Even Apple is acknowledging that the “iPads in education” fad is coming to an end

Classroom help or hindrance?
Classroom help or hindrance?
Image: AP Photo/Morry Gash
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“A disaster.”

“Largely gaming devices.”

“Students use them as toys. Word processing is near to impossible.”


These were the findings from a survey of high school students and teachers in a district in the US state of Maine on how effective iPads were for learning and teaching. Almost 90% of teachers and 74% of students preferred laptops over tablets, according to the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.

Even Apple has bent to the will of students and teachers. Following the poll, the tech giant and Maine’s Department of Education are now offering schools in the state the chance to trade in iPads ordered in 2013 for new MacBook Air laptops, at no additional cost.

“If we had known how big a transition it would have been [to switch] from laptops to iPads we would have proactively done some good work with teachers to make the transition easier for them,” Mike Muir, the policy director of the Maine Learning Through Technology Initiative, told Quartz.

Muir said that Apple was “disappointed” by the survey’s results. According to one of the teachers surveyed, tablets provided “no educational function in the classroom.” More than 1,700 laptops will be delivered to two schools in the state later this year. (We have reached out to Apple for comment.)

Integrating technology and learning has been a bumpy ride. Last year, a school district in Los Angeles, the second-largest in the United States, aborted a plan to hand out iPads to every student and educator in the area. Launched in 2013, the $1.3-billion project was marked by poor planning and technical glitches. Other districts in Texas and North Carolina have also shelved their iPad learning initiatives.

One teacher in Virginia thought giving her third graders an iPad would enhance their learning, but found that, for all the device’s benefits in terms of adding more varied activities to lessons, it undermined her pupils’ conversation and communication skills.

It seems the iPad’s fortunes in the classroom are mimicking its fortunes in its shops.

In what was a record three months for Mac sales, iPad sales dropped to their lowest level since June 2011 in the fourth quarter of last year. Apple CEO Tim Cook hasn’t stopped believing there’s life in the tablet yet—the company launched an extra-large iPad Pro in September (and a 9.7-inch version earlier this year), dubbing it ”the biggest news in iPad since iPad.”