Education departments go wild for the iPad


Schools and universities right around Australia have jumped headfirst into trials of Apple’s hyped iPad tablet as they rush to discover exactly what the device’s use will be in the educational field — sometimes with the support of their overarching education departments, and sometimes without.

Western Australia’s Department of Education and Training revealed this week that some schools in the state were displaying an increased interest in iPads and tablet devices, purchasing the handheld computers independently to trial in various education programs.

“The department does not have a policy on the use of iPads or Android-based technology at this stage, however some schools have bought tablet devices to trial in various settings,” said departmental chief information officer Bevan Doyle. “There appears to be a level of interest in this technology for educational use.”

The department said that Kinross College, Ashdale Secondary College, Ballajura Community College and John Curtin College of the Arts were examples of schools that had already purchased iPads to test out.

In Victoria, the Brumby Labor state government got on the bandwagon early, announcing plans to buy 500 iPads for trials throughout the state soon after the iPad launched in Australia in late May. Those devices have made their way into seven schools in the state.

The University of Adelaide jumped into the handheld computer revolution headfirst last week when it was announced last week that students who enroll in science degrees will receive a free iPads. And Education Queensland is also trialling “handheld computers”, although it has not yet confirmed whether its trial involved iPads.

Western Australia’s Doyle said the department had no “central buying arrangement for iPads”, although pending further interest from schools official movements would be made — such as seeking optimal pricing on the devices. Typically schools will purchase technology through centralised panels designed to drive economies of scale.

Doyle said that the department had laptops and desktops purchase guidelines in place to steer public school purchases in the area — adding that iPads and other tablet devices were within those bounds. The WA department maintains a student to computer ratio base in public schools — institutions receive technology funding to maintain the ratio base of 1:5 for secondary schools and 1:10 for primary schools.

“Schools are able to use the remaining funds for other technologies including iPads, and of course schools can supplement the funding from other sources,” said Doyle. “It is important to make sure schools’ technology can be accommodated and supported within our standard operating environment. WA schools are “strongly encouraged” to open discussion with the departing before venturing into technology acquisitions.

The Queensland Government confirmed that a dozen “small” schools are involved in a trial where “handheld” computers – and other devices such as computers, data loggers, MP3 recorders and USB microscopes — are used as education tools to compliment and enhance science classes.

In addition, an unconfirmed number of secondary and primary schools are trialling the handheld devices in other fields literacy, maths, reading, writing, English as a second language and special needs classes.

“Handheld computers in schools are being used for individual and small group activities where students interact with educational apps,” David O’Hagan, Assistant Director-General Information and Technologies for the state’s Department of Education and Training. “The devices are small and portable which makes them easy to use for educational activities that take place outside the classroom and on field trips.”

“Technology doesn’t replace what students learn, but it can transform how they learn and this is critical in an education system that seeks to engage students every day,” he added. “As new devices become available the department will review these products, their manageability, and their appropriateness for teaching and learning,” said O’Hagan.

QLD’s Department of Education and Training was asked to elaborate what the “handheld” computers were, but did not confirm further details by the time of publication.

But not every department is as keen on the new technology.

The Tasmanian Department of Education’s official stance on iPads or similar devices is that not enough time time has passed to give the technology serious consideration. “As the technology of iPads is so new, the Department of Education has not yet had a chance to consider their potential use in the department or in schools,” said a departmental spokesperson.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Training could not comment on possible future plans of iPads and tablet devices until a new CIO is in place. Former DET CIO Stephen Wilson resigned in June to join Qantas’ technology team.

While in the DET position, Wilson was not interested in considering the iPad as an education device. In May he said that the tablet is “a wonderful consumption and entertainment device” but it was limited in its capacity as a useful educational tool and would not provide students with practical workforce skills.

Image credit: Josh Liba, Creative Commons


  1. “WA schools are “strongly encouraged” to open discussion with the departing before venturing into technology acquisitions.”

    Discussions with the departing… does anyone know where they’re going? ;)

    “In May he said that the tablet is “a wonderful consumption and entertainment device” but it was limited in its capacity as a useful educational tool and would not provide students with practical workforce skills.”

    Crap. I’m a teacher, and I can see plenty of exciting ways to encourage learning (including “practical workforce skills”) using a device like the iPad. It’s much less “limited” than a whiteboard.

