How the iPad 2 and education could go together

Teacher's Desk

In January 2010, just after Apple announced the original iPad, I shared some thoughts on how the iPad might be useful in education (it’s still our most popular post ever). I said might at that point because nobody outside of Apple’s trusted circle would lay a finger on one for a few more months. Later in the year, I revisited my list, taking into account software updates that addressed some of the early criticisms of the iPad, and reflecting upon ways that real educators were already putting the tablet to use.

Fast forward, now, to March, 2011. Apple has unveiled the iPad 2 and proclaimed that we’re now in the post-PC era. Rather than rehash my old list, I’m going to give you a new list which may touch on some of the old ideas, but also posit some new thoughts on how the iPad 2 (or iPad 2-like tablets from other computer manufacturers) may play a role in education and learning moving forward.

1. All-in-one video production

This is something I’ve been keen on ever since Apple introduced video cameras in the iPhone and iPod touch, complete with an iOS-specific version of its iMovie video editing package. As I’ve said before, these factors make iPhones, iPods, and now iPads networked cameras. Video projects can be captured, editing, compressed, and delivered all from a single device. The iPad’s large screen gives plenty of room for video editing, and the overall process lends itself to a touch-oriented interface.

2. Dynamic presentation

The original iPad’s video out options were lacking at best–you were limited in the apps that could output video to projectors or televisions, and even those apps that did support it supported it to varying degrees (Keynote, cough cough). Apple’s new HDMI video output lets you mirror anything you see on your iPad screen to a high definition external display–meaning that beautiful apps like the NASA space exploration app (featured in the iPad promotional video from Apple), The Elements, dynamic books like Alice, and even those video productions created by students can be displayed and shared in all their glory on a big screen.

3. Distance learning

One of the loudest complaints about the original iPad was its lack of a camera. This is no longer an issue with the iPad 2, of course; likes its iPhone and iPod siblings the iPad 2 sports front- and rear-facing cameras–and built-in video conferencing support via Apple’s FaceTime technology. I expect Skype to update its own iOS app to support the iPad 2′s new cameras as well, if it hasn’t already. Schools everywhere are embracing such technology to bring in guest speakers and provide practice in foreign language study. As much as I dislike seeing myself on camera, I still think this will be a boon for how we collaborate and learn.

4. Augmented reality field trips

To date, augmented reality–or a layer of data on top of what we’re looking at–to date has still come off as gimmicky. That could change with the iPad 2–it’s much more portable than a notebook computer, but sports a larger screen than handheld devices. Imagine pointing your iPad 2 to a building, a work of art, a zoo exhibit, or a rock formation, and instantly getting more information about your subject, presented alongside what you’re watching. There are a handful of startups working in augmented reality; watch your favorite tech blog to learn what they do in the coming year with this advancing technology.

5. A textbook revolution

I’m mentioning this because I’ve yet to be really wowed by any textbook offerings on tablets, even though e-books in general are erupting in popularity. My guess is an upstart publisher will emerge to define what the tablet-based textbook will look like, giving students an affordable, enriched product while keeping authors compensated. Maybe the iPad 2′s speedier Safari web browser will help push some of this functionality and content to the web; I don’t know. What I do know is that this is a market ripe for revolution, and I look forward to seeing who releases the first tablet-based textbook that’s a hit.

Photo: Morten Oddvi on Flickr


Related posts:

  1. 5 ways the iPad and education could go together
  2. 5 ways the iPad and education could go together (revisited)
  3. 5 things educators should know about this week’s iPod and iPad announcements
  4. 5 education technology trends from 2010 (and to keep watching in 2011)
  5. 5 apps I can’t wait to download to my iPad

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.
  • Tedrosececi

    With the recording app and stylus, the iPad could help students learn how to effectively take notes, especially at the middle school level where they are really starting to master that skill. After the students record a lesson and take notes on the iPad simutaneously, the teacher could review the notes, witness the students thought process, analyze the notes the student recorded and then give each student feedback on their process.

  • Aaron Sumner

    That’s an excellent idea, thanks for sharing. It may also be possible that the teacher’s feedback would come back much more promptly, given the networked nature of the device.