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The iPad: An Opportunity to Change Education



ipaddockAround 1450, a man named Johannes Gutenberg created a device that has had an immeasurable impact upon all people.  His machine, the printing press, made it possible for text to be distributed much faster than the scribing process.  Fast forward to 2010, the year that Steve Jobs and Apple Computer introduce the iPad.  The iPad, Apple’s new tablet computer, has the potential to forever change how students learn and teachers teach.

Here are three reasons why the iPad could be appearing in a backpack near you.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the iPad is the affordable price.  Early rumors and expectations placed the entry model near or above $1000.  The cheapest model of the iPad will be available at $499.  This realistic purchase price makes it a viable option for schools and students on a budget.  Although many high-end netbooks are currently available at a comparable or slightly lower price, the iPad’s design and software make it worth the premium.

The iPad is perfect for mobile learning.  Stack the iPad with a pile of books and head to your next class.  Place it into a backpack and hardly notice it’s there.  Granted, there is still a lot to learn about the durability of the screen and case, but the iPad simply could not be any more perfect for transporting.  The available keyboard dock is a great accessory for those times when a traditional keyboard is more appropriate.


Operating System
The iPad runs a beefed up version of the iPhone/iPod Touch operating system.  This means it plays nice with all of the currently available iPhone apps out of the box.  Offering much more than a traditional e-book or the Amazon Kindle, Apple’s app store contains 140,000 useful applications and games to date.  I never expected to see a day when the amount of software for available for an Apple product far surpassed that of a Microsoft product (iPhone OS vs. Windows Mobile).  Gone are the days when nobody would by an Apple product because Windows software was more plentiful.

ipadbinderNot only are there a multitude of available apps, the operating system is intuitive.  An elementary child could easily operate and interact with the graphical user interface (GUI) of the iPad.  The iPad’s ease of use makes it perfect for the classroom or even someone who has been out of school for quite a while.

Sure, the iPad does have limitations and room for improvement.  It is very disappointing that Apple has yet to support inking capabilities.  Let’s not forget that Apple is a company which benefits from upgrades and newer versions.  Expect future iPad’s to have cameras, larger screens, and longer battery life.  We may even see support for inking through 3rd party applications and custom made pens such as the Pogo Sketch.  Despite some folks criticism, the iPad will eventually be a success in the classroom.  The device itself may not be as world changing as rumored, but the flood of soon to be released tablets are changing how we interact with the Internet.

If you work in education or currently take classes, we’d love to see what you think.  Hit up the comments to let us know how the iPad will change your studies.

Additional Reading:
Check out all of our coverage
of the Apple iPad.
Here is an article
detailing why I believe the tablet platform is excellent for education.
Read why I earlier thought of skipping out on the iPad.  Sometimes seeing is believing.
See that my early report
of the iPad from July 2009 was pretty accurate.



  1. Mickey Segal

    01/28/2010 at 6:19 am

    The iPad may be a good device for delivering book content, but for taking notes it would be terrible. It is slower for typing than a netbook, and it doesn’t have pen input to allow drawing. If Apple upgrades the iPad with pen input and other features it would be reasonable for education.

  2. Ben

    01/28/2010 at 6:25 am

    No inking; no way.

  3. jorgusch

    01/28/2010 at 7:02 am

    It does not support a pen! I think, even in the 21st century students should be able to write with their own hand. How can you talk about education without being able to write down your own thoughts about anything. Or a small painting or graph?? There are tablets coming up for a slightly higher price and my first tablet (three years ago) cost me 200€ on ebay. There are programs like EverNote and Inkseine. As a big fan, I might be: I would never get the idea that a gadget should change education.
    Without disrespect, but this article is absolutely ridiculous and first time for ever on this page, I have to ask myself whether such a pushing article is really independent. How can you compare the BOOK to the ipad. You can write on the book with a pen, you realized that?

  4. Andrew Loay

    01/28/2010 at 7:04 am

    Tablets have made my life so much easier.

