One neat use of the iPad for you is that if you need to look something up you can do so very quickly. Also, if you have an online grading program you can walk around the room and enter grades. Very cool! Another use of it would be to take notes. Then your notes are typed and you can print them out for students, but the device is more portable than a laptop. If your students are using iPads, I think the most valuableapplication would be research.
I think the key to whether it aids in the learning process or is a distraction is dependent on the expertise of the teacher in using it. I have been in classrooms where teachers struggled with using technology and it was a definite distraction, on the other hand I have been in classrooms where the teacher was very skilled with the available technology and I feel that it aided the learning process.
As long as the technology works the way it's supposed to, it is my belief that it helps more than distracts. I have a smartboard and love using it in class.
If I could afford an IPad, I'd have one of those, too. After the students get over the general oohs and aahhs, I'm sure they will hone in on the maps, highlighted text for deeper study of language and author's purpose, or dissecting the layers of a person's speech or debate. The fact that I would be able to leave my montrous textbook at school rather than pack it back and forth is such a lovely idea! Plus, students could never use the excuse of having left their textbooks at home, in the car, etc. You've always got it to project on the wall for the perusal and study of the class. Amazing!
I like the idea of using the iPad for tutorials in the classroom with small groups of students. However, is there not a danger of it becoming a distraction rather than an aid to teaching? I am recalling recent research that shows that electronic whiteboards have not actually helped improved the quality of teaching, in spite of many claims otherwise...
I recently obtained an iPad and am already using it in the classroom. I have photo and historical databases on it which allow me, in small group tutoring situations, to have access to crisp, clear visuals to back up my discussions and presentations.
It stores a gigantic amount of text, and I can download my textbooks and supplemental materials to it and I never have to cart it back and froth from school to home. I can read it easily and highlight sections simply and quickly.
It also gives me internet access so I can use sites and information that my school server blocks off of school computers, often inexplicably or unnecessarily. It quickly streams YouTube and other videos if you want to show short clips, and easily networks to wireless printers.