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.

What else?

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!


Related posts:

  1. 5 ways the iPad and education could go together (revisited)
  2. How the iPad 2 and education could go together
  3. 5 ways to prepare your iPad for a trip overseas
  4. 5 ways to work with Office documents on an iPad
  5. 5 things educators should know about this week’s iPod and iPad announcements

Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.
  • gtiemann

    Excellent thoughts. I hadn't thought of the possible data collection applications. As a person who reads journal articles almost exclusively on my laptop, I don't yet see me switching over to a smaller device for that purpose or for textbooks. The reading process I use for professional “stuff” needs more power (multiple applications, bibliographic and note-taking software, etc). Someday though, when I have time to read for leisure again, I definitely see this type of device in my future.

  • http://stratepedia.org/ Stratepedia

    I don't think it's ready for the power researcher (and by “researcher” I mean “person reading research”)–yet. For most of those features I think it's just a matter of time. As an aside not related directly to the iPad but to journals in general, I think someday they're going to have to acknowledge that we're moving to a digital world and quit operating in a solely paper (and PDF by adjunct) world. I also think that we'll see more direct interfaces between journal databases and e-reader devices like the iPad, Kindle, and Nook.

  • tdmcg82

    I appreciate the ideas you suggested on how the iPad can be used in education. I have come up with six ways it will change education; some of them are similar to what you mentioned, but there are some key differences. I would appreciate any comments and feedback. Read my blog post at http://www.edutechnophobia.com/2010/02/six-ways… .

  • http://stratepedia.org/ Stratepedia

    Hi Trevor, thanks for your comment and link to your blog post. I'll leave a comment there with some thoughts.


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  • tdmcg82

    Aaron, I have written another article about the iPad. This article deals with some functions of some apps that I think will be necessary to truly make the iPad shine as an educational tool. Check out my ideas at http://www.edutechnophobia.com/2010/02/three-co….

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  • willie

    The biggest thing I want to see (and the deciding factor as to whether I get an IPad) will be whether I can take classroom notes on it via typing and a pencil-like stylus. I have miserable handwriting, so I like to type notes, but in lots of classes, you need to draw diagrams quickly. I would really like to do both on one easy interface.

    The creation of a program like this would make the IPad the last notebook I ever own.

  • http://stratepedia.org/ Stratepedia

    Hi Willie, I totally agree and hope to see the same type of interface. My hunch is a third party will come up with a pen/stylus type of solution. Have you checked out digital pens like the Pulse Pen from LiveScribe? Not exactly the same thing but maybe a way for you to capture your diagrams.

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  • denisemilmerstadt

    To go further with the ability to take classroom notes, how about the ability to wirelessly share those notes on the Smartboard, along the lines of what the TI Navigator System tries to do.
    Though the I-pad is not a cell phone, if it someday does have the ability, schools could issue students their own Ipad (as many businesses issue employees their own Blackberrys) with several security features that limit cell phone use, texting, Facebook access, etc. during school hours.
    Could a school ipad be programmed so that the books/websites/etc. a student can access depends upon the student's schedule, so no access to the social studies textbook during math class?
    I certainly see the IT departments at schools increasing in size as schools keep up with the security issues this technology brings. Students are always several steps ahead of the teachers in finding loopholes to get around the system in order to socialize or cheat. Schools will have to invest in their IT departments to stay ahead of (or at least close behind) them.

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  • dh

    As we deal with the initial euphoria associated with the iPad's release, can we step back and objectively look at this product?

    This unit has some intrinsic problems, especially for education purposes.

    1) No Flash support, negating the use of many websites.

    2) No simple way to add apps (mutli-user licensing, no ghosting of hard drives, etc…), and they must be purchased via iTunes. I already know of one district that is considering adding a $10 iTunes card as part of their school supply list.

    3) No way to save student work, unless posted to an internet or intranet website. Either brings problems with student privacy (Google FERPA for details).

    4) Difficult (or impossible) typing (the digital keyboard sucks), making writing assignments impossible unless you buy the external keyboard.

    5) Price. Even with education discounts, the price is still comparable to low-end laptops (Gateway NV-79 $599 300 GB HD, 4 GB RAM) with much more functionality.