    As a student, I have all my textbooks scanned and carry them on my TX2000. OneNote is vital to me. I use for a lot of things such as writing notes and recording lectures. No longer do I carry binders but all within a tablet,

    As a music teacher, the tablet has affected my teaching style considerably. I ink and create exercises on the fly distributing them students and parents before the class is over. Also, students can no longer give me the excuse of “I forgot my book” since I have the most important music books on pdfs.

    The iPad will definitely be a game changer even though it’s closer to being a big iPod Touch than an actual tablet.

    There are many apps that I already use on my iPod Touch and having a new one with a bigger screen just makes it all the sweeter. Just using this as a customizable midi controller is enough to justify the price.

    It’ll be easier to read notes on mobilenoter and reading music on this can be an option (although there might be some squinting involved)

    The keyboard dock is something I’ll definitely be picking up although I wish there would be a landscape option for typing giving it more of netbook/laptop experience.

    The hardware itself is not revolutionary but the iPad will be popularizing the slate form factor. Hopefully other companies will eventually make a better product for the same price e.g. an os that will enable multitasking, inking, more i/o, a screen size the size of an 8.5X11 sheet of paper but until then, the iPad will be selling like hotcakes.

    I can’t wait for mine. The iPad can’t replace my TX2000 but it’ll give it a run for its money.

  5. JP

    01/28/2010 at 7:18 am

    I’m not sure the iPad was made with learning in mind. It is the right size and doesn’t allow much multi-tasking – those are the pluses to me – but without the ability to actively read (come on, no iPen…as an accessory?), take and organize notes, video, play flash animations used heavily in sciences, sync with course management systems, allow for much creating – the iPad seems to be a very light textbook & video player.

  6. zenpilgrim

    01/28/2010 at 7:19 am

    Putting the iPad and Gutenberg together is a bit of a stretch don’t you think? Why would this be any better than a Tablet PC for education purposes? The only reason this will go is because it’s produced by Apple and people will assume it’s better (or cool or hip) and some will even try to say that Apple invented the tablet. Until it takes handwriting input and ink to text recognition, this is just an overgrown Ipod Touch.

  7. A different Ben

    01/28/2010 at 7:32 am

    I’m a student from Germany and have to say that this device has currently no feature at all that I’d expect in a device to revolutionize education.

    During courses I need to have open three kinds of text: the case I’m working on (I study the law), the law, and the textbook I’m currently working with. In addition then there is my note taking system (basic equipment would mean pen and paper). The notes I take down both as written words structured as traditional Cornell notes and small sketches by hand. I.e. I need a pen input.

    The single-tasking iPad would allow me to get rid of one of the books. And that is no gain at all.

    It is a glorified media tablet.

  8. TimJDav

    01/28/2010 at 7:56 am

    After owning a Tx1000, Tx2000, and now the Tx2 (the latest discontinued HP tablet) I have found the convertible tablet to be of immeasurable benefit in the class room. I’m a Nursing student, and my IPhone 3GS and HP tablet are excellent tools for that purpose. I use my IPhone’s Camera to “scan” documents (take pictures of) and save them in a photo vault to synce them in albums shared by my laptop and Iphone. With Paint or one note, I am able to take notes on these “pictured” documents. The Laptop may be the most productive of the 2, but I have my phone with me at all time, so some times it “just works”.

    That said, I think I will be able to make use of the IPad ( I keep wanting to say INote!). The biggest disappointment to me is the missing camera and GPS…I have real use for that camera for scanning documents and notes, and the GPS is a vital feature in Maps…but I’m positive those features will be in later builds, and apple products have excellent resale value, so I’ll just sell my old one and buy a new one.

    While the current IPad is “good enough” for a apple release, and my money, the future looks bright. Perfectly comparable to the Iphone release.

  9. GoodThings2Life

    01/28/2010 at 8:11 am

    I disagree wholeheartedly with you Matthew, pretty much for the same reason as others have said… no inking for notes, typing is going to be slow on the iPad, and no multitasking really slows down the learning process.

