The iPad: Valuable Technology or Procrastination Rectangle?

ipad for education
photo courtesy of apple. found at http://dkreiss.blogspot.com/2012/04/prepare-to-be-schooled-with-these.html

My iPad, like many others, usually gets used as an oversized gaming console, and as a student I mostly used my tablet as a way to look busy while putting off writing that seven page paper due tomorrow. Deep down inside though, I know that there is potential for it to be a significant educational resource. (Blog posts like this one confirm my suspicions.) So for the sake of posterity, I decided to find out what I had been missing out on and share it with the world.

While looking for a way to turn my extremely expensive touch screen game into a valuable piece of educational technology, I was at first overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available in the education section of the app store. It seemed as though I was going to get lost sifting through apps designed for small children. However, I soon realized that this browsing was drawing me in towards the educational apps that did fall within my interests and some that were even a little outside my usual English major curriculum.

The key to the educational benefit of the iPad is the massive availability of free apps in subjects as diverse as astronomy, neuroscience, foreign language, and literature. A couple that stood out to me were Shakespeare:

Shakespeare app

an app that includes the entire body of Shakespeare’s work for free. And then there’s Duolingo:

Duolingo app

an app where you can learn several different foreign languages through daily training. I downloaded Duolingo onto my iPad and started brushing up on my extremely rusty Spanish; something I wouldn’t have done if I had had to pay for a computer program that did the same thing. The magic of the app store is that a lot of the top apps are free, and that simply isn’t the case for programs for your laptop. The touch screen interface is also fun and makes many of the apps more interactive than they might be on your computer. Many of us are willing to try out educational apps, but in all honesty wouldn’t be willing to actually pay money for them, so this makes the iPad a particularly helpful aid in finding new and engaging ways to keep learning. Not to mention, if I had had access to the Shakespeare app my sophomore year I would have saved about $120 on the hard copies of the complete works of Shakespeare.

As a recent graduate, I particularly appreciate the opportunity to choose what I learn more about (for free!) now that I’m not in class all the time focusing on my specific major. Especially now that my laptop is dead (may it eternally rest in peace) all I have is my iPad, so I have to learn how to use it for everyday tasks that I would have once used my laptop for. It turns out it’s not that hard; the iPad has great potential to be as useful for education as it is for recreation. I’m still working on finding a good word processing app. Any suggestions?

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