One iPad Per Child « Gradebook

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One iPad Per Child

Rafael // March 2nd 2011 // 

With over 15 million iPads sold already, it’s pretty clear that the device is on its way to ubiquity [1]. The iPad 2 is going to bring us closer to one iPad per child, which will certainly shake up education – for the better. Here are several reasons why this is going to happen:

Form factor

Imagine a future where visual collaboration among students happens in tandem with more “traditional” academic group projects. For example, instead of writing a draft paper and then sending it to a fellow student, envision one student taking notes and creating drawings on their iPad and then watching a fellow student add to that creation in real time. My point is that the interactions between students that create a lasting, learning experience could be extended beyond the time that students spend in a classroom from say 8am to 3pm. Thus, one wide-ranging result of the iPad is that it could extend the classroom experience beyond what it is limited to currently in very meaningful ways.

Networked device leads to connections

Now, think of other innovations such as interactive learning games that take advantage of the iPad’s form factor. Now a student can interact with a game that doesn’t feel like forced learning, but instead seems like pure fun. The sort of joy created by a game would be even more special on a touch device.

You’re not “on the network” like a computer, but you’re on a networked device of a new kind. The iPad 2 is a more fundamental participant in a learning network. Compared to one laptop per child, one iPad per child will focus on real-time learning experiences and with the help of education apps, cameras, and beautiful graphics you become connected to others and now you can learn around a specific learning objective.

Ubiquity and bottoms up adoption

It’s not hard to imagine that only a few years from now the iPad could be widely used by the end-users in the education system: families. Especially as the costs of an iPad will likely drop, a la previous price drops with the iPod and other Apple hardware, you could imagine many middle class families having an iPad in their home. Before you dismiss that statement, imagine someone making a similar statement when the first iPod came out and it was priced at $400… and then fast forward roughly 5 years later, when over 100 million devices had been sold, helped in part by steady price drops but mostly spurred along by the wonderful, unique experience of using the device [2].

Traditional distribution strangleholds will be broken

The iPad could be a very important form of distribution for quality content publishers, and that could mean that the 3-4 main players in textbook publishing are in trouble. The distribution mechanism alone would have a cost impact on education, saving end-users a lot of money on their textbook and casual book purchases — this is explained by the costs of creating and distributing a book going down, and thus the price going down. For proof, note the impact the Kindle has had on book prices. Now imagine if the iPad could also break the stranglehold of the textbook industry, and the change would be incredible.

In Summary

There are plenty of other innovations that the iPad could unlock that would result in significant positive change in education. Whatever these iPad innovations end up being, they will be widely driven and adopted from the bottom up via the a largely overlooked contingency in education: families. Apple eventually will be driving the cost of the device down as they’ve before with other devices, and in doing so, the company will democratize their own technology.

Whether it’s this particular device or the iPad 3 that results in one iPad per child, it’s clear that the impact on education is going to be big. The device has great promise, and I believe many education companies will start to see the advantages I’ve laid out here, making the success of the iPad a self-fulfilling prophecy and taking us toward a “one-iPad-per-child” scenario. On a day when some people are getting excited about the iPad 2, it’s easy to overlook what’s really important here: the iPad products are going to change education.


[1] Source: All Things Digital

[2] Source: Wikipedia iPad graph

Thanks to Adam Ludwin for helping brainstorm these ideas. Parts of this post are taken from my Quora answer on the iPad.

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My friend, Rafael heads up a GREAT organization, LearnBoost that provides a free gradebook app for teachers. Their software development and customer service are amazing, but it all stems from their commitment to a DESIGN ETHIC.

Rafael’s wisdom shines through in this article about iPads and education.

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