Next week the 2011–2012 school year kicks off in earnest. We’ve had the raft of Back to School 101 posts to help you gear up (literally and figuratively ) for school, but in the meantime I’ve been keeping an eye on trends overall and I believe that this is going to be the breakout year for tablets in schools—iPads especially.
When the iPad first came out there were a smattering of schools and teachers starting to take advantage of the iPad. You can’t blame them for being cautious, iPads are expensive and their use in the classroom was unproven. There was talk about textbooks for iPads, but early on there wasn’t much out there.
This year is different.
Yale Medical School is giving all first year med students iPad for coursework, textbooks, and later diagnostics. Closer to home, CDI College and Vancouver Career College are both giving iPads to new students this fall and as Techvibes points out, it’s turns out an iPad is the cost-effective choice for buying textbooks. According to Techcrunch, Kno Textbooks for iPad (US iTunes only) is being downloaded every 8 seconds with schools like Harvard, University of Arizona and UT Austin leading the pack in terms of students using the app. Sure you still have to buy textbooks electronically, but when folks like Kno are offering books at 30–50% off the cover price? I’m sure publishers are seeing the financial benefit if they can avoid printing and shipping books. Maybe textbooks might even be updated more often if the cost of reprinting textbooks is taken out of the equation.
Then there are app suggestions.
iPad Fan has their recommendations, TUAW has note taking and app suggestions, Sophos talks about Kindergartens using iPads (I’d get port covers straight away) and both MacLife and Mashable have their own suggestions.
Just taking advantage of “back to school” time? Of course that’s part of it, but you don’t write columns about stuff people don’t care about. Seeing the number of schools encouraging, requiring, or giving out iPads is enough for publications to take notice and write about apps and reviews.
My sense is that now with the iPad 2 available and flourishing plus more and more apps plus more textbooks, schools are seeing that they can now safely justify the expense of providing iPads to students. Even if a school doesn’t provide iPads, recommending them isn’t an outlandish thing. If I were heading back to school (especially if I had to buy textbooks), I’d want a tablet have all my materials in one place. A backpack loaded with books and notebooks? Yeah not so much. One satchel with some basic gear, an iPad and I’d be ready for class.
Which would you rather carry to school?
On the downside, iPads are still expensive and out of reach of many, many families. Should school boards and Apple help out? You bet. I think the long-term benefit to students, teachers, and schools far outweighs the cost. So while I think this school year is going to be the breakout year for iPads in schools, it will be years before schools have iPads like they have computers in classrooms.
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