iPads and the Future of Education: Will Textbooks & Student Assessments Tools Be Available to All?

iPads and the Future of Education: Will Textbooks & Student Assessments Tools Be Available to All?
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Interactive Textbooks: Game Changing or Over-Hyped and Exclusive?

When Apple announced iBooks 2 on January 19th of this year, many were quick to sound the death knoll for textbooks. One provacative headline declared, “Apple Destroys the Textbook, and Thank Heavens for That” (Minyanville). The writer, Michael Comeau, makes a good point: textbooks are big, bulky, and expensive. Kids do stagger about under the weight of overloaded backpacks, and parents stagger about upon hearing what a new semester’s crop of textbooks will cost. (I know that shock all too well!) So, with the average iBook 2 textbook priced at about $15, parents, students and teachers should all be cheering, right?

In fact, it certainly seemed that the textbook death knoll had sounded when it was announced that 350,000 textbooks had been downloaded in just three short days after Apple launched iBooks 2. (CBS News) Three days! That certainly reinforces the argument that it is the beginning of the end for the textbook industry as we know it.

But, have you priced an iPad? The iPad 2 starts at $499. Five hundred dollars! That’s not exactly pocket change. And while some school districts are purchasing hundreds of iPads, Madison, Wisconsin; Zeeland Public School District, Michigan; Auburn, Maine; to name but a few, the numbers are a far cry from the 55.5 million students estimated to be attending K-12 Education during this school year. (U.S. Census Bureau) In fact, the 1,400 iPads purchased in Madison, Wisconsin were bought with settlement funds from a Microsoft Lawsuit.

So where does that leave the average student, in the average school district, facing ever-increasing budgetary cuts and vocal community outcries from rising property taxes? Probably not likely to see an iPad-savvy classroom anytime soon. As ZDNets, Jason Perlow writes, “It’s actually cheaper to go to another planet than to give an iPad to every child.”

iPads - The New Student Assessment Tool?

Education Week wrote an article entitled, "Rethinking Testing in the Age of the iPad.” Writer Katie Ash takes a look at the way student assessments are changing, based on interviews with early adopters of iPad technology throughout various school districts. The article expands beyond assessments to discuss the many ways educators can utilize iPad technology in their classroom.

In an article written in 2011, prior to the iBooks 2 announcement, the GovernmentTechnology website extolled the virtues of iPads in the classroom, also noting how the ability to conduct daily assessments helps the teachers understand exactly where the students are in the learning process, thereby boosting overall student performance.

Will It Be a Future for All?

Of course an interactive, touch-friendly, portable device is going to be much more attractive to students raised on computers and cell phones than a three pound textbook with a broken binding held together by masking tape. And of course you can edit much more quickly and iterate new textbook versions much faster in an online environment than via a traditional publishing run.

No one can deny the pure sexiness of iPads, tablets and new technology. Who doesn’t want to be on the cutting edge?

But will the cost of providing, and replacing, iPads create an even wider divide between school districts that ‘have’ and those that ‘have not’?

What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!