Apple's iPad Joins the 6th Grade: A Novelty or the Next Big Idea?

Schools embrace Apple's iPad as teaching tool, but some express concerns.

ByABC News
June 15, 2010, 4:46 PM

June 16, 2010— -- It's the must-have tech gadget of the moment, coveted by the biggest names in Hollywood, media, politics and finance.

But this fall, the Apple iPad will find itself in smaller hands.

As educators across the country try to keep pace with technology, Apple's new tablet will be boarding the school bus and carried into to classroom -- the latest teaching tool for schools willing to foot the bill.

But even though it's touted as the next big thing by some educators, others say the high-tech iPad just might not be ready to replace old-fashioned textbooks, pens and paper.

Stephen Repsher, headmaster of the private Sacramento Country Day School in California, said that come fall, every sixth grader in his middle school will be given an iPad, at no extra cost to their parents.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of educational apps for the iPad," he said. "We found that there are so many [that] we felt there was a tremendous opportunity to bridge the gap between the traditional pen and paper and textbook and laptop."

Using capital funds, he said the school administration agreed to purchase the devices for each of the 40 rising 6th graders. (The iPads start at $499, but he said the school received a $30 discount per unit.) If all goes well, they'll roll it out to the older grades as well.

Students will use the sleek tablets to develop reports, conduct research, read e-books and study. For example, using a flash card application, they could study for tests. They could also hook up the iPad to a projector and easily share a multimedia presentation with the class, he said.

"It's just another tool in the quiver of tools that educators use to help children understand and learn and develop critical skills as they move toward college," he said.

In Racine, Wisc., St. Catherine's High School also plans to give each of its sixth and seventh graders an iPad when its new middle school opens this fall. If all goes according to plan, all students and teachers in grades 6-12 will use iPads instead of textbooks by 2012.