    • We started using an iPad in our classroom this month and discovered that the technology is totally different – you are not able to project what is on the screen as you can with a laptop; thus, it is limited as a teaching device. If you want to project what is on the screen of an ipad (or ipod) and it is not a video or photo slideshow, you would need to use your Document Camera and that is not as satisfying as it would seem.

  2. Many of the major criticisms of the iPad as an educational tool (seen in discussions of US educational institutions picking them up during their mid-year summer break for rollout this current semester) seem aimed at criticism of the iPad itself – that students will be learning how to use an iPad, and that won’t translate into useful skills in the workplace.

    That’s an extremely outdated look at computing devices that belongs in the early 1980s, where computing was taught in order to learn how to use a computer. Even comp.sci research in the 1960s and earlier saw computers as better than that, as devices to allow people to access assets THROUGH the computer, through the network.

    Devices like the iPad aren’t meant to be useful to learners on their own, they’re a simple, useful, and very easy to grasp portal to allow students to access… anything, really.

    No student has or learns how to use a pen, exercise book, folder or specific textbook in order to use pens, exercise books, folders and those same textbooks in the workplace, those are the tools of education, tools to use for learning. My parents learned with fountain pens, ink pots, and butcher’s paper – those tools allowed them to learn skills they used all through their lives until their retirement, even though they’ve not used the tools themselves for near on 50 years.

    That’s where computing’s zenith (for now) in the realm of accessibility has provided the iPad and devices like it. It may well be that none of today’s students will use the iPad in their post-education life as managers, athletes, scientists, designers etc, but it certainly has a place in helping to get them there.

  3. We’re running an iPad pilot with around 70 units in the wild right now (50 to a group of students and 20 to staff), and I find it incredible that someone fails to see at *least* the potential of these devices to assist students in learning.

    At minimum the concept of converting one or more large heavy textbooks into a lightweight alternative could be considered, but the fact that most students have already got or used an iOS based device means that theres little to no need to train them how the tech works. They can get straight onto the main purpose of using them to assist in the job at hand.

    I’m not saying that iPads are a foregone conclusion, but to decide they’re not practical without some decent assessment reminds me of a toddler who decides he doesn’t like the taste of a food he’s never even tried.

    Last week a pioneer of 1:1 programs visited us and spoke to our staff. He shared his wisdom with us on many facets of technology in classrooms. If you’re interested you can see a little more about it from two different perspectives at or

  4. It should be an option. I use computers everyday, and have to fight badly written software all the time. The inflexibility of software today is for me the most limiting factor. After all these things require a PC anyway to be 100% functional, and you all are assuming Apple will be around another 10 years.

    If you were to even consider it not complimenting, but entirely replacing, I would at least go for something a lot more open. The walled garden series of devices will lock you down more than a traditional publisher could ever. Then If you are not careful, your whole country’s education is dependent on one technology company. A company I should remind you that is not even Australian, and that could mean less of a say in any matter later on. Keep those in mind as you go forward.

    • How would that be different from how Microsoft dominated the industry for the last 20 yrs? Who is stopping Microsoft or anyone else from competing in this market?

    • Apple not around in ten years? Hilarious! Apple is now the biggest tech firm in the world, with the highest satisfaction ratings in the industry by far. You don’t need a PC to use an iPad, it supersedes them and is far faster than 95% of PCs made today, so you clearly haven’t used one. And a walled garden? That’s pure nonsense, the iPad is more open than most platforms… anyone can develop for it, students can do so for free, for everyone else it costs $100. The iPad only uses open standards so there is no lock in, all textbooks are in the ePub format, so you can move them anywhere. The era of the PC is over, so “William”… look into a products features and benefits before you post mis-information. You can learn how the iPad works here:

  5. 7 schools out of 9500 in Australia does NOT mean iPad crazy. There are probably plenty of other tablets they are considering too. You maybe have been drinking the Apple Coolaid WAYY too long.

    • Well, there aren’t any tablets on the horizon to consider. All competitors have given up for now since they can’t build something with the iPad features for less than $799. So Apple will end up with around 70% share of the tablet market since they are more experienced in software and hardware than anyone else. So you might want to do some research before you post, nobody is going to catch up to the original iPad for at least 4 years.

  6. “A company I should remind you that is not even Australian…”
    If we relied only on Australian technologies in our schools, then we wouldn’t have any computers at all!

