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I think the rumored Mac iPad/iTablet (which I covet soo much) could possibly be the best computer ever made for students. I also think Apple already knows this… With news about an app that brings textbooks to the iPhone and an educational version of the iTablet rumored for deployment.
Here’s what I think the iPad/iTablet has for students and educational use:
- Textbooks: The biggest student expense, the biggest waste of materials. Everyone has expected for sometime that eventually textbooks would go all digital. It provides an inexpensive distribution system for publishers that would allow quicker delivery, innovation in they way topics are hyperlinked, and hopefully (eventually) Professor and student contributions and customization. Up until this point there has not been a ubiquitous device capable of delivering textbooks and like-materials… especially not one that has other uses (RIP expensive Kindle).
- Blogs, Wikis & shared Documents: Paper materials including notebooks, tests, and the aforementioned textbooks are moving to the web. With a device that you can carry with you anywhere and possible access the internet anywhere… why would you carry anything else? (Of course, I teach art so… paint, scissors, etc. can still fit in the backpack. Unless, the iTablet has a sketchbook/drawing app )
- Labs: Forget stocking every classroom with desktops or even wheeling in your “mobile lab”. For the right educational discount Mac could easily put an iPad in every student’s hand. (Battery life will be key here though.)
- Workstation: Another rumor floating around is that the iTablet will be able to access other Macs in the new lineup of Mac workstations. If the iTablet can do the mobile work, a student can walk up to any Mac workstation and continue the heavy lifting there (i.e. video editing, advanced computing software, etc.). This would be, again, a big reason to replace labs. The distance to a ‘master’ machine is crucial, but I