iPads: a necessary evil or a game changer?


Laura Plata

Kate Lahey (15), Derek Thomas (15) and Jacob Gordan (15) in AP Chemistry using their iPads to do work.

Laura Plata, Features Editor


As of 2014, iPads have been issued district wide to all students in D211. The pilot program that began two years ago has now taken full flight so that every student this year will have the much welcomed addition of an iPad in their backpack.

The district, as well as teachers who back the decision, believe that the introduction of iPads increases creativity, sharing of information, and wider access to resources in the classroom than ever before.

Of course, there have been mixed reactions by both teachers and students alike. Madame Melbou of the World Language department was admittedly,  “a bit nervous about the upcoming year” but also believes “discoveries are made with more readily available information.”

However, according to studies done by Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at any given time. Multitasking has actually been proven to actually reduce productivity up to 40%. Let us remember, however, that correlation does not equal causation. We might as well blame the Polar Vortex for the dip in AP tests if that were the case–I’m looking at you College Board.

Personally, I have a mixed reaction to our new 1:1 program as well. While my inner sociologist loves the fact that the District is trying to bridge socioeconomic disparities that have been proven to cripple academic success by ensuring that at least everyone has access to technology, I’m not quite buying in yet.

As co-author Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics wrote, “A nicer house doesn’t improve math or reading scores any more than nicer sneakers make you jump higher.”

How much then can we expect a really nice tablet to improve student success?

My one major inhibition concerning iPads is that I feel they have become a glorified cellphone. Yes, iPads do allow one access to a wealth of knowledge. There are apps for learning new languages, creating music, and learning how to cook (for all of us who can only boil water) but more often than not I see it being used for games or social networking. And there’s nothing wrong with Twitter or Injustice, but doesn’t such a powerful tool like the one I’ve been given have the potential to do so much more?

As someone who had an iPad last year,  I understand the downward spiral that comes from getting sucked into a favorite app. I’d click on an album and then it would be  two hours later and I’d still have a stack of  homework staring me down.

It’s partly for that reason that I’ve decided to stick to pen and paper for all of my classes this year.

I realized the hard way that there’s just too much temptation on my device to keep me focused for six hours straight. And maybe that’s the most valuable lesson I can learn before going off to college: I need to learn how and when to restrict myself.  At the same time, I’ve come to appreciate how  awesome it is that I can spend my senior year with the world literally at my fingertips.

My only plea is that there first be some better instruction on how iPads can be used as an educational tool directed personally at students.

And then let the creativity follow.