  7. The comment about open platforms is correct. Android based tablets would be a much better fit for schools. Cheaper, easier to customise, have flash support, able to be locked down more easily than an iPad. This means all schools will now need iTunes installed, with all the abuse that can go along with that. Useful technology in schools is great, but tech for the sake of tech is stupid and pointless. Just remember if these kids don’t learn proper mathematics with pen and paper, they won’t be able to program anything on these devices. Reducing a backpack load is one thing but this is $900-1000+ per student, surely there are cheaper/better alternatives for schools. Why lock into a vendor that is known for being both more closed and more expensive than all their competitors?

    • Except Android is like Linux so it wouldn’t be usable in a school situation, it’s not consistent enough so that’s why everyone with Android phones hates them. Comparable Android tablets will be much more expensive too, some people are overlooking that. Yes, it’s much easier to program on iPads and it’s more open and free. You can get started here:

    • The thing is: there are NO droid tablets now, they are still vaporware. There are iPads and windows tablets that have a minuscule market and they are antiques. You keep talking and discussing the benefits of anything but Apple whose iPad has been real for months, has sold millions of the thing to schools, business, developers that are finding new uses daily, now, for real. Only those with knowledge of the iPad, weather they own them or work with them should even comment on this and other articles like this sharing an experience and not a feeling or baseless beliefs.

  8. Remember though that technology has to come from some multinational corporation anyway, and Android for being ‘open’ is still based on and heavily developed by a corporation (Google) which has been around for a lot less time than Apple, and who does not have a relatively long history in supporting the education market, not to mention that their revenue is based on advertising. Apple’s pride and revenue comes from creating and selling devices and software that goes with it, which is what our teachers and students benefit from. Also remember that educators will get get a special volume price from Apple not only for hardware (the *retail* price of the pad starts at $629, not 1000+) but for software also, and there is already special considerations in place for distributing apps to devices in schools, to ease system administration tasks. This integration and commitment to education is more than can be said any open android devices (what IS the android solution right now?). Also, the device isn’t about learning math in order to be able to program on these devices – you’re making the same thoughts which were debunked with the comment above about computer being in a school to teach kids how to use a computer, not to learn and interact with content.

  9. What happens when new version of IPad arrives? Will Apple still support this version 5 years from now?

    Apple open? What about flash?

    If you do not need to use pc, how do you plan to put new stuff on IPad? Or will it be read only?


    • Yes, Apple tends to support their products for about 20 years, so they are the best for schools, businesses and homes. Flash is a proprietary format, so Apple can’t use it, they have to use fully open standards. The iPad is fully wireless, so you can add or delete anything you want without need for a PC and since it has such huge strorage you can store 1,000’s of books, programs, games etc even on the most basic model. And since it’s a cloud device unlimited storage is also available. The iPad is wonderful and points the way to how everything will work in 10 years.

      • 1) “Flash is a proprietary format, so Apple can’t use it, they have to use fully open standards.”
        If Adobe Flash is proprietary, then why is Google using it? Is it because Google likes to double dip and Apple is just as secretive with their iOS? Wait I forgot Adobe flash is a popular tool and that at least 30% of the websites worldwide uses flash in one form or another and yet apple can’t see beyond the fact that they can’t double dip if they want open standards and not yet have that available for its own proprietary OS? Didn’t Apple tried to make a clone of adobe’s flash?

        Not long afterwards giving flash a little leeway after hearing “more than two years of complaints from developers about the company’s secret and seemingly capricious rules, which block some programs from the store and hence Apple’s popular iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices.”. So the walled garden concept was really nonsence as you described “And a walled garden? That’s pure nonsense, the iPad is more open than most platforms… anyone can develop for it, students can do so for free, for everyone else it costs $100.”

        Let’s not forget the legendary battle between an Apple devloper and Apple over an application named Podcaster:

        2) “The iPad is wonderful and points the way to how everything will work in 10 years.”
        Actually no, iPad is a techological device which as we all know very well that it will be outdated in a matter of months or at least superceded by a much better version. It will only create a burden for large entities and especially in public sector (public schools I am talking about here) will be hit hard the most as taxpayers ultimately have to foot the bill for the upkeep of such devices.

        In 10 years time, iPad v1 will be a very old piece of antique technology and potentially holographic techology will take its place.

        I do admit that for now iPad does seem to be a nice piece of hardware for schools and businesses but the techology trends will grow faster than what one can assume let alone estimate. What was once at least a year for new techology to appear now seems like a few months or less.

        F.Y.I. Ted, you have lots of F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) in your response that I don’t have enough time to go through the ramifications and cross referencing each hence, needless to say that you are a fanboy of Apple yourself. I am not here to nitpick on what you say neither do I fully support Google’s Android myself (I am using Nokia N900 as we speak) but there are things you really need to double-check yourself before you criticise others of fanboyism. Linux itself has considerably matured quickly over a short period of time frame compared to the likes of Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh, so much so they exist almost everywhere (in servers, supercomputers, embedded devices, SOHO routers, etc). The era of PC will never be over considering how Apple too dropped their IBM’s PPC CPU in favour of Intel x86 platform on their desktop range.

        • It’s not only that Flash is 100% proprietary, is it was designed for Desktops with Mouse input, so it kills the batteries of tablets and doesn’t understand a finger or “touch” based action. That’s why no tablet makers will offer it, it simply doesn’t work on modern devices. The iOS is mostly open source, you can download it for free and make changes, it’s like Linux & Android in that regard. You are thinking of Windows which is 100% proprietary, but Apple is 90% open. Google: OS X Darwin — click on the 2d link, have fun.

          No, the iPad is the future of all personal computing, but yes, you will hear screams for about 10 years until everyone gets it. It was the same with the Apple ][, same with the Mac, but people need to remember Apple sets all the rules for computing, everyone else simply follows 5, 10 years later with a 60% “kludge”. No, the iPad won’t be superseded by Apple for about 20 years, Apple casts things in stone so they work well for decades without the need for replacement. That’s why Schools, Homes and Businesses prefer Apple equipment since they provide the best value for money spent. Yes, holographic technology is already working on the iPad, so the hardware is already in place, no changes are needed to the base device. Check it out:

          Yes, but Linux, Nokia and others will never be used on a mass scale, Apple has sewn up 70% of the tablet market, so let’s just use the best and not try and spend extra money to “kinda try” to make something as advanced as the iPad. So stop the hate “tuxsavvy” and go with the flow…

      • The issue about having no Flash is over-rated. Flash was never designed for touch interface. When your Flash application has “mouse-over” functionality, it will not work on a touch-screen tablet, no matter what OS.
        HTML5 is the future. Even Microsoft knows that.

  10. Flash is not open either, it’s owned and controlled by Adobe. That aside, it runs like a dog on mobile devices (see some youtube demos of it running on Android!), and therefore developers aren’t interested in making apps with it for mobile devices. It’s also being shown that the best mobile apps are constructed specifically around a mobile paradigm, not one size fits all flash apps. Even websites are offering mobile device friendly HTML websites (without flash!) crafted entirely for the screen size and interaction model.

  11. Introducing technology into the classroom is just a natural step considering the technological advances of the last 10 years.. They will only be used to assist teachers and students.. There are so many applications to utilizing this technology in the classrooms.. Most of these students are familiar with these technology from the home.. Why not tie it into the classroom as well. As for the teachers, they are bogged down with so many additional tasks that technology is a wonderful tool for them to track reports, students, curriculum etc…
    This kind of technology should excite all

  12. The article is not very insightful, but the comments are VERY worthwhile.
    It’s clear, from the comments section, that iPad by Apple is clearly the proper choice for education.

  13. Wow, I like Apple in general and my iPad has been a good purchase, but some of the pro Apple comments here are borderline religious fanatical.
    Flash runs perfectly well on android, my HTC desire has no trouble unless i try to play high bit rate stuff that would even struggle to run on my laptop, also the jail broken iPads run standard rate flash media fine.

    “The article is not very insightful, but the comments are VERY worthwhile.
    It’s clear, from the comments section, that iPad by Apple is clearly the proper choice for education”

    Sometimes it’s embarrassing to be labelled an Apple user.

    • Agreed, I wasn’t even going to say it since it’s so obvious but I can’t leave ya hangin!
      I can smell the Fan boys from here.

  14. It suprises me that the same department taht refuses to update from ie 6 and refuses to provide schools with windows 7 licencing will allow schools to go out purchasing tablet pcs willy nilly

    • But keep in mind Microsoft products are difficult and VERY expensive to update on existing hardware. Microsoft doesn’t have a lot of programming skills, (they’re mainly a law firm) so to move away from IE6 will break internal education websites since they don’t use standards. And to go to Win7 will mean new hardware since Microsoft doesn’t understand how to keep older hardware running like Apple does. The iPad is very inexpensive, far faster and obviously has more features that the installed PCs the education department currently has in place. It’s a “clean break”, so it allows them to fade out the PCs for iPads, then everyone is more educated and happy.

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