Does the iPad prepare students for the business world?

One question we often get: 

“Does having an iPad prepare students for the business world?” 

This is a perfectly valid question.  Westside seeks to provide students with the best tools for real-world experiences. As a technology department, we believe that the iPad does allow students to learn and develop the necessary skills needed past high school.  They will be ready to enter the work force directly, go to a post-secondary institution, enter a trade, enter the military, or even start their own entrepreneurial business.

The concern that student tools should match what businesses are using is not new to this current refresh proposal. Back in 2004 teachers, students and parents questioned whether or not we should deploy Mac laptops: “Industry uses PC’s running Microsoft Windows.”

We submit that business want skilled communicators, analytical thinkers, and creative, flexible problem-solvers. iPads run many industry-standard productivity applications such as Microsoft Office, Excel, and PowerPoint.  iPads also run professional-level creative tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat, Draw, Fresco, and Lightroom. We believe both the iPad and the Mac can accomplish these goals, but the iPad has the additional advantages of stylus support, easily-used integrated cameras, touchscreens, and increased mobility.

The business world is not as homogeneous as it once was. Today, businesses rely on a variety of platforms and we want to get our students exposed to as many of them as possible. Depending on what company and what job a student gets hired for, they may use the Microsoft Office Suite, Google’s G-Suite, OpenOffice or Apple’s iWork apps. Different industries have preferences for the types of productivity suites they deploy. A law firm may prefer Word, while a tech start up may standardize on G-Suite. A television or movie screenwriter may use a specialized screenwriting app while the academic may prefer to write in plain text using LaTeX or Markdown. 

With the exception of OpenOffice, ALL of these office suites/tools run on iPad. While the buttons may be in different spots, or some of the capability might not translate 100% between platforms, students can learn the required skills with a combination of these tools. For example, the current version of Microsoft Word and Excel don’t have the ability to do mail merge on iPad. However, G-Suite (i.e., Google Docs and Sheets) does. The buttons may look different, but the concepts and setup will teach them what they need when they go to use Office on a Windows desktop or a Mac laptop in the future. It might be even that the company they get hired at utilized G-Suite as well!

iPads have become part of everyday life for many workers:

  • Every Fortune 500 company utilizes iPad as part of their business strategy.
  • Some banks complete loan applications entirely on iPads.  CapitalOne deploys iPads for their associates to use in consumer banking.  For example, I recently purchased a home. The mortgage application was submitted and processed on an iPad and all the offers and purchase agreements were done on iPad. 
  • Trades are also increasingly moving to iPad and mobile. When it came time to get our home’s HVAC system serviced, the tech that came ran everything on iPad – from entering the diagnostic data, generating a service report, creating the invoice to processing my payment. His entire computing world ran on mobile.
  • Construction foremen utilize iPads for digital blueprints and to organize job sites.  One Westside elementary teacher recently told us that her husband is a civil engineer here in town. Their company is switching to iPads instead of laptops for their employees.
  • Pilots utilize iPad as a digital flight bag replacing physical maps and logbooks.

It’s not just Westside that is looking at mobile as a way to promote creativity and content creation and productivity for students and staff.  Nationally, schools that are comparable to Westside are also moving to 1:1 iPad. A prime example is Eanes ISD in Texas. They’re a member of the 21st Century Consortium (as we are) and have deployed iPads K-12 for the last 7 years.  Top-tier universities such as Ohio State are going 1:1 iPad for every student. Many college athletic departments are requiring their student athletes to have iPad as their computing device to help them in all aspects of their lives(organization, scheduling, notes, research).  Both industry and education are seeing the value of the flexibility offered by mobile devices.

We know that iPads alone can not meet the needs of everyone in business, just as a laptop or a desktop alone can not meet all the needs of other workers.  There are specific use cases for all of these classes of devices based on a chosen profession. 

What we want to be able to do is to provide students with a device that helps meet their needs as a student, provides them the opportunity to experience professional level tools, and develop the skills that can be transferred to the types of jobs that will be created in the future. We believe that the iPad hits all of those criteria.