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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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Whole House iPod + $5/mo. Gets You Every Song on the Planet

We’ve previously written about the incredible Sonos whole-house audio system that is priced (literally) tens of thousands of dollars below the cost of a comparable "turnkey" system that you typically would purchase from a home audio consultant. Another revolutionary development occurred yesterday so it was a good time for an update.

Yesterday’s development was an announcement from Napster, which was recently acquired by Best Buy, that lets you download 5 DRM-free songs per month from Napster’s entire catalog for $5 a month. Nothing very exciting there. The kicker is that, for no additional fee, you now get unlimited (but DRM’d) streaming of all 7 million songs in Napster’s vast music collection to any PC you happen to own. And $60 buys you a full year plus 70 DRM-free songs!

We hear you mumbling. Why would anyone want to only listen to music on their PC? Well, this is where your Sonos music system comes into play. Instead of buying a cheap PC (such as this $199 Acer netbook from CompUSA) and subscribing to Napster to play the music on your PC, U.S. customers now have instant access on your Sonos system to over 7 million music tracks in the Napster library any time you like. And this isn’t canned playlists although Napster has plenty of those. With today’s new offer, you can stream songs of your choice in your own playlists to one or many rooms in your house depending upon how many Sonos ZonePlayers you’ve configured. Or use your Sonos controller to search the entire Napster catalog by artist, album, or song title. And the total cost: just $5 a month.

Sonos Background. For those that are new to Sonos, you basically buy a little $500 Wi-Fi box for each room in your home or office where you want to play music. There are special system bundles at this link if you hurry. You plug in a pair of speakers and connect to your NAS-savvy music library. We recommend dLink’s DNS-323 which provides RAID1 mirrored SATA drives in any size you desire (about $180 delivered from NewEgg plus SATA drives). Be sure the drives you pick are on dLink’s compatibility list! If you happen to use Comcast for your broadband service, you also receive a free Rhapsody subscription which can be played on every Sonos system in your house for free, but you’ll have to connect a Windows PC to your Sonos system through the line in jack to take advantage of this. With the new Napster offering, you can skip the hassle for $5 a month. The Sonos system also supports streaming audio from more than 300 Internet radio stations, also free.

Some other reviews of the Sonos system are worth a look. Check out the Home Theater View, Audioholics, Playlist Magazine, and PC Magazine. You’ll find dozens more here.

There are few companies in the world (much less the United States) that provide flawless hardware and software, free software updates (that always work), and regular updates that consistently add value to your initial purchase. Sonos is at the top of that very, very short list. Run, don’t walk, to add this system to your home or office. You’ll thank us for years to come. We installed eight systems with four remotes in just over two hours. We haven’t quit listening since. Today’s Napster announcement is simply icing on the cake. Enjoy!

Update. We don’t often revise our articles but a Tweet from @Sonos last night sent us back to the drawing board. While we knew that Napster already was available in Sonos music players, the price point was substantially higher. Since Napster’s announcement had clearly stated that the $5 a month special only applied to use of the library on a PC, we had assumed that it wouldn’t work directly in the Sonos system. Wrong! It works perfectly on the Sonos players with the functional simplicity that is the hallmark of Sonos software. Napster should take a lesson! Lo and behold, it appears that Napster views the Sonos system as just another Linux PC so the entire Napster music library is available in any Sonos music system without resorting to any external PC. Seven million songs for $5 a month strikes us as a deal you’d be crazy to pass up. Better hurry while it lasts.

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