The "New" Face of Education?



Okay, I guess I have become an Apple Fan Boy, drinking the Kool-Aid Steve Jobs sold at yesterday's iPad announcement. My wife is almost ready to divorce me because I told her we are getting one of these and there will be no discussion about it. My teenage son will have something new to hate me for because his days of having the coolest and latest technology are numbered. Sometime in March I will be standing in line on what is sure to be a near freezing raining days waiting in line to get an iPad. After that I will be headed for the unemployment line because I missed too much work. Yet, I do feel compelled to get an iPad. This is the type of device that will eventually change face of education as we know it.

Funny but I do feel a bit of irony that we are actually headed backwards in time. Students used slates such as the one pictured for various class assignments in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. Colonial students carried a tablet called

a Hornbook. The name of these books comes from the animal horns used to make the learning device. These are the probably the first educational materials to have "apps". The apps might include the alphabet, numbers, vowel and consonant sounds, and the Lord's Prayer. Later tablets became truly interactive because students could write on them using chalk. Students used these devices to learn to read and write for many years until Big Chief notebooks and actual real books became the staple of all classrooms.

So what does the iPad have that could revolutionize education? First off the device is realitively inexpensive. With the $499 starting point it is in the reach of many families. As time goes on this price is sure to come down. Look at what has happened with iPods over the last few years. Other companies, such as Google will also manufacture similar devices which should lower the price. Next  it has a book reader with titles you can purchase from the iTunes Store. During his demonstration, Steve Jobs said textbooks would be coming.

Apple says the device weighs 1.5 pounds. Expect lots of studies to come out for the first time again about how textbook laden backpacks are harming the backs of young people. The iPad can surf the web which means students can access more information than what is in the textbook. Expect an explosion of apps for education to go along with the over 140,000 apps already in the iTunes App Store. Video and audio can be shared to create a true multimedia experience.

While the iPad is not a perfect device, this is a huge step in the right direction. There are some things that should be on future models. For examples, a webcam would be nice for adding to presentations or distance learning. An ability to show the screen on another display such as an interactive whiteboard would be nice too. There are some other tools that could and probably will be thought of as time goes on.

Get ready teachers, students will want to bring them to class. Administrators, teachers will want class sets. Network Administrators, start figuring out how to tie this devices into your networks. Everyone, start thinking of ways for students to use them productively. The educational device of our ancstors is making a comeback.