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Apple’s iPad: A Home Run for Education

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. Thinking you’ll slip your existing AT&T or T-Mobile SIM into Apple’s new iPad? Think again.

iPad: The Good http://tr.im/ipadg, The Bad http://tr.im/ipadb, and The Ugly http://tr.im/ipadu

iPad: Uh, but wait, No Camera http://tr.im/ipadc, No Flash http://tr.im/ipadf, No Multitasking http://tr.im/ipadm. No thanks.

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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  1. Yep, can’t wait to see the graham cracker crumbs and spilled milk all over those iPads! 🙂

    I’d extend your insight to education K-16+ in general. Interactive textbooks, with simulations, built-in tutorials, will change education forever. Maybe, finally, we’ll do what Ivan Illich wisely proposed years ago, and that’s to "deschool society"!

  2. I think you guys may be missing the point of this device. In its stock state, the device is rather boring (to the tech crowd). However, its all about the apps. As developers make iPad versions of their iPhone apps, the device will become very useful. The demo of Brushes, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers show that this thing has some legs under it.

    It will never be the primary device of the power-user section of people. But for 95% of the online public, it will provide what they need. Nice, fast web-browser. Well designed e-mail app. Great e-reader. Nice sized video device. 10 Hour battery. The best part is the price. At $499 it is a strong competitor to the netbook market. I have used several netbooks, and I have to agree with Steve, they do not do anything well.

  3. Too overpriced for schools. Too fragile for schools. Too easy to walk away for schools. Too many problems for schools 🙂 In theory I agree that it is an interesting idea for a school, but they can do the same if not more with web based apps and not locked into Apple’s App Store lockins.

  4. I was skeptical of the iPad at first too, but what surprised me is the large number of people such as my parents (baby boomer generation) age who really want an iPad. Their interest in it is strong because they have grown enormously weary of the boat loads of Windows XP junk and all of the virus related issues they have to deal with (Norton, et al) and the seemingly non-stop alert panels that pop up in their face every time they’re trying to get something done. Its hard to blame them really — Microsoft turned XP into a junk yard of attention-sapping alert panels, advertisements, promotions, etc. (for example the Dell that my Dad uses while cheap to buy came packed with Dell-specific "advertisements" in the form of bloatware software that was absolutely not useful or helpful. Even though I’m tech savvy even I have been unable to fully remove some of this stuff despite looking through the Windows registry and using tools, etc. (in a nutshell Windows causes incredible ennui and I can’t believe the world tolerated a Windows monopoly for so long and in the process made Bill Gates one of the wealthiest people in the world based on junk software). This is not to say Apple is a great savior, its just that they have come up with a pretty good curation system that a lot of people are willing to use for the sake of simplicity and with task-oriented apps they can have an intensely personal experience uninterrupted by Windows-like alert panels and junkware (note: there is tons of junk in the Apple app store so one has to put some time into thinking about what apps they want and which ones to download). Anyway, to finalize, I think the iPad should not be ruled out as a platform that is here to stay. What remains to be seen is how well competing tablet systems can perform such as those in the future based on Android or Chrome (Google please make up your mind: Android or Chrome but not both).

  5. Now you have more reasons to be cheerful as it is getting into the corporate culture. and on the other hand Microsoft is going to take a while before they launch its competitor.

  6. I think that this would be perfect for schools, have you ever seen a student’s backpack? If they had Ipads, they wouldn’t need to take home all of those textbooks, and notes, and binders, it would all be in one device.

  7. This machine is AMAZING for kids. I bought an iPad for my 2 daughters, 3.5y and 2y old. They absolutely love it. I only download educational apps many of which are games or at least feel like games. They are learning soooooooo much and they think they are just playing. My oldest even enjoys doing trangrams puzzles that are very difficult even for the smartest of adults.

    The iPad stays in their room and so far there hasn’t been any physical or water damage. I was very successful in teaching my kids to ‘respect’ the iPad. Its very doable if you impose simple to understand rules on your kids like: 1) No food or water outside of the kitchen, and 2) The iPad doesn’t leave your room. My list of rules is much longer of course.

    I tried using the iPad myself but there were way too many things I’m used to doing on my Windows 7 HTPC and my Android phone that I was not able to do with the iPad.

    I’m very much hoping for the iPad to replace paper.

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