What makes the iPad a worthy addition to the classroom environment?
Current Situation
No device in itself transforms learning, effective and creative teaching does that. The iPad though is a new genre of device that offers educators and schools an opportunity to teach different and in the process transform teaching and learning within the classroom.
Desktop and Laptop computers have been in educational use since the early 1980’s and their form factor and method of operation has changed very little during this time. Given the issues that surround current models of technology in schools, we need to seriously assess their suitability to meet future educational needs.
The release of the iPad introduced a new type of device into the market, one which has roots in the future, not the past - with significant educational advantages. The 2011 Horizon Report K-12 rates mobile devices and cloud computing as the most significant technologies in education in the next 12 months – both of these features are already embedded in the iPad.
The iPad is not a laptop, netbook or a tablet but rather a totally different device. Traditional laptops have some functionality that an iPad does not match but similarly an iPad has functionality that a laptop cannot match.

Advantages for Educational Use over traditional devices
  1. Mobility - iPads are small and lightweight, making transporting much simpler and more manageable. It also means that iPads can more easily be passed around for group use.
  2. Battery Life - with 10 hours of battery life, iPads will easily last a full day without the need for recharging. There is no need for students to carry power cables and charging units around.
  3. Instant Access - start up and shut down times are instant. Students are connected and ready to work within seconds of opening the iPad. For the first time students have technology that is as easy to access as a book.
  4. Ease of Use - students find the intuitive feather touch interface very simple to adapt to. The on screen keyboard is both functional and effective.
  5. Adaptability- iPads work at any angle and in the student’s own space, which allows for versatility in our room layouts and break out opportunities. With an iPad learning can take place anywhere, anytime fully supporting flexible learning environments.
  6. Time saving - reduced technical dependence saves time for technicians and adds educational value with more access time for students.
  7. Space saving - the iPad takes up as much storage space as a book allowing classrooms to reclaim desk space formally allocated to desktop and laptop computers.
  8. Screen Quality - the LED screen provides clarity and image quality far superior to other device in this price range.
  9. Apps – rather than rely on commercial software with a large range of (mostly unused) features at a high cost, iPads use trimmer, task specific, cheap (sometines free) Apps that are created and supported by a large community of developers. Once purchased all future updates to the App are free.
  10. Fast Switching – Apps open and close almost instantly with every button press auto saved. Multitasking allows students to quickly switch between Apps.
  11. No Viruses – iPads use the IOS operating system which is virus free
  12. Works in the Cloud – this allows interaction between devices and the ability to share and transfer work in a variety of ways.

Classroom use of iPads
Many classrooms are well equipped with technology but, from observation, in many cases, for a variety of reasons, the equipment is not effectively used. The iPad challenges traditional computer use in classrooms by providing a more manageable and more engaging option. This has become evident through the positive comments from the Victorian trial (http://www.ipadsforeducation.vic.edu.au) of 500 iPads in schools and the growing number of schools committing to iPad roll outs.
iPads do not run the same software as traditional computers but we should not be teaching software. Instead we should be concentrating on the learning process within which iPads are highly creative devices capable of:
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  • eBook reading
  • web research
  • collaborating
  • presenting
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  • data collecting
  • art work
  • note taking
  • comic making
  • digital storytelling
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  • music creation
  • photography
  • video creation
  • podcasting
  • creativity
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  • audio recording
  • communication
  • blogging
  • publishing
Plus actions we wanted, had hoped for, not considered or even thought possible but will no doubt become available through development by the very large and increasing community of iPad users and app developers.

Management and Maintenance
iPads do not require the same level of technical support as laptops, they do not require imaging or virus protection. iPads all sync to a single computer and any issues that arise are generally solved by connecting the iPad to the Host computer and re-syncing it.
In schools, teachers tend to be in control of the iPads within their classrooms only requiring technical assistance in setting up the iPads for Internet access. In 1:1 situations students can be placed in charge of syncing and maintaining their own iPads. This frees school technicians from device management and allows then to concentrate on larger issues.

Conclusion
There is ever increasing evidence that the iPad is making a big impact in both the educational and business sectors (follow the Scoop.it link on the home page for the latest iPad news and developments). As such, many see the iPad as a catalyst for technological reform in education and a platform for innovative business practices.
The iPad isn't in the same category of use as a desktop or a laptop and whilst it won't duplicate all the functionality of those devices it does offer a range of new functionality not previously possible. Schools need to look at the functionality they require and if the iPad can meet those requirements then it's mobility, functionality and ease of use is hard to argue against as a personal student device.

Schools needs to be innovative when investing in the future of technology in our classrooms. More than an opportunity, investing in mobile technology, in which iPads are leading the field, is essential if we are to meet the educational needs of our students now and in the years to come.
Finally, just having iPads in the classroom won't achieve anything, it’s what you do with them and how they supported as part of the whole learning environment. Any technology needs to be integrated into the wider range of curriculum activities, not used as a stand alone tool working outside of everything that’s going on in the classroom. Very importantly, what the iPad does is open the door to new opportunities.