Webb School of Knoxville, a private school that spans from elementary to high school, has chosen the iPad as their computing device of choice, above eReaders and notebooks. It is now a mandatory tool for their 4-12 grade students and teachers, acting as both a reading device and mobile computer. They present some compelling points to support their choice.
Instead of trying to uphold the iPad as an all-in-one type of device, Webb School focuses on two specific points: use as a textbook substitute and advantages as a mobile computer. While they admit not all texts will be available in digital form, they emphasize that the breadth of digital bookstores available on the iPad, including Amazon, makes the job of finding digital texts a lot easier. It also provides access to texts that are posted on the web and greatly brings down the production costs of texts they create in-house.
As a computer, they point to the built-in email, calendar and Internet functions as key tools, as well as office software which they will install on each one (presumably the iWork suite). Essential to making it a seamless classroom experience are its instant-on functionality and all-day battery life. They are even looking into the possibility of building custom apps for their students, as well as opening the door for student-made projects. While you aren’t likely to hammer out an essay on the on-screen keyboard, remember, most of that kind of stuff is homework, where the iPad can be set on a desk and text can be entered by keyboard.
We’ve long argued that the tablet is an ideal form factor for students. While the iPad lacks some of the advanced features we’ve promoted, such as inking, it does offer clear advantages over the Tablet PC with instant-on, adequate battery life, and ease of use. I love Tablet PCs, but their complexity is a big obstacle to users, particularly in a classroom setting. There’s simply too much effort required to learn how to use one properly. By contrast, I’ve seen my three-year old second cousin navigate through and manipulate an iPad. A simple tool that everyone can use offers broader benefit than a more versatile tool that few can use.