I am currently researching whether iPads would make sens to have as a learning tool in my school. I know there are great apps for practice, but my question is do we really need a $600 machine for drill and practice? I am looking to find if there are way thay can be used for active learners and that is where I need help finding solutions. I do have to admit that the iPads are ready to go, no waiting to to boot up, and they are easier to navigate for the younger students since they are more intuitive.
I think you've hit the nail on the head Shelly. We should think about what input devices tablets have to offer for educational purposes, since education is about collaborating, creating and contributing as much as it is about consuming:
Touch screen - A very good replacement for mouse input.
Virtual keyboard - OK for occasional short messages but not for extended, i.e. engaged, writing.
Microphone - Android tablets should be OK for mic input* but since iPad 2s don't support Flash, you can't use any voice recording web services unless they specifically offer an iPad 2 app to download and install.
Video camera - See microphone.
iPad 1 doesn't have any cameras or mics and attaching additional hardware is non-standard and therefore tends to be expensive.
You'll find that most learners have MP3/MP4 players and/or mobile phones, the majority of which can work as dictaphones out of the box. Many phones can also do video recording with audio. I've successfully run quite advanced projects where learners use their own hardware. You just have to be prepared to be flexible and adapt to what's available and what works.
* Someone else on this forum reported problems with Flash getting access to the microphone. It could be a setting or it may be a bug. This is very new technology so there's going to be a lot of stuff that should work but doesn't!
Using laptops would give you so many more options.
There are a lot of creation Apps available that make the device much more than drill and practice. Visit https://sites.google.com/site/sad6k5technology/ipods-in-the-classroom to see my list of ideas for using an iPad.
I allow my students to use my personal iPad (1st Generation) in my third grade classroom. I highly recommend it. It is highly engaging and useful especially for my below average readers. I have 2 apps I really recommend and they are "Splash Math" and "Simplex Spelling." I would love to have at least 2 more in my classroom. If you manage it well it can be a great resource! Good luck!
For spelling practice please also consider this free resource. Spellathon was the number 1 free educational iPad app over Christmas 2011. Spellathon can also be used to raise funds for your school if students wish. http://www.spellathon.net
iPads or any other tablet, for that matter is a wonderful tool in the classroom. Having a pod of 5 is ideal for a small group. I am a technology teacher in a school that has 5 in every classroom and a cart of 20. I taught a session on this subject at the ACTEM conference and I have created a helpful website that is worth checking out. https://sites.google.com/site/sad6k5technology/ipods-in-the-classroom If you have any further questions, I would be happy to answer them.