iPad for Students: Count the Cost

<p>If you're a student or teacher thinking about getting an iPad, there are some things you need to consider.&nbsp;</p>

Check out these two articles:

Students test-drive iPads

How the iPad wants to be used

The bottom line is that the iPad is not meant to be a laptop replacement.  While it's certainly fun to use, it's not the best tool for gathering research or writing papers... even if you get the wireless keyboard.  I can think of two reasons.  First, it is a one-window-at-a-time device (imagine writing a paper while citing a website.)  Second, your finger is not as accurate as the arrow of a mouse.  Backtracking to correct a typing error can be rather tedious.

As Speirs said, the iPad is much closer to an iPod touch than a MacBook.  If you try to force it into the role of a laptop, you'll be greatly disappointed.  He also notes it is an intimate device meant to be configured to the liking of one individual, not passed from person to person.  This reminds me of the statistic that 19% of households with an iPad plan on buying another.  Trust me, it's not fun to share an iPad!

But wait, there is hope!  While the iPad certainly lets down those looking for a cheap laptop, it delights several other groups of people.  I have several clients who are part of the generation who did not grow up with computers, nor have they ever owned a computer.   For them, the iPad is their first "computer."  And you know what?  They love it!  These people are not distracted by the UI and are less prone to making mistakes.

And while the iPad will not be replacing your laptop any time soon, it makes a tremendous supplement, filling in gaps previously ignored by other devices.  For example, it's quite a powerful e-reader; able to download books from almost every e-publisher: Apple, Amazon, Barns & Noble, Google, Accordance, etc.  Newspapers, RSS readers, and Twitter clients let you feel up to date with current topics as they occur.  The iPad's brilliant screen makes your photo portfolio pop, and videos become immersive.

Yes, I have been disappointed by the iPad. But that's simply because my expectations were too narrow.  If you want a powerful e-reader, gaming device, or couch computer, go grab an iPad.  Or better yet, start saving up for the one coming out in a couple months.

Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.