15 years ago. The content, of course, is very different, but the method of delivery is relatively the same (at least it is in my county). We stand in front of the room and deliver information that we expect our students to absorb and apply. Then, we test them on that information to prove that it was taught. Although technology is incorporated into learning, it is done so on a limited basis. There are so many “blocks” on access to internet resources and, a lot of times, the technology that we do have access to does not work correctly. How interesting would it be to allow our students to create Facebook pages for specific historical figures? What better way of checking their comprehension on that particular figure would there be? If the students did this, they would have to know all background information, that historical figure’s interests, who would be on the “friends” list, and what they would say on their “wall.” I feel that embracing technology is the only way to keep up with meeting the needs of our students.

  • Gracena says:

    This year our school system lost over $50,000 in books. It seems like a small amount but when added to the $19 million deficit its a HUGE amount. My school system can no longer afford to buy extra books and teachers are limited on how many copies they are able to make. I look around my school and almost every student has a cell phone in their hand from first grade to 8th grade. Why not incorporate this technology in the classroom? How much money can be saved if students were given nooks, ipads, or kindles? If parents can afford the latest shoes and cellphones why can they not buy something that aides in the educating of their child and helps cut back on the money the education system spends on books and copies? JUST A THOUGHT

  • kayrumba says:

    I agree. I think that many school systems are loosing money on books that aren’t being used in the classroom like they once were. In middle schools laptops are becoming more popular for students to use on a day to day basis. I have personally seen a three year old use a IPAD, and what a great learning experience it is. If every school system had them even in Elementary I think it would definatly be meeting te needs of our students.

  • D Hulbert says:

    I would like to think iPads, and other tablets, will be a major contributor to schools. As the applications become more relevant and online ebook selections increase, I have high hopes that this technology will help schools leverage their ever decreasing funds into a resource which provides students with timely, current, multiple perspective information.

  • A Evenson says:

    I also agree that the IPad can be an incredible tool for our current and future students. Children at incredibly young ages are able to participate in hands-on learning that incorporates audio, visual, and some kinesthetic learning. In terms of saving money by not having to buy textbooks I also agree that this could in the long run provide a cost savings for schools, while also providing amazing learning opportunities for students.

  • Rick says:

    Funding is the basis for everything. If funds were available to provide students with the individual technological tools, then more productivity could be taught and expected.

  • B May says:

    Processing power and user interface might be limiting factors in some contexts such as a music classroom for example. In this case high processing power is demanded and screen real-estate on an iPad could make work difficult. Of course many of these issues could be solved with peripherals. However, the portability and fact that every student could have access to technology certainly gives scope for great possibilities.

  • Maria Oddo says:

    The issue of buying laptops in schools has been contentious for some time. However the IPADs provide a tool that would provide value for money. It possesses a couple of issues-what do we do with the current netbooks students have and do we immediately stop purchasing them and start buying tablets?

  • AT says:

    Districts are certainly spending more and more on tablets, particularly the ipad, it seems. I wonder to what degree teachers are prepared to use them in the best possible ways and with the fast pace that technology and apps evolve, what makes sense for districts to invest in.

  • Mary Beth says:

    While ipads could be very powerful within the classroom, issues I have witnessed have gotten in the way of its power. Often, the educator has one idea in mind while the students play around with various apps and get distracted by the ‘fun’ applications they can find on the new device. The absence of Flash also creates issues when trying to do simple tasks on the internet. In order to make any technological device an asset to the classroom, it is necessary to provide more extensive training for the educator. If we want these things to work, we need to know how to use them as well as be the students’ personal IT support. Unfortunately, though, these devices are often thrown in front of the educator with the push to use them without the support. Until that support is present, no device will be the uber-ubi.

  • Cindy says:

    Our school has purchased a number of iPads. They are not as useful as thought at the high school level. There are few apps that are useful to the high school students without a large cost per app. Also we thought they might be helpful for online interactive simulations. They will not work on the iPads because the iPads do not support Adobe. Therefore the iPads are pretty much useless for some classroom instruction that we would like to use them for. I would think they would be better for elementary students with the number of apps available for elementary students.

  • Beth says:

    As I read this article I agree that the e-readers and iPads are useful in the classrooms. There are issues, however, of the teachers who do not feel comfortable using the technology in the classroom. How do we get them to change? This is not just veteran teachers; I have seen new teachers who want to rely on a textbook and not integrate technology. I also wonder about how publishers will react to schools moving to e-readers. I purchase curriculum materials, and the print book with online access is less expensive than just the digital copy.

  • We certainly all, students, parents and teachers have to adapt ourselves to the modern world we live in. Sure that all the appliances such as lape-top, tablet, etc… can help and improve students technical skills which are essential nowadays.

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