    One of the reasons I was so successful with my Toshiba R10 at college was my ability to take notes easily and multitask IN ADDITION TO reading my eBooks. I had OneNote, Word, PowerPoint, IE/Firefox, and Acrobat open all the time and it was a tap of a button to switch between them without closing things down and waiting to reopen.

    The iPad is too confining, and it defeats the purpose of Steve’s usual vision, which is surprising and disappointing.

  10. Sumocat

    01/28/2010 at 9:19 am

    Matt, even though an iPad is not on my must-have list, I’m going to back you up on this. I agree with everyone on the importance of ink and real pen input, but the fact is, we’ve had that for years and it hasn’t changed education. I believe pen input is due to make a resurgence, driven by the trend of pen input in eReaders, but it’s not a standard feature yet. When it is, when we see pen input on the Kindle, nook, etc., then we can reasonably demand pen input on the iPad. In the meantime, its lack of ink does not diminish its potential to launch tablets into the mainstream education market. There is an opportunity here, and Apple appears best positioned to seize it.

  11. timjones17

    01/28/2010 at 11:17 am

    I’d rather have schools purchase netbooks than
    this iPad. Netbooks can do more- multitask,
    camera, more memory, for less money than the iPad.
    My son’s 9-inch netbook, which cost $300, pulls up
    his 7th grade math textbook from the publisher’s

  12. Kevin

    01/28/2010 at 12:18 pm

    I think the iPad could work in education as well. I posted this today on my blog explaining why I think the iPad might work in education.

  13. Scott

    01/28/2010 at 1:06 pm


    Matt’s dead on with the price being *very* important. If this helps push the price down for other devices, I’m all for it.

    Because of the low prices for netbooks, I’m seeing a growing proliferation of netbooks (mostly Asus) this year in my high school. As a teacher, I think this is a great trend (see functionality below).


    The size is okay. I really like slates (current st5022 owner) and I think Apple was dead on making the iPad one. However, I prefer a slightly larger format (but that’s me).


    The big surprise for me is how seriously the students are using their netbooks (few games, even during free time). They work with word or powerpoint (while also noodling around on the web for content) or do their assignments online (mostly MathXL, some PLATO). Sure, there are some games and movies going on, but overall, these devices add to the school experience. Very cool.

    I can easily understand why Evernote is excited: their product adds key functionality that is missing in the current version of the iPad. I don’t know enough about Evernote to say, but I love onenote and use it extensively in meetings and to teach (searching handwritten notes is a life saver and great for “meetings over time” that dominate education).

    In class, I get to spend the first month (or so it seems) answering student questions about my tablet. Students definitely want tablets that are also full computers and greatly appreciate their functionality for school (lots of “Cool!” and “I want that!”). The big killer for them has been cost. However, I can’t wait for the new HP Tm2t to get out there: I know many of my students will give them a look.

    Overall Outlook

    With these uses in mind, the iPad earns a “C” as you have to use an on-screen keyboard instead of a real keyboard unless you haul the keyboard and connector around. Bluetooth would help with this of course, but a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse adds another 20% to the cost.

    For student use, I think a tablet with a full-on OS is best since they still need a computer to do other things. The iPad would be an expensive add-on gadget for them (so is a Kindle, IMHO) and I don’t think it adds enough, especially as the 64GB version is so close to a full tablet like the HP (they’re even closer once you start to add accessories). However, the iPad is an Apple product and Apple is a big player in the education market, so I can see this having a large impact in education in spite of its flaws.

