5 ways the iPad and education could go together
You’ve no doubt heard by now that Apple’s newest gadget, the iPad, was announced on Wednesday. Based on what was shared during Steve Jobs’ keynote demonstration, the iPad looks to be lightweight, easy to use, and super-fast. (A shorter, more digestible video is available on the iPad site).
By now, every gadget blog and ed tech pundit has at least said something about the iPad. Keep in mind that most of them–including me–have yet to actually get hands-on exposure to the device. I’d imagine this goes double for the ed tech pundits, as most of the journalists and bloggers invited to the Apple event represented consumer electronics interests. So with that said, here are five ways, off the top of my head, I think the iPad could, hypothetically, be put to use in education and education research.
1. Electronic Textbooks
This is the most obvious possibility, so I’ll lead off with it to get it out of the way. Many school districts have experimented with online textbooks, Amazon Kindles, and other electronic reading devices. I’m apt to think, for textbooks anyway, the iPad and its inevitable clones will be first adopted in higher education. Check out this video we linked to a few weeks ago, before the iPad was announced, demonstrating a proof-of-concept textbook delivery model using an Apple-branded tablet computer:
iBooks, the iPad’s built-in e-reader, needs some work before it can be a viable replacement to textbooks (or, to a degree, existing devices like the Kindle). From what I’ve read there are no included annotation tools, so readers can’t highlight passages or make notes in the virtual margins. My guess is that Apple will address this in future software updates.
2. New mobile computing labs
From a technology administrator’s perspective, I figure there’s a lot to like about the iPad versus a netbook or notebook computer. For one thing, it’s much less likely to be loaded up with the junk and viruses computer lab managers must constantly be aware of. Apple allows network administrators to remotely reset iPhones; it’s plausible this technology could make its way to the iPad as well.
I’m also pretty pleased with the pricing of the iPad–for 500 bucks you get a 10-inch touchscreen device with 16 GB of memory and 802.11n wireless networking (currently the fastest available). I imagine there will be some sort of price break for education institutions. Add the external dock/keyboard combo and you’ve got a nice alternative to larger, more expensive notebooks and cheaper (but cheaper) netbook computers. (If you’re a fan of netbooks, please feel free to retort in the comments. They’ve just never worked for me for a number of reasons.)
3. Virtual field trip guides
OK, let’s get into something fun. Could an iPad be brought along as a virtual guide on field trips? Many museums provide virtual guides for a rental fee–perhaps visitors who bring along their iPads could access content, maps, and other educational material. (It could tie in with the gift shop, too–you could purchase your souvenirs from the device and have them waiting for you to pick up on your way out of the building.) With a 3G-equipped iPad, you could take your virtual field trip guide, literally, into the field for outdoor learning activities.
Put an iPhone-like camera in the thing and the iPad could make for the most compelling uses of augmented reality yet. Imagine pointing a camera to a painting or other museum piece and instantly getting more information about the subject or being able to instantly do further research online.
4. Mobile data collection
As you may know, we’ve been working toward making mobile versions of the Stratepedia toolkit to make them accessible from iPhones, Blackberrys, and other smart phone-type devices. We’re looking forward to using the iPad’s larger interface to collect and present meaningful, real-time data. For example, you could carry an iPad from room to room as you make classroom observations, then use rich, real-time visualizations of that data to make critical decisions.
Students could use the iPad to collect data as well, in the field or science lab.
5. New ways to create content
Early into Wednesday’s iPad demonstration, I mentioned to someone that the device appeared to be geared more toward content consumption than content creation. Then Jobs and Company demonstrated Brushes, a painting program originally designed for the iPhone and now updated for the iPad. Artists have made some amazing digital works using the iPhone version of Brushes (one image was even used as the cover of the June 1, 2009 New Yorker)–imagine the possibilities a larger canvas might give aspiring artists.
Need something more practical? Apple’s take on an office suite, called iWork, has been ported to the iPad. I’m looking forward to creating Keynote slides using the device’s multitouch interface and also look forward to seeing how Numbers, iWork’s spreadsheet application, responds to my finger as opposed to a mouse. It will be interesting to see if the iPad’s touch interface revolutionizes the ways we interact with computers and create content on them, the way the mouse did nearly 30 years ago. At any rate, it looks like Apple and third party software publishers are already considering ways to use the iPad for creating original material.
Those are my initial thoughts about putting the iPad to use in education and research–what about you? Are you looking forward to checking out the iPad, or do you have plenty of gadgets to keep you busy already? What features are on your wish list for future iterations of the iPad (or the competition)? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Enjoy your weekend!
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