Making a Case for iPads

Within the next month or so, I along with two other administrators may be going to our board of education with a proposal to purchase iPads for our K-5 buildings. Specifically, we would be looking at four iPads per K-2 classroom and a mobile cart of 30 at grades 3-5

Here is our argument for “Why iPads” in contrast to laptops or desktops.

Elementary iPad Plan Rationale

Goal 1: Enhance learning through the use of software identified to meet the needs of the WRPS curriculum.

Goal 2: Exposure to mobile computing.

Goal 3: Share effective uses in the district.

Why iPads?

  1. Mobile
  2. Small
  3. Touchscreen
  4. Excellent tool for content creation:
  5. Wide array of educational apps and functionality.
  6. Highly engaging for younger students. They will pick this up before using a laptop or desktop.
  7. Integration of camera, photos, videos, annotating PDFs, etc – many critical technology tools in one device
  8. Can be used on the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  9. Can be used as an e-reader for reading.
  10. Basic keyboarding instruction.
  11. Currently used to teach the K-12 Technology Literacy curriculum in BYOC.
  12. Currently used as a tool for intervention, such as in speech and language. Lots of potential for Response to Intervention (RtI)
  13. Administrative support (each elementary principal has one to model learning)

Why not Desktops or laptops?

  1. Many legacy software programs will be obsolete (i.e. Breakthrough to Literacy) when we migrate to Windows 7. A need will exist to replace these programs. The iPad offers a wider array of inexpensive apps.
  2. Not mobile.
  3. More of a learning curve for younger kids. They innately know how to use an iPad.
  4. Computing power not quite as high of a need in elementary classrooms.

Questions to consider…

  • Would you agree with our assessment? If no, where does your thinking differ?
  • What would you add, delete or revise?
  • We haven’t focused on the how or the why as much as the what. Is that critical at this point in the implementation process, considering our audience?

Please share any insights in the comments. Feedback from my PLN is highly valued.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

4 thoughts on “Making a Case for iPads”

  1. Hi Matt, – this is a great list … and you have thought of some things I had not really put my finger on before, such as that it’s more engaging for younger students.

    I can think of at least four other (small) benefits of iPads:
    • Instant on/off is another significant benefit, with pedagogical implications. Most modern laptops can now be put to sleep rather than shut down altogether, which reduces start/end times … but even still it takes longer to open a laptop use it and put it away – so teachers tend to make a lesson of it – whereas iPads are more likely to be infused into lessons that are otherwise non-tehnological – such as a discussion.
    • Battery life is a killer advantage. Most students will make it through the day without needing to recharge. With laptops, you are going to need to consider additional power outlets, and will end up with power cords and adaptors all over the room. That also adds to the setup/pack up time.
    • A laptop takes more desk real estate. If you watch kids using a laptop, they will typically clear a space on their desk for the laptop – whereas they will tend to use an iPad above whatever else they are doing. You will also often see kids using an iPad while standing – not so with laptops.
    • laptops are more visually intrusive. I always feel awkward having a laptop open at a meeting – because I am aware that now everyone in the meeting is looking at me over the top of my display. If everyone in the meeting has a laptop – I think, subconsciously perhaps, it feels like they have barriers up. It’s like talking to someone whose arms are crossed across his chest. An iPad is quite different to that. It lays almost flat on the table, and people will often have it off to the side – it’s a much less intrusive object in a group situation. I think that has implications in the classroom, too.

    Anyway thanks for sharing your thoughts! – all the best with convincing the board!


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    1. All great points Andrew. Thank you for sharing on my post. Instructional time and flow is critical in classrooms. You accurately describe how the iPad seems to be a much nicer fit for this process.


  2. Hi Matt,
    I’m in a similar boat, but just in the beginning stages of making a plan. Are you buying iPads or iPad minis? In grades 3-5 – are they getting 1 cart per grade? Were teachers a part of this process at all?

    We don’t have any iPads in the elementary level right now. I’d like to do a pilot next year in various classrooms and have teachers fill out an application form to be part of this pilot. Questions that I’m asking myself at the moment:

    -What should be the purpose of our pilot? To increase student engagement? To increase student achievement? To support teachers with differentiation (which is going to be evaluated on the new teacher evaluation system coming to our state)? I want to be able to tie this to district goals.

    -Should we pilot regular iPads and minis? How about iPod touches? Should we bring Chromebooks in the mix? I feel it’s important to have teachers included in the decision-making process for future purchases, but what would that look like as a pilot?

    -How many devices per classroom should we pilot? I just attended a workshop where 2nd grade teachers piloted 6 iPads per class plus a teacher iPad. In another workshop, I learned about another district who piloted 3 iPads per class.

    Looking forward to hearing about the results of your proposal. Happy holidays!


    1. Brooke,

      These are all questions that I had or still have. The critical thing is we are asking these questions before throwing technology into classrooms.

      What I found helpful was initially introducing iPads only to interested staff. They were expected to meet after school for trainings and share their learning with colleagues. This created a lot more interest and ownership, once we went to full implementation – this year, all teachers have iPads for instruction and intervention. It wasn’t a mandate initially.

      I don’t know what the best set up is for classrooms and number of iPads for students. I have heard 1:1, 1:4, mobile cards for a department or grade level. What I believe is more important is how we use them with students. For the past year, I have provided professional development to show how to use these devices for higher level thinking activities. The SAMR and TPACK frameworks are how we have put technology integration into context.

      I don’t know if this helps. At any rate, your questions have been helpful in clarifying my own thinking.


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