    I also expect them to get it right (pen, onenote-like addition to iWork) by version 3.01 (same for the Kindle)

  14. aamp

    01/28/2010 at 1:09 pm

    Like the others above, I’ve got to disagree. This article feels like it’s written by an Apple fan, and (I don’t mean to be rude) but you need to wait a while for the ‘magic’ to wear off before writing an article like this…

    1. Price: Am I the only one that think it’s overpriced?
    – This is an ARM processor like the ones we get in the iPod Touch (and probably cheaper for Apple than the iPod Touch CPU because they own the chip maker), not an Intel Atom or CULV. Cheap.
    – Do they really expect to rubbish netbooks that give us 160Gb HDD with a paltry 16Gb of storage space – and no way to upgrade it? Cheap.
    – I thought they would have gone with a wide screen or at least a screen that doubles the iPhone resolution – 1280×720 would have been perfect. But the older 1024×768 format makes me think they’ve gone for the cheapest option. (LED backlighting is separate to the screen). Cheap.

    – Yet they add about $400 to the price of the iPod Touch without giving us anything extra (like GPS or a Camera, hey how about an SD Card slot)!

    – For the price of the base iPad, we could buy a new Tablet Netbook, with more memory (that’s upgradable), a keyboard, webcam and mic for recording lectures and INK!!

    2. Size: Yes it’s a good size and weight. But a tablet PC (like my wife’s Fujitsu P510) has almost the same sized screen, runs Windows 7 with touch enhancements (finger and pen) and will cost about the same – and that would be much better for educational purposes.
    – Capacitive touchscreens are difficult to compare with resistive screens, they both have their advantages – but a proper pen enabled wacom screen is what’s NEEDED in an education slate/tablet.
    – The keyboard dock is also badly designed. It’s not portable, the keyboard can’t be moved independently and the screen is fixed in portrait mode. Nice try though :-)

    3. OS: The iPhone OS has it’s advantages in that it’s got a good level of development going on. 140K apps (though mostly games) is a big deal.
    – Lack of multitasking is, late’s face it, totally inappropriate for this device. It’s fine on the iPhone/iPod Touch but not for something you expect to be productive on.
    – Software can always be upgraded later, as we’ve seen. So I’d expect iPhone OS 4.0 will only be compatible with the iPad and the next 1Ghz iPhone/iPod Touch, and that it’ll allow multitasking. With that kind of update, the iPad would become more viable as an educational tool, and maybe with some additional accessories.

    Overall though, the size is fine, the OS is upgradable, but price point is outrageous (for what you’re getting). Worst of all though it the lack of physical features (for the price). We’ll have to wait for iPad2 before it’s worthy of you article!

    I guess all you wanted was a discussion Matt. On that front you’ve got exactly what you wanted.
    Keep up the good work ;-)

  15. Kenrick

    01/28/2010 at 1:13 pm

    For instructors the iPad is not very useful without ink and a laptop with keyboard is better for running applications (e.g. if you are teaching a class and want to use Mathematica or Excel or something). From what I’ve read the dongle to output is only component video, so text would look crummy on a projector.

    For students this could be a decent replacement for books and consuming educational content while allowing web surfing, email, etc. But as has been pointed out the lack of ink is significant for notetaking. The lack of flash / Java is also significant because now students can’t use it for eLearning software like Elluminate Live or other distance/classroom presentation systems, so its role will be somewhat limited, at least in its current incarnation.

