With a large touch screen that can display electronic texts in color, Apple’s iPad was greeted with huge enthusiasm by many ed-tech advocates when it debuted earlier this year. The device also inspired a host of competitors and sparked an eReader price war as it threatened to shake up the eBook market.
“I think this changes the picture for eBooks considerably,” said Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium, after Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in January. “This has a lot of potential for … education. [Apple] has really seemed to think through the book experience.”
Johnson’s remarks were prophetic, as the iPad has had a huge impact on educational technology in just its first year of existence. Seton Hill University was among the many schools to give iPads to incoming students this fall, and Abilene Christian University made its students newspaper available for iPads. The device has even changed medical school, where first-year med students at Stanford University are finding several ways to use the iPad to help them learn.
In K-12 education, some Long Beach schools are teaching algebra with the iPad, and Virginia has launched a pilot program that uses iPads to teach social studies. The tablet design, meanwhile, has inspired the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child organization to refocus on issuing a tablet-style device for learning that reportedly would sell for just $99 by 2012.
Not everything has gone smoothly, as technology officials at a handful of universities warned that the iPad might not be compatible with school networks or could overwhelm campus bandwidth capabilities. Others expressed concerns about the iPad’s inability to print—a deficiency that Apple resolved in November with a new operating system for the device.
“Printing is a critical operation, as is editing,” said Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology at the Plano Independent School District in Texas. “The printing is still weak, with only support for a single HP printer included, and Apple still is not providing [the ability] to allow full editing of web-based applications.”
Still, Hirsch said, the new software “is a definite move in the right direction for printing and holds good promise for the future of the iPad [and] iPhone” in schools.