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iPad v. MacBook for High School Chem/Physics

iPad v. MacBook for High School Chem/Physics

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Hello. I'm a high school science teacher in Northeast Indiana. Our department has a unique opportunity in that our school is not going completely 1 to 1, but were are implementing new technology in the classroom next year that will stay in the room. My question is especially aimed at the science secondary teachers, but obviously I'd like feedback from other teachers too. I've done a good deal of research on this, but I'd like some more feedback. Would you prefer having a classroom set of MacBooks or iPads in your classroom? Why? Thanks very much.

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Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Jason,

Can you provide a bit more information on how you think the technology will be used or implemented? Imagine what you think the machine will need to do for the students or how it would be integrated into your lessons. Thanks!

Debra Harwell-Braun's picture

We have the same question. We have a small Mac lab. The lab is used mainly for video projects using Final Cut Pro and green screen technique. Would it be good to add more laptops or to incorporate iPads? What woudl the iPads give us that would extend learning for students that we cannot do on the iMac?

Zachary Fink's picture
Zachary Fink
Edutopia's Former Director of Video Programming

Hi Debra -

Like Hubert, I'd like to hear more from you about what you're hoping the kids will achieve with the technology.

As a basic rule, iPads are more about consuming media than they are about producing media. That's changing slightly with the advent of iOS apps like iMovie for iPad/iPhone and other video support apps.

An iPad or two in a video production studio could be used as digital slates/clappers for marking sync points and shots. They are great for getting appearance releases signed with photos attached (Check out the Easy Release app). There's a very cool app for creating storyboards (Cinemek's Storyboard Composer). I also use Depth of Field calculators, data rate calculators and timelapse calculators on my iPhone 4 - all work with iPads.

However, for editing (especially with Final Cut), a laptop or desktop is essential. There's simply no substitute, and I don't expect there will be anything as robust as Final Cut offered on an iPad like device for a number of years to come.

If you'd like to share more about what your kids are doing, I'd be happy to weigh in again.


John Willis's picture

I agree with Zachary. I teach in a 1:1 STEM school and I personally have an iPad I and an iPad II. iPad's are a great tool for engaging students and "consuming media." But it is not a substitute for a laptop. Not yet anyway. Perhaps in a few more years. For now, you need a robust machine for running large programs and creating content.
Best of luck to you.

Steve Sweeney's picture

Zachary is right on. Video editing not a real solution on the iPad (that coming from an Apple Reseller). iMovie on the iPad is fine for simple Facebook-type videos, but iMovie iOS is missing a great deal needed for even basic student projects.
Other educational and classroom productivity Apps make the iPad a great alternative for other educational scenarios, but not video.

David Doherty's picture

This is a little late, but the info may be useful to others with similar questions:

Here's a Mac App (not on iPad yet) that is very useful in the high school chemistry classroom. Especially useful for visualizing periodic trends and the relationships between electron configuration and the shapes of the atomic orbitals.

The Atomic Dashboard is an interactive chemistry resource and learning tool developed for the Mac by Bitwixt Software Systems. Used by educators, students, scientists, and the simply curious, The Atomic Dashboard features an interactive periodic table that lets you explore the chemical elements - their properties, periodic trends, history, and relevance to society. And more exciting, with its new 3D Molecule Library, and its physics-based, 3D models of atomic orbitals, molecules, compounds, gases, and crystals, The Atomic Dashboard helps you explore the relationships between the behavior of atoms and molecules and their 3D structure.

randy koval's picture
randy koval
Founder of NW Teachers' Learning Center

We offer a wonderful distance learning course in understanding how to use the iPad/iPod when integrating it into your teaching methodology with students. These tools have arrived and many of your students are well versed in using them. The quicker educators get up to snuff in the usefulness of these instruments the quicker one can engage in accelerated teaching and learning. Our course covers elementary through middle school. Check us out at

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