Not a fanboy. Please try to keep that in the back of your mind. Yes, I’m typing this on a Mac, yes I have an iPod. BUT I have an android phone, several windows PCs and a healthy understanding of the real world. So please, don’t think this is just a fanboy rant, it’s not. What it is, is an attempt to point out that we’re at a tipping point in education technology and that the next step, probably made by Apple at their product launch in San Francisco on Wednesday, could change everything.
We’ve had the iPad since the Summer of 2010, an incredibly thin device which uses a touch screen and can fit in an A4 envelope. It can access the web, seamlessly handle your email, manage your media content and a host of other tasks through a wealth of apps. As Steve Jobs used to say it’s “insanely great”. The iPad launched an industry wide rethink of what IT is, what it’s for and who should have it. Now just about every IT manufacturer has a tablet device, there are a variety of operating systems, and app development is a major growth industry. If you still think IT is sitting behind a massive grey box and a 15 inch CRT monitor or that Microsoft Word and spreadsheets is what the IT curriculum should teach you have missed this revolution completely.
Many schools have ridden the crest of this wave and already brought tablet computers into the classroom. Schools which issue their learners with their own iPads do exist. Units are being written as we speak allowing you to use tablet computers and mobile devices in art, music and media exams. Companies are already writing apps for classroom teaching, classroom management, assessment and support. The education tablet revolution has started but it it is, at the moment, in the hands of the enthusiast.
It is widely expected that Apple will launch a smaller version of their iPad on Wednesday (I’m not an Apple pundit myself, but Engadget and Macrumors will back me up here) as well as a larger phone, refreshed iMacs and iPods. It could be quite a day. The smaller iPad is a very interesting idea as it comes hot on the heals of the Kindle Fire and a host of other Android based tablet devices. A smaller screen would bring limitations but it would also bring a cheaper price and perhaps a price so compelling that buying a class set, or indeed one for every learner is financially wise. In the UK you can get an iPad for £329 from the apple store, it’s not the latest model but it’s cheaper than a typical PC laptop. The kindle Fire is £129, just how much would a smaller iPad cost?
The Apple argument will be that the iPad is the only real tablet proposition for schools as there are apps in place, robust app quality control and apps in every subject and for every use. Guaranteed learner engagement in a sleek, brushed aluminium case. Android and the new Windows operating system (which is just around the corner) might argue with that, but the condition is clear. If Wednesday goes the way the pundits are telling us, we may well be seeing the argument crashing on our desks this week.
If you are not going in this direction, parents will want to know why.