When the iPad first debuted in 2010, it very quickly made it’s way into schools as an educational tool. It was less expensive than a traditional laptop and turned out to be a powerful learning device.
Just this summer during Apple’s third quarter earnings call, CEO Tim Cook announced Apple sold twice as many iPads as Macs for use in educational environments. Cook said the company sold 1 million iPads for educational purposes, and that interest in the iPad2 in grades K-12 was strong.
Many school systems now regularly use tablets in the classroom, and with budgets being slashed, the iPad mini, with a lower entry price that the larger iPad, seemed like it would be a welcome addition to the digital tools available. However, Vineet Madan, Senior Vice President of New Ventures for McGraw-Hill Education, which publishes textbooks through the iBookstore, says the price of $329 is surprising. He points out it’s only $70 cheaper than the iPad 2, plus you now need to buy adapters and cables for use with the new lightning connector.
He says for middle schools, the iPad 2 remains a very attractive device for education. He expects elementary schools, however, will likely be looking at the new mini. “Elementary school is where children are smaller and having something lighter in weight will work quite well,” he tells Mashable. He says the difference in weight can make a big difference for them in terms of portability.
Tim Cook said there are 2,500 classrooms using iBooks textbooks right now, which Madan says is still a relatively small number. He does expect, however, for that to increase in the coming years. As schools allocate money to set up computer labs with limited funds, many find they can do it for less with iPads. The ‘computer lab’ has become the “iPad lab” and the lower price of the iPad mini helps even more.
There are added costs to think about, as with any new technology. Not only do you need to buy iBooks and apps, you need to train teachers, he says. There are anecdotal tales of some schools with closets full of iPads but no teachers qualified to teach on them, or no curriculum designed for the new technology.
Still, Madan says, ‘It’s the applications and experiences you can deliver that have the potential to transform learning’ when using a tablet, no matter the size. And transforming learning is exactly what tablet use is doing, bringing in that personalized learning experience. Madan says “I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a student.”
In addition to the iBooks partners, software companies have introduced the interactive learning experience on the tablet. Osman Rashid is founder and CEO of Kno, a digital textbook startup that makes interactive textbooks for college students, and has just expanded to K-12 students. Kno lets you rent an interactive searchable textbook for the year, for under $10.
He tells Mashable the tablet is the best form factor for learning, a great tool for education. He believes screen resolution makes a big difference though, as higher resolution allows for more content on the screen. The iPad mini does not have a retina display, rather it has the same display as the iPad 2; 1,024 x 768.
Still, Rashid says he’s glad Apple is innovating, and believes this move propels education forward.
Whether or not iPad mini’s start showing up in classrooms in record numbers remains to be seen, but it does show Apple’s commitment to education. Aside from a renewed push into digital textbooks, the cost of the hardware is coming down, making it a tad easier for schools to justify purchasing an Apple tablet and all the apps and textbooks that come along with it.
What do you think of tablets being used for education in this way? Is it a good use of a school’s funding? Let us know in the comments.