iPad and Education

The iPad is new. The iPad is fun. The iPad is confused; at least for now. To clarify, the machine itself is not confused, that would be insane. The people using it are confused. Steve and his pack of geniuses over at Apple have traditionally been whizzes at defining a need and filling it with some super sexy gadget that we all eventually have 5 of in the in closet in a few years. With the iPad though it has been a little different. This time they gave us the super sexy gadget and said “here are a few things it can do, now go figure out the rest”.

Arguments can certainly be made that they did the exact same thing with the iPhone as well. The primary difference between the two is that the iPhone was essentially a phone on steroids at first. The app momentum did not build for a while after the release of the phone. In other words this thing had a built in purpose from day one which has evolved into the phone plus app mania that it is today.

The iPad does not have that luxury however. First there is the hurdle that this is “just a big iPhone” which it is clearly not. I have also heard “just a big iPod Touch” which it is also not. But then what is it? The short answer is that it is nothing now compared to what it will be in a year, in two years, in 5. This is because as more folks hold this, play with it, and dream up a new use for them personally, the initial confusion will dissipate and will be replaced with absolute clarity of thought and utility.

One application that seems fairly obvious from this author’s point of view is education. Recently I visited my old high school and received a tour of the grounds which have been completely overhauled since I was there some 16 years ago. Every teacher uses Blackboard and there is a large flat screen in every classroom. Enter iPad right? I mean this seems fairly straight forward to me.

When we speak to clients about making iPhone or iPad applications we speak to them about utility. Work with the device and your business objectives to accomplish that which the device can truly help you with. That is different for every client naturally but for education this should be clear: this device is compact, capable, multi-functional, and appealing. Most of all it is good at each job title. We will go into e-readers vs iPad at a later date but suffice it to say for now, these things do quite a bit in their small footprint.

Imagine this. A child walks into class and can pull up the day’s lesson on their iPad to follow along with the lesson. With a properly functioning IT department their wireless connection has been clipped only to school related items (although some crafty CS kid will certainly be selling the “look at porn at school app” I am sure), and they can have a truly interactive learning experience. As an adjunct professor myself I can attest to the importance of audio, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles. Having a device with this much access and utility can address all three. (speaker, reader, teacher, and touch screen).

As previously stated only time will tell where this machine will take us. For now though it is an exciting time to watch the evolution of a new kind of learning tool.