Is it Necessary that Every Student Takes Exams on iPad?


More schools in various states of the USA are joining the One-to-One iPad program. Accompanying excited school children, counties and states are asking for millions and even billions of dollars to purchase enough iPads for everyone. In the UK, a number of schools are also starting to follow the American practice.

On Jan. 18, the Telegraph in the UK reported that the head of a Hove Park School in Sussex gave a positive feedback on the school's iPad program. Hove Park School is one of the few British schools that give each student an iPad. The school paid 40% of the cost for the iPads, while parents paid for the rest.

Derek Trimmer, the school official responsible for the iPad program, believed that the iPad has changed both the pupils' and the teachers' performance. He has concluded four benefits brought by the iPad to students: First, it enables disadvantaged students to engage more in studies; Second, with an iPad, parents have the chance to be truly involved in their children's taking-home works (for example, taking photos), which is the most revolutionary idea of iPad in education according to Trimmer; third, iPad is such a swift and quick-responding tablet that it saves students from waiting for school or family computers to boot up; last, learning apps installed enables students to get instant results, responses, and feedback from peers and teachers.

"In terms of education, I think it's a game changer," said Trimmer.

While the idea of presenting each student with an iPad is still fresh and exciting to British educators, their American counterparts have experienced quite some annoyances with the implementation of the One-to-One iPad program. In Los Angeles, the board of Education finally approved a 115-million fund requirement from school officials for iPad purchasing after repeated controversies and arguments. In Maryland, schools are also asking for one billion dollars to fully equip themselves with enough iPads for the coming new Common Core tests that demand students be tested on tablets in 2015. The Washington Post extracted words from some of the counties' assessments, in which Calvert said that it would take at least 2 years to install and set up wireless infrastructure, while Prince George's complained that the county would be short of enough technical support staff for all schools.

(PhotoMark Boster, L.A. Times)

Equipping every child with a tablet device in an era of high-tech is certainly not a bad idea to blame, but when it comes to millions and even billions of dollars for that, no one can take it easy. Does it worthwhile indeed to require all students to take exams on iPad with the question types unchanged (say, multiple choices)? A reader "ICallShenanigans" commented on the website of the Washington Post: "This is a disaster waiting to happen. Where's that cash coming from? We can't even keep schools fully staffed and yet we're going to come up with $100M? What about the poorer schools with no tech infrastructure?" These questions are truly waiting to be answered in front of education experts, school officials, board heads, and everyone in the country. Even if the states are wealthy enough to pay all the cash demanded and poor kids are also given iPads, next question will be the bandwidth capacity, and so on.

Another reader made a challenging voice on the L.A. Times' website: "They are spending a billion dollars for something that will be outdated in three years!" He (or she) is right, too. iPhone 1 first came out in 2007. Now it is 2014 and iPhone 6 is about to be revealed. The first generation of iPad was released in 2010, and within 3 years there have been iPad 1, iPad 2, iPad Mini and iPad Air. Moreover, it is inarguable that Apple's products have made a great revolution in the industries of IT technology and led to the extinction of non-smart devices, but who can tell what the next product is that will lead to the farewell of Apple? Schools are spending numerous sums of money on a device which has a fairly short life, whilst the teaching idea remains unchanged following the traditional education model.

An iPad is a good tool for students, but currently there is no sound reason for schools and states to hurry to have it replace the traditional teaching and testing methods in such a hasty manner. After all, the core of education lies in teaching children how to learn, rather than how to use a tablet.

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