So unless you live under a rock, you will know that Apple launched its much trumpeted new tablet product, the iPad. Almost immediately Twitter, Facebook and the blogsphere lit up with discussions about how this will change the face of education and publishing. So as not to appear behind the curve, I will add my $.02 about the product, but more importantly discuss how I believe it will (or will not) impact the classroom. I will resume our “Ready to Read” series on a day not so fraught with technological breakthroughs.
WILL THE iPAD CHANGE THE FACE OF EDUCATION? (cue trumpets a la Purcell or Handel)
Although there are many skeptics, I have to admit that I have been retweeting to win one. My curiosity is piqued. Many are complaining that the iPad is too big, too heavy, will bully the more diminutive Kindles and Nooks on the playground, but I have to say that the basic functionality looks interesting to me as a human being. But as a teacher and parent, I have to say that there are several functionality problems that make this problematic for the classroom that have nothing to do with its unfortunate choice of name (did not ONE Apple employee foresee the playground name-calling that would ensue?!?).
Glass is half-empty type thoughts first:
Let’s start with the first problem–It is bigger than an eReader, but not really a laptop. Steve Jobs claims that it is more “intimate” than a laptop, so better for holding and reading–honestly, I am not sure that this is a huge problem for children. Adults want that “intimate” experience of cradling what they are reading because that is how reading books feels. Children are growing up in front of laptops and computers in a way that is totally different than the generations that proceeded them. And even if we say that children want to have that experience of curling up with a good book (and oh, I hope they do), then isn’t it a little big and clunky for a child? The iPad (weighing in at 1.5 lbs) is heavier than its counterparts and yes that does make it lighter than Harry Potter. However, I am not sure that that makes it a better eReader than say a Kindle, Nook or the soon-to-be released Que. I have heard that the eReader functionality is beautiful and elegant. Terrific. My guess is that other eReaders will not be all that far behind in future iterations.
Second of all, it is a phone. And an iPod. Yes, it is an eReader, but it is also a phone and an iPod. I myself just can’t see a middle school teacher getting excited about having a bunch of students working on phones disguised as workspaces. I know that you naysayers out there will claim that laptops can have Skype and everything else, but come on. AND it is not like it has any still or video cameras to balance out the cons of having every student holding a phone and iPod in their hands.
Third of all, word on the street says that the keyboard is not that great. Yes, it is like an iPod Touch. Which can be mastered with practice, but it is not great (dare I say so?) So as a teacher, you would now be providing your students with a phone/eReader that has lacklluster typing ability. Hmmm…maybe Apple Mac laptops are sounding better and better all the time.
And perhaps most compelling of all, the iPad is expensive for what it is and how it could actually be used in the classroom. Ranging from $499 to $899, it is unlikely that many schools are going to be investing in a classroom set of these because of their lack of functionality. If eReading is the goal, then I think there are much less expensive bets for children out there that will get the job done. Some will argue that their schools will dole out thousands of dollars for laptop programs. That is true. I would argue that at this point in time a laptop is still a better bet due to its total functionality.
Now…the glass is half-full type of thoughts:
So, while I am guessing that administrators can erase “iPad applications” from their 2010-2011 line item budgets, I do think is that Apple is a revolutionary company. Today, iPad is probably not the answer, but as a concept it is a stage-setter that gives us a glimpse of what the technological landscape may look like in the classroom of the not-so-distant future. While the iPad may need several iterations before it becomes a sleek and elegant classroom solution (multi-tasking?!?), this should be a wake up call for the educational publishing industry. eReaders are here to stay. The buzz on Twitter and Facebook says it all. Coming soon to a classroom near you, but can we come up with a better name? Seriously. Teaching is hard enough as it is.
P.S. Steve Jobs, if you want to send one to me and make me a believer–I would be happy to blog about it!
A FOLLOW-UP: Read about why one educator is excited about the iPad: http://wirededucator.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/an-ipad-in-every-classroom-apples-itablet-in-education-n/
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