Asset or distraction: Is the iPad cool for back to school?

Welcome to Thrifty Tech, a new Money College weekly column about technology options on a college budget. This week, we take a look at the iPad and the negative aspects of using the device in a learning environment.

It's no secret that we think the world of the iPad. As a gaming device, as a reference tool, as a utility, as an e-reader, and as a web browser, it's incredible. So yes, we drink the Kool-Aid -- we think it's magic. Upon its arrival, people hailed it as a savior of learning technology, with its e-reader and computing capabilities, which isn't too far off-point.

But with its thousands of whistles and bells, it's also one of the world's greatest distractions. As CNN reported, it very well may cause trouble with sleep patterns if you're reading the iPad before bed. But when it's time to study, what if you want to watch a movie or TV show? The Netflix, ABC and Hulu apps are all right there. Want to play pinball? Geometry Wars? Plants vs. Zombies? Again, it's a menu button and touch away. So ultimately, when the choice comes to touch the little book application, will students instead opt for the hugely entertaining distractions right around the corner?