    6) Are we really going to seriously consider sending kids home with a $700 iPad? What happens when it gets damaged? Some parents have trouble coming up with lunch money for their kids. How could they be expected to replace a broken iPad? If a book gets dropped, you pick it up and put it back in your bag.

    7) Reading books is one thing. How do you highlight or underline important passages? How do you make notes on the side?

    The apps I've seen can be good educational tools, but once the “OOO, Cool' factor is removed, the true usefulness of the iPad seems somewhat lacking.

  • http://www.aaronsumner.com/ Aaron Sumner

    Fair enough, but you forgot to mention that it doesn't have a camera.

    I think you miss the point on what I've said repeatedly in this blog–the iPad is a 1.0 device, and many of the issues it currently has are solvable with a software update. To address your points particularly:

    1. The Flash thing will be settled either by (a) a compromise between Adobe and Apple (say, a Click2Flash-type Flash on demand in the browser, no compile-Flash-to-app functionality), (b) a move away from Flash to HTML5 for video and interactivity, or (c) someone more clever than either of us developing a player that can access Flash content without the drag on computing resources that Flash proper presents.

    2. Apple has an Enterprise Deployment Guide for the iPhone (see http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/Enterprise_… ). As the OS expands to devices like the iPad, I would wager that this deployment strategy will expand in kind and make it easier to set up and manage devices–including installation of software without doling out iTunes gift cards.

    3. I know about FERPA. And again, I stress that this is a 1.0 product. What do you mean by “save student work?” On a floppy drive? Where do your students save their work now? I've got a dozen documents sitting safe and sound on my iPad. Steve Jobs has alluded to direct printing from the device in a future software update.

    4. I typed 3 pages of notes on an iPad digital keyboard last Friday. There are kids who can text faster than most people can type on a regular keyboard. Difficult at first, maybe, but not impossible for everybody.

    5. The price will go down, especially as competitors enter the field (which they will). Low-end laptops (and netbooks) are obsolete out of the box, and don't bring anything new to the discussion.

    6. See #5 about the price in general, but if this is what you're really concerned about then nobody espousing ANY technology–not just iPads–is going to win an argument with you.

    7. The 1.0 software lets me highlight passages all day long; I expect note-taking in a future version. Or you can learn Objective C and write your own book reading app if Apple's development schedule isn't to your liking.

    Look, I get it that Apple (or any tablet maker) has some things to sort out before the iPad (or any tablet device) will replace books and computers as we know them. But if more educators would be more proactive and pragmatic about how technology is adopted, instead of providing numbered lists of everything something CAN'T do, educational technology wouldn't forever be playing catch-up with consumer tech or even enterprise tech.

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    It seems that iPad is no better than Mac, for it has less function:P

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    i think For many schools, this is done only every five or six years. …. Students that struggle can get more guided practice and teachers could focus more energy!

  • TonyStwrt

    Fine thing but not very useful, though I would integrate it my essay writing site.

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  • Anonymous

    I truly believe the iPad will revolutionize the classroom in a multitude of ways. Not all of these ideas and revolutions will be from the first generation iPad and apps, or even from Apple Computer. iPad is very useful to everyone. Thanks for the post. custom essay writing

  • adamholmes

    I truly believe the iPad will revolutionize the classroom in a multitude of ways. Not all of these ideas and revolutions will be from the first generation iPad and apps, or even from Apple Computer. iPad is very useful to everyone. Thanks for the post. custom essay writing

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    That kind of Ipad seems to be very useful and can be brought anywhere you want.

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    I will get new ipad soon.

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    Nice device! It’s hard to fine something of this kind that can help in education, bit with this number of functions iPad have no competitors

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    Great article. Its true iPAD is really helping to student and in their education.

  • Simon Hill – Consultant

    We’re all impressed with the iPad as an object of desire. But how are schools getting on using them in classroom situations? Aren’t there case studies yet of how they are working (or otherwise) in real schools with real students. Please let me have your views http://www.hilleducation.co.uk/blog/default.html.

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    wow.. ipad is really that great. I wish to get the one soon.

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    I just can’t imagine how the technology innovation is so fast. And now an Ipad can be an education tool?

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    this is one of the best articles that I have ever seen! This is a great site and I have to congratulate you on the content.
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    The technology is really innovating. From the high end phones to touch screens and now iPad can now be used for education.. That is really amazing.

  • Amber Nutt

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