  16. SeanHI

    01/28/2010 at 1:33 pm

    For a University student studying any science this device represents nothing. It would serve as little more than a toy and another useless distraction. The iPhone and iPod touch have served a role in labs and lectures, since they are small and make excellent voice recorders, unit converters, periodic table, and other simple tasks. But to fill the niche of notes, textbooks, research papers, data collecting, etc. this device would need to actually be able to do these things. For a student note taking is critical and must be done fast with efficiency. Keyboards are fast, but highly inefficient for science. Most science courses and labs require things to actually be drawn or characters written in. Also while taking notes it is sometimes necessary to open another document or look something up at the same time, without multitasking this is impossible. With or without speed, opening and closing something does not work well. Textbooks also will only be useful if offered at affordable prices, but it seems apple has already targeted books around the same as other ebook stores and I am sure they will follow suite with textbooks. I do not know if anyone has ever tried to read an ebook on an LCD screen for extended periods? It is not pleasant no matter the amount of eye candy. What seemed to me as a nice feature was the larger screened maps application. When doing field work my iPhone has been irreplaceable for maps and adding a terrain features seemed like a good deal. But AGPS is weak and some level of note taking on a saved map would be the only way to make this useful for that task. Also the most useful feature of any tablet is that you can take it outside and walk around. Sadly apple chose to stick with screens that do miserably in sunlight and once again remove another aspect of usefulness for this device. Also at the price they are selling it, it is much to expensive (even with ed discount) for most college students, who would still have to get a normal computer. For $300 or less at the bookstore we can purchase a netbook to do all the features of this device and we won’t have to worry as much about damage, since clamshells are better protected than this slab of glass. The back isn’t even flat to allow you to lay this on a desk or table.
    This product is shockingly disappointing for many of those I do research with and myself. It disturbs me that people would try to justify this as an educational device, since it only carries the merit of toys”R”us toy. I’m sure some teachers might find this a useful device, such as kindergarten teachers who need something to distract children. Since this device was announced I have held out hope of a sick practical joke or an Onion prank or something. Sadly I think apple was dead serious when they released it and honestly believes their own marketing. “Revolutionary,” more like remake of an old device. “Magical” is exactly what it will be if you actually see these on campuses.

  17. Antimatter

    01/28/2010 at 3:00 pm

    As a graduate student of physics and engineering, I have to wholeheartedly disagree with the author, and echo the sentiments of various posters here, especially SeanHI.

    I use a latitude XT for my work. I write and run physics simulations on it to collect data, and analyzed it using Excel. I take lab notes using one note, and do homework using journal. When I’m taking notes, I have my syllabus open, supplementary notes, and my textbook. I’m constantly switching between any of these, copying diagrams from my books into my notes and marking them up. When I read my textbooks, which are all on my computer in PDF, I’m writing on them and marking them up. I do presentations almost daily, sometimes ad hoc, and am constantly in the front of the room with my tablet hooked up to a monitor, annotating the slides. Finally, I’m constantly interfacing with a variety of devices, passing files between classmates’ computers, logging on to servers, printing to various printers, accessing robots, projectors, scanners… pretty much any standard device you’d find at a university.

    Every single thing I mentioned above, all of which are part of my daily workflow as a serious student, is completely impossible with this joke of a tablet.

    Apple designed this tablet for one thing, and one thing only: consuming media. It’s not a tablet, it’s an easy to use, intuitive portal to the iTunes store. This is for the passive couch potato, who wants to sit in a chair and consume their media like a good corporate drone.

    There are four things Apple needed to do to make this the perfect student device, and they only did one (they gave it the right price). First, they needed to add a stylus. This much is obvious. Second, they needed to add multitasking. This much is also obvious, but it applies to everyone. Finally, they needed to add some amazing collaborative and software. Think microsoft courier.

    I know I might sound a little jaded, and that’s because I am. I had high hopes for this thing to bring something new to the table. Now I’m just scared. I’m scared because if it’s successful, we’re going to see more and more of this tripe from HP, Dell, Asus, and the tablet market as we know it will be dead. We’ll be left with a stable of media consumption devices, which do nothing for those of us who want to do more than sit on the couch all day.

  18. GoodThings2Life

    01/28/2010 at 8:47 pm

    @Antimatter, your closing argument about your fears is spot on (along with the rest of your post).

    If this is the type of device that consumers want, it’s the type of device we’re going to continue getting, and all the progress we’ve gained for as Tablet PC users will not only disappear, but the progress we’ve requested will be forgotten.

    This is definitely the time for the Windows-based Tablet PC to shine if OEM’s are smart about it… inking, multitouch, multitasking, and price it right, and we’ll be there.

