Monday, October 3, 2011

The Swiss-Army Knife of Education

As you can imagine, we get a lot of questions about the iPad. How are we using it? What apps do you like? Why did we decide on iPads? What about flash?

This questions are common when implementing any new technology. While the deeper question is "Why?" vs "What" and "How", it does bring up a fairly interesting point. Many districts lament that having something like iPads for every staff member would be great "if they had the money". We think if they look a little bit further, they would be surprised to find out they might actually have the money, it's just being spent on other items.

What does that mean? Is that my version of iYoda? (Oh! Great idea for an app!)

"Learning you will do, with iPad try you do not."Rather than get side-tracked into how the iPad and the Force have a lot in common (too late), let's look at some concrete and tangible examples of how the iPad is going to save our district money. And we're not talking just about lack of paper, we're talking about technology that we bought in the past, may have allocated for in the future, but will never spend again because the iPad has quickly rendered it obsolete. What follows is a list and cost of items that we won't buy anymore because of the iPad and possible others that we might not buy again. Please note that the items and cost listed here are specific to what we have spent in the past as a district.

1. Document Camera - $600 - Samsung Digital Presenter - This one came about just recently and is startling considering the cost of a Document camera. During a summer workshop recently, we ran into an issue of having to connect and disconnect an iPad to show a document on the class document camera. We quickly remembered that an iPad2 tethered to the VGA and had a camera app on it. Turn on the camera app, hold it over the document and Voila! Instant document camera!

2. Digital Camera - $150 - Canon Powershot A3100 - As mentioned above, there is a camera app built into the iPad. Now while holding up the iPad to take photos is a bit unwieldy at times and can block the view of people behind you, there is some value in not having to look for batteries, an SD card, a cord, etc. I can only imagine the camera quality improving on the next model iPad.

3. Smart Slate or Airliner - $299 - These handy devices we purchased in the past let you walk around the room and control your computer wirelessly. It was a bit unnerving in the fact you had to keep your neck crammed to see the projector screen, but the freedom to roam around the room was valuable. Enter the $1.99 RemoteVU app and all the sudden the iPad has the same amount of control, only now you can see your screen in your hands rather than looking up at the projector.

4. Video camera and editing software - $250 + $99 = $349 - for a Canon R200 and Adobe Premiere Elements - Again, the use of the built in video camera and the use of a $4.99* iMovie app make you a mobile Video production studio all in one.

5. Response clicker - Varies in price, but average is $35 per clicker - Between the eClicker app and the multitude of online polling websites, all you really need is a browser and a way to send out questions (FYI - eClicker Host is $4.99*)

6. DVD Player - $150 - Toshiba - Yes there was a time when we bought DVD players and played DVD's. However, with online video streaming from Hulu to Netflix to YouTube, there really is never a need to buy a DVD player for the classroom. That also means no more skipping DVD's because your husband scratched When Harry Met Sally when he dropped it.

7. Paper - $150/year estimated - This number is extremely variable. There are teachers that have spent that amount in a month in paper consumption, however, if we just take the average cost of someone printing out 500 sheets of color paper at .15 cents each and 2000 sheets of black and white at .037 cents each, we quickly reach $150 bucks.

8. Laptop - $1200 - Dell D531 loaded with software, warranty and support - This one is huge. You can accomplish everything short of high-end graphic editing and computer coding on an iPad. Typing can be an issue, but quickly remedied by a bevy of bluetooth keyboard choices out there.

So that brings the total cost of previously purchased items minus cost of iPad and apps to $2355. So for the cost of almost 5 iPads, you will actually be saving money by just picking up one for each classroom teacher. And that doesn't include the savings on many other variables like the ones below:

Textbooks - cost varies - Companies are clamoring to come up with a good textbook model for the iPad. Some are just putting their books online in a PDF format, others are being more innovative. Regardless, this market still needs to catch up.

Musical Instruments - cost varies - Anyone who watched the Westlake High School iBand preform at DKR stadium, sees a future where the iPad can play a role in live and recorded performance.

We know there are several more apps out there that can save us money, but you see now why we call it the Swiss-army knife of education. With it's ease of use, resourcefulness and versitility in apps, you can really do much more than was posted here (calculators? Translators? etc) but we wanted to focus on items our district has bought and may never buy again.

In the words of iYoda, "Many things can an iPad do"

(*price reflected is volume pricing)

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