I had a reader over at SpeechTechie who recently contacted me with a question. She (very admirably) planned to purchase an iPad for use with her students with autism, but had NO interest in employing it for her own personal use (so, even more admirable). However, she works in a school with no wireless internet available to students or teachers. Her question: should she proceed with buying this iPad, and would there be enough apps that function without wifi?
The question was illuminating to me because I have to admit I am totally spoiled. Not only do I work in a district with ubiquitous and pretty reliable wifi, but our IT department also embraces teachers using personal iPads to connect to the Internet. I previously received a similar question (to which I do not really know the answer, as the politics and other factors are different in every district): how to convince the powers that be to allow teachers connecting personal devices if they are not so liberal in this regard. I always need to remind myself that not every district has wireless. Additionally, and perhaps because of this, I realized I didn't know in general how many apps that are useful to SLPs require wifi to function (function meaning to be used in activities with students, not to back up data or update the app, tasks that can be completed when wifi is available). Unfortunately, upon examination, it appears that the profiles on apps in the iTunes store do not indicate which apps require wifi, at least not universally. So, I turned to the power of the the PLN (Personal Learning Network) and threw the question out on Twitter. Here's what ensued:
So, this was a very helpful discussion for me (and I hope to this reader, who has since purchased the iPad!), the upshot being that the vast majority of apps that are of interest to SLPs do not require wifi to function. The ones listed are really exceptions to the rule, though of course this list is not comprehensive and will likely continue to expand. Really, only apps that need to pull live content (audio, video, text, pictures) from the web in order to function would be useless in a school without wifi. For many other apps, one needs to have a connection to the Internet to build libraries or update, but the app would be useful. The reader brought up the point that we perhaps should indicate here on TxApp411 if an app requires wifi, and I will be mentioning that to the other editors here. Thanks for your excellent question!
Sean J. Sweeney CCC-SLP