Saturday, February 6, 2010

Defining iPad's Impact on Education

Even before its release, the iPad (Apple's long-awaited tablet-style, e-book reading, web-surfing, content serving, most wanted gadget) has begun to define a new category of devices that will blend together the power and portability of a netbook with the form and function of an e-reader. In 2010 and beyond, competitors will race to design devices similar to the iPad, which in turn, will both improve the platform and drive the overall price in this cateogry down. Combine this with an online content distribution method, such as the forthcoming iBook store (Apple's online e-bookstore) and you've just described a beginning-to-end content distribution pipeline. One day, in the not-too-distant future, the price and convenience of this distribution chain will compel many school districts to finally abandon the paper-based text book model and embrace the digital distribution of e-text books.
How will the iPad impact education? Remember in chemistry class, when we learned the term, catalyst? A catalyst is substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction. Think of the iPad as a catalyst that will cause a ripple-effect, felt not only in education, but will also be felt across the entire publishing industry.
Apple already transformed the way we buy and listen to music; now, they're going to do it with books. Most people are already used to the iTunes experience of buying music and listening to it on their iPod, so the transition to a similar experience with books and reading them on an iPad will be a natural one. I'm not suggesting it will ultimately be the iPad itself that will absolutely find its way into mainstream classrooms across the country - it could be a similar product by a yet-to-be-known start up company- or possibly a next-generation Kindle, who knows? But one day, I think people will attribute the iPad as being the device that unleashed digital e-book content, especially e-text books, into classrooms around the world.
Sony's e-reader, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook may have been among the first to the party, but that fact alone won't necessarily be enough to keep Apple from becoming as dominant a force in the book distribution business as they are in music. Consider iTunes University, Apple's source for educational audio and video content. Since 2007, Apple has been promoting, building, and filling iTunes U with educational multimedia content, coincidentally, around the time rumors started to surface of a possible tablet-style device. And it makes sense: imagine a student reading his or her science text book on an iPad, and being able to flip to an iTunes U video on the same topic, on the same device! School districts will love the text book updates, too. Instead of having to purchase new text books every seven years, students can simply update their text book the same way you update an App.
It's an exciting time for schools, publishers, and gadget lovers everywhere. How do you think the iPad will impact education?

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