We’ve been anything but a cheerleader for Apple lately. And that applies in spades to the iPad. If you follow us on Twitter, here’s a sampling of our comments since the iPad was introduced last week.
The Computer Illiterate’s Dream Machine: Meet the iPad. http://bit.ly/c9sPED
Thinking you’ll slip your existing AT&T or T-Mobile SIM into Apple’s new iPad? Think again. http://bit.ly/9M8mbk
Funny: Hitler’s take on the iPad. http://tr.im/ipadah
Why Apple Doesn’t Want Flash on the iPhone and iPad? It Finally Makes $ense. http://tr.im/theflash
The Vote That Really Matters: A 16-year-old’s view of Apple’s iPad: iFail http://tr.im/ipad16 (via @scobleizer)
Michael Dell demos what the iPad coulda/woulda/shoulda been. http://bit.ly/czYPww (via @engadget) #android Mini5
iPad Web Surfing: Here’s what the future holds. http://tr.im/noflash (via @gadgetweb) #surfsdown
RT @cultofmac: "Pundits On The iPad’s Closed System: It’s Doom For PCs, No It’s Great" http://bit.ly/cpFV4v
Apple iPad Micro SIM guarantees that you’ll be paying for two wireless data plans instead of one. http://bit.ly/bYipZP
Funny: iPad v. A Rock http://bit.ly/b50XP2 (via @TechCrunch)
RT @TechmemeFH: Apple reinventing file access, wireless sharing for iPad (Prince McLean/AppleInsider) http://bit.ly/awHJzG
Today’s Math Lesson: Hulu + Flash = Free Internet Movies. iPad – Flash = Megabucks for Apple from iTunes Movie Store sales
RT @dcagle: The library of the future, courtesy of the iPad http://bit.ly/bFvDAE #apple #toon
So what’s with the headline? Have we changed our mind? Well, no. It’s a lousy machine for us and for anyone above the age of puberty. But sometimes you need to look beyond the forest to find the nugget in the trees. And we’ve found the iPad’s Sweet Spot: It’s Lower School Education, Stupid!
For all the reasons that make the iPad an undesirable computing device for adults, it turns out these same qualities make it an almost perfect learning platform for young children, ages 3 to 12. In fact, we think it has the potential to revolutionize preschool and elementary education.
For openers, we can all probably agree that the key to a good education is good teachers. And that’s especially true when it comes to computer education. The problem, of course, is that teachers of young children don’t have the time or the resources to keep up with computer technology because they’re so busy doing all the things that parents should actually be doing to raise their kids. So, other than turning kids loose with a computer game, PCs have been all but worthless in lower school education because the teachers never had time to master the devices themselves. The iPad fixes that because of its incredibly simple learning curve. Any teacher can master the richness of the iPad interface in an hour. And it turns out that’s probably true for young children as well. If you don’t believe it, hand a kid your iPhone and come back in an hour.
A computer is important in early education because it’s much more patient and individually focused than any teacher ever could be. A computer doesn’t care how many times it takes a kid to master a specific topic. And, for young children, they need the repetition at their own pace until they actually get it. The iPad can handle all of these repetitive tasks while freeing the teacher up for observation and pinpoint coaching. So it levels the playing field by getting the "slow learners" up to speed without the usual frustrations of dealing with kids with different levels of comprehension. And the iPad accomplishes this while making education fun instead of frustrating!
Young kids learn with their hands. Walk in any lower school classroom if you don’t believe it. The iPad is a hands-on device. You use your hands literally for everything: a mouse, a navigation instrument, a drawing tool, and for writing and typing. So it’s a natural for kids, just like a hammer.
If you’ve ever visited a Montessori school, you’ll come away appreciating how critically important group collaboration can be to early education. Working in teams enhances learning in so many ways. The iPad is a natural collaboration tool. It can be used to encourage kids to jointly develop rich multimedia reports pulling from the web, their textbooks, images, and their classmates. iWork for iPad at $9.95 per application is the perfect development tool. And, as Steve Jobs demonstrated, the iPad makes a perfect presentation tool. Teaching kids to stand in front of their peers and tell a story is probably the single most important thing kids can learn in elementary education. You learn a lot more teaching others than you’ll ever learn as a student. Most of today’s adults never got it… nor did they have the opportunity that the iPad presents.
We could write a book about the advantages which would flow from getting rid of hardback books. Not only would it save trees and natural resources, but it also could turn books into living, breathing educational tools with rich multimedia presentations instead of static images. Instead of kids lugging around a backpack full of textbooks which will be obsolete in a year or two, they could carry an iPad with all of their learning tools, their schedules, their homework, and their presentations. Think about the possibilities, and you’ll come to appreciate why the iPad really could revolutionize education as we know it. We hope so. Go talk to the educators in your community and get them excited about this Golden Opportunity. You’re only young once!
For a well-balanced, thought-provoking review of the iPad, head over to emergent by design.
We’ll leave you with Neil Curtis’ 3-minute, adjective-laced version of Steve Jobs’ iPad Introduction. And, just in case you missed the Grammy Awards last night, there was an iPad Presentation there as well. Funny stuff!
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