  19. Eric

    01/28/2010 at 8:55 pm

    Look, there’s a problem with the way people view education. Especially those who haven’t been in a classroom recently. I’m not criticizing, just saying that unless you’ve taught for a living, you haven’t thought about teaching from all the angles. I’m sure most of us can say this about our jobs, but since everyone went to school, they believe they understand what goes on there.

    So, what’s the problem? It’s that education is viewed as being about transferring facts and information from one source to another. Education is not about facts. The facts are already out there in books and, now, online. No education is about helping someone learn how to think, how to make connections between ideas and concepts, and to be able to make good decisions about that which they know and that which they haven’t experienced yet. In learning these skills, facts and information are used for illustration or as part of the language of the topic. But, the facts and info are NOT the learning.

    The iPad is all about transmitting facts and information. It cannot revolutionize education because it cannot help me in any way that a computer hooked up to projector cannot. It might help students carry all their books around, but that’s about it. These same students will still have to carry a laptop with them if they want to write a paper or use some program for their class. I’d much rather these students have a tablet and use it for an ebook reader…at least they’d have a place for digital notes and all their computer needs.

    The iPad looks like a really nice device that I’d only get if I was really wealthy and wanted a great toy. I’d not use it to educate anyone.

  20. bb

    01/28/2010 at 9:26 pm

    Why is it that every time some shiny, new but underpowered gadget comes out, it is hailed as the perfect educational tool?

    Rather than needing less power, educational tools usually need more.

    The iPad or something like it might come to replace paper textbooks someday (though more because textbook publishers hate the used book market and are always seeking new ways to keep their margins high), but replace full scale computers, let alone “forever change how students learn and teachers teach”? I doubt it.

    I find (convertible) tablets hugely useful in higher education and wouldn’t want to live without one (the only reason I haven’t gone over to the Mac OS completely), but they haven’t yet revolutionized either teaching or learning.


  21. Scott

    01/28/2010 at 10:01 pm


    Very well said.

    My fear is that my district will see this as THE tool because it comes from Apple and it has a great price. I want my students to have tools to create…that’s what the Apple II was all about back in the day (showing my age). I love the fact that students aren’t waiting for our district to enter the late 20th century and are getting their own technology (not a low SES school)

    the digital divide is growing larger exponentially.

  22. OMGWTF

    01/29/2010 at 10:58 am

    Hey Matthew – how ’bout you let Apple write their own ad copy?

    “realistic purchase price” For whom? Like you said, iPad costs more than a cheap laptop/netbook and WAY more than a library book, a pad of paper, and a ballpoint pen.

    “perfect for mobile learning” Unless you want to do something super advanced like, say, circling something important that you just wrote down.

    “keyboard dock is a great accessory” No, it’s not (unless you don’t plan to express ideas in your own words in more than one location). It’s a cludge at best.

    “Despite some folks criticism, the iPad will eventually be a success in the classroom” No, it won’t. It probably won’t be widely adopted for all the reasons the other commenters will point out. But if it is widely adopted, it will represent, more than anything else, an utter failure of the educational process.

  23. tabletenvy

    01/29/2010 at 11:33 am

    I let my preschool age daughter play with some simple alphabet/spelling apps on my iPhone. Likewise, my grade 2 daughter plays with some simple math apps.

    I could see them using these on the iPad.

    For very young kids, maybe. Beyond elementary school, I have my doubts…

  24. Norman D. Robinson

    01/29/2010 at 11:55 am

    The most important thing I need to do as a student is take notes. How do I do that effectively without a pen. Can you all just stop and reason that through? I’m assuming you have come to the same conclusion that both touch and inking features are a real requirement.

    Mr. Jobs please make this so….., I’m soooo disappointed.

  25. MobileJoel

    01/29/2010 at 5:40 pm

    I can see Microsoft’s ad retaliation for the iPad. Bring back the three ladies (or equivalent) from the Wendy’s commercial, dressed like librarians/teachers. Have them poke around the iPad, then one of them says, “Where’s the pen?”

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