I wrote this up for Matt a few weeks ago when he presented to academic council, but thought these points would be worth sharing with everyone (and getting push back if people disagree).
My thoughts on having an iPad this year...
1. It's fun to play with. Not surprisingly, the interface is sleek, clean, and easy to use. That said, I wouldn't want these facts to obscure the real question: will this help students learn more than spending $600 per student on something else? If not, will a class set help students learn more than spending $600x16 on something else?
2. This year I found having students using different platforms and different software suites to be somewhat challenging. If the ipad becomes yet another option for students, I worry that this will create an even greater challenge (for example, not a single dynamic geometry software program will run on the iPad yet, the advantage of the iPad being instant on is diminished if half the class still has laptops, etc).
3. I know there has been talk about getting class sets. I think the ipad is a very personal devise. One of my primary professional uses is as a tool to read blogs (I use MobileRSS), read personalized magazines (Zite, Flipboard, Pulse), and organize and store relevant documents, websites, and videos (ReaditLater, Evernote, InstaPaper, GoodReader, DropBox, & SugarSync). Many of these apps are either useless or lose much of their appeal if I were sharing an Ipad with others.
4. In some ways, the iPad is a fantastic organizational tool. On the other hand, keeping organized between mediums is a challenge. Are we just adding yet another medium (iPad, laptop, home desktop, notebook, binder, etc)?
4. I'm not very good at freehand drawing. Even short little margin notes are difficult for me to read. I might get better at this, but I personally would find a fine-tuned stylus to be helpful. Along these lines, this probably is not an appropriate tool to take notes in math classes for almost every kid (not that a personal computer is any better).
5. From a tech standpoint, I worry (although this is totally unsubstantiated) that troubleshooting iPads if things go wrong will be more difficult than troubleshooting pc's/macs. You just don't have the same administrative access.
6. As an additional expense for kids, I am curious how many 5th graders already have a laptop and how many already have an iPad. My guess is many have laptops (meaning no required additional expense) and few have iPads. Something to consider.
7. Yikes. All these sound so negative...on a plus side: the ipad takes much less time to boot, has a much longer battery life, and takes up much less room on a desk. Furthermore, there is a strong and growing library of apps that are evolving at a much faster rate than traditional software. They're also super cool (which I actually see as a pro and con. On the one hand, I have no problem taking advantage of mediums that get kids excited. On the other hand, if I need a dog and pony show maybe I need to be rethinking the content).