by Victor Rivero
THERE’S A LOT OF BUZZ about the iPad “revolutionizing” education. Revolution is a word that conjurs up musket-grabbing minutemen and quick change, or at least an iconic Beatles song and muddy, Woodstock-sized crowds seizing the day and ushering in a new era.
Over the last decade, there’s been more of a fast-moving evolution ushered in by new technologies (Internet, broadband, Web 2.0, social networking happened quickly, but not overnight) than an actual in-the-streets, coup d’etat revolution.
However, the recent release of the iPad, and its potential for creating a paradigm shift in education is a milestone that will be looked back on with some head-shaking agreement that it was, in fact, quite a remarkable device for its time (even if scientist and thinker Alan Kay envisioned a similar machine nearly 40 years back and plenty of other companies have come up with similar tablets in the past decades).
The iPad is undeniably different, and like it or not, here are ten reasons why the iPad is more than just a pretty, over-hyped, tech-toy distraction and will continue to ripple out further changes for education and learning.
Beanbag Theory. With the beanbag theory of education, learning occurs better in a slightly relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. An austere lecture room might do better to open up to sunlight and cushions. The iPad caters to a creative crowd. Why? It’s “beanbag-friendly” as Jeffrey Young argues in this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
It’s Elementary, My Dear. If you haven’t already seen this, you probably will. It’s the Susan Boyle moment of Science Education, and it’s nearly alchemy in itself: take a yawn-inducing alpha-numeric chart that is the antithesis of sexy. Behind the scenes, ensure it can really sing. Then, put it out there for the world to see and watch the raised eye-brow reactions ripple across science labs everywhere creating murmurs of astonishment. If, as a student, you thought you couldn’t stand chemistry, you haven’t seen this Periodic Table.
The Edu-App Tsunami. Less than two weeks old and already more than a 1,000 education-related apps for the iPad? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Judging from the iPhone and iPod apps counts, there’ll be a million more before the end of the year. And that’s good news for education. Ride the wave here.
New Chapter for Textbook Publishers. McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, Pearson, Kaplan – all the big boys of the publishing industry aren’t waiting for more dust to collect on the pages of their textbooks. They’re striking deals with third-party service providers to develop the future of textbooks. Changes in education that have been being talked about for a quarter of a century are now on the brink of happening for real. Turn the page of history here.
e-Read All About It. What is a book, really? You’ve got to think about it from a conceptual standpoint, and then re-make that idea of a “book” using materials that offer a much different experience than paper and glue. There are unexpected ramifications to this, but the net gains outweigh the losses. Read all about it here.
Kids Love It. Aww, now this is cute. But it’s not just cute. It’s actually a very interesting reality that never would have occurred in the early days of IBM when men in suits stood in ticker-tape rooms asking questions to monsters with names like ENIAC. This video just goes to show that even a two-year old can use an iPad, and they don’t even need your help.
Companies Like CourseSmart. The people behind this company believe there’s a better way to study – or at least a new way to cash in on a better way to study. The CourseSmart Tablet Concept is something to see, and CourseSmart’s eTextbooks for the iPad is live on the iTunes store and available for download. Every college student now has access to 10,000 of the most widely-adopted textbooks. Say good bye to bookbag-induced scoliosis and lower back pain. Say hello to a lot more iPad-compatible companies like this one.
Hello, Hello! In fact, say hello twice to this leading language learning firm offering an interactive, connected experience that they believe takes language learning to the next level. For $4.99, you can get yourself a complete Spanish course developed in collaboration with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Interact with native speakers, get help from flashcards, hear the language, search items easily. Talk about learning a new language on the go!
It Just Feels Good. There were other tablets before the iPad. Why is the iPad so special? It kinda boils down to something that certainly has a lot of technology behind it, but is very un-technical when said aloud: “It just feels good.” For an idea of how good, get an iPad yourself, or have a good TIME reading about it here.
The X Factor. There are most likely more than a handful of reasons why the iPad will change, in a big way, the experience we call “education”. This last item on the list is for you to decide. If it’s any help, google “ipad for education” and you’ll turn up “about 25,500,000” results.
Victor Rivero is the editor of Edtech Tools. Victor has been the editor or contributing editor to a number of national education and technology publications, has toured the country with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and writes white papers, case studies and web content for various companies marketing to the education sector. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com