I got the comment below on the About page, but thought it merited a post; I was going to address this at some point anyway, so figured I’d do it now:

“How do you prevent students from playing games? We deployed iPads to al students grades 9-12. A few teachers are having difficulties keeping students from this.”

This is a common question / problem. The difficult part is that the answer probably won’t be satisfying. The iPads are a paradigm shift, and that means that teachers have to redefine some of their approaches / philosophies, both in terms of planning classes and in terms of classroom management.

First, the technical side. There is of course LanSchool, the application that allows teachers to monitor student computer use. I don’t know a ton about LanSchool, but my understanding is that it was designed for laptop use, and has now expanded to limited iPad use; teachers can use an iPad to monitor student computer use, and can monitor some apps on student iPads. Beyond LanSchool, I know of no other way to monitor student iPad use other than simply walking around the classroom. I imagine, though, that monitoring iPads more carefully must be on LanSchool’s to do list.

Now for the philosophical side. Your teachers likely won’t appreciate this, but here’s what I say: don’t demonize the device. It’s not the iPad’s fault that students are distracted. If they didn’t have iPads, they’d likely be doodling, or staring out the window, or talking to friends, or any other number of ways to distract themselves. The iPad might make the distraction more fun but it doesn’t create the need for distraction; that is endemic to the student and/or the class itself (perhaps difficult to hear but true). On the other hand, as distractions go, the iPad is helpful. If a student is going to be distracted one way or another (and that’s an assumption I’m making for certain students), the iPad in my experience is a considerably less distracting distraction, i.e. it holds their attention and doesn’t involve other students.If a student is going to be distracted, he/she shouldn’t take others down with him.

Classes also need to be planned differently: they either incorporate the iPad or they don’t. If they don’t, the teacher is well within his/her rights to have iPads away. If the lesson incorporates the iPads, then they obviously should be hands on and developed such that the iPad is being used. More problematic, of course, is the incidental / everyday use of the iPad. Many of my students use it to take notes (some even use their iPhone), an approach I wholeheartedly endorse. But it means that iPads are / can be out when they’re not explicitly being used, which leads to a greater potential for abuse. But, I wouldn’t want to punish those that are using the iPad appropriately.

To sum up, it might just be one of those problems that the teacher has to accept as part of having the iPads, but for me it’s not an awful problem (because it’s a relatively focused and individual distraction) and it’s not a new problem (because students were distracted before the iPad and will be distracted after the iPad).

Love to hear what people think. This is a thorny issue to say the least.