iPad in Education

With the recent announcement by Apple of the iPad, I cannot help but think of the many ways this device could become a powerful tool in education. These are preliminary thoughts as the device is not yet available, but I think most might agree that the following are potential uses for the iPad.

First, lets consider what this device is. The form is similar in appearance to the iTouch and iPhone, only much larger. The iPad will run all existing applications currently available on iTunes/App Store and will no doubt generate a large number of new apps to take advantage of the iPad’s larger format. It is reported to have 10 hours of battery life, comes in WiFi and 3G configurations and 16-64GB of internal storage. iPad owners can purchase an external keyboard/docking station from Apple for $69.00 as well as a well-designed case. The entry level unit will cost $499.00, a relatively low price point for a potential classroom computing device.

Will the iPad challenge the desktop computers or laptop computers that can be found in classrooms across the nation? Probably not, but they do make one think about what we actually use computers for in classrooms and whether the iPad can meet that requirement. So, who is thinking “education” and “iPad?” Pearson Education wasted no time getting apps ready for the iPad (see: David Sims’ article at education.tmcnet.com). PBS thinks there is a future for the iPad in education and Campus Technology has offered it’s view as well.

Here are my thoughts in no particular order…


This keyboard is perfect for small hands!

1. The size of the device and the size of the keyboard are perfect for smaller hands. Elementary students could benefit from having access to a “scaled down” keyboard. When I taught keyboarding many years ago to 6th grade students, I remember how difficult it was for some children to navigate the full-size keyboard.

2. The flexibility offered by this device might be realized by companies currently offering “slates” that work with their products. Companies that make SmartBoards for instance, may see an opportunity to develop apps that communicate with their products and allow students to write, draw or navigate the SmartBoard device using the iPad.

3. Companies that produce Student Response Systems (SRS) are sure to realize the potential of the iPad. In fact, Turning Technologies has already created iPhone and iTouch versions of its software as have eInstruction. Having an SRS app for the iPad just makes sense. We may even see someone develop an app that bridges the capabilities of the SRS and the SmartBoard systems.

3. One of the features announced by Steve Jobs was the iPad’s electronic book capabilities and the creation the iBook Store. Imagine how book publishers might be able to take advantage of this. We may soon see multi-touch interactive versions of popular children’s books, resources (dictionaries and encyclopedias) and textbooks on the iPad. Home schooler’s may see their content delivered to them via the iPad as well.

4. Online services like Discovery Education’s streaming video and web-based learning environments like Learning.com and Compass Learning (to mention but a few of the many) are perfect for this platform. Students would be able to view and interact with the content as well as collaborate with other students.

5. Web 2.0? Well what could be better? Cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) could finally find their place in more educational institutions. In Higher Education, the use of these tools and the iPad could result in a more affordable educational computing option for students. Even at the entry level price the iPad would be a perfect solution for most college students. They could have access to their textbooks, online resources, social networking sites, and much more. And, with productivity software that will be available, they could word process, create presentations and develop data sets, charts and graphs.

6. And what about teachers? Over the years, I have demonstrated numerous teacher/student management systems for my university students. Some were written for the desktop computer, some for PDAs, and some were cloud-based solutions. If any of these companies should happen to port their products to the iPad, we could see some outstanding teaching tools very soon in the App Store. Currently their are more than 500 apps in the app store categorized as Education. I can’t wait to see what shows up once the iPad becomes available.

7. I envision the iPad along with the Optoma Pico PK-101 Pocket Projector (and similar products) being used by teachers and students in the classroom. This solution could save a lot of money for those classrooms that do not already have projectors. And, if a SmartBoard is not available, you can add the Wii remote solution for converting an existing whiteboard into a SmartBoard. Now you have a total “smart classroom” solution for under $900.00.

8. And, just for fun, what do we do with the iPad when it is not being actively used by students or teachers? Well, with the available docking station, you could place the iPad in a prominent place and have it display an outline of the activities and lessons for the day. Perhaps the iPad could serve as a small interactive bulletin board. The iPad could display a user generated webpage on Black History Month for instance. Students would be able to walk up and read about famous figures and historic events and use the iPad to interact with online content to learn more. When the iPad is replaced in the dock the home page would again be displayed for the next user.

I think there is a home for the iPad in education. I am not sure if the iPad will link up with all school servers, and I am not clear on how printing will be handled, but I think these solutions will be available when the iPad becomes available in a few weeks. Schools that have adopted technologies like the iPhone/iTouch are exploring the ways in which these tools contribute the learning process. Of course, we must remember that it is not the technology that will ultimately make a difference, but the way it is utilized in the learning process. If it keeps students engaged and enhances the learning opportunities, then it can be very effective as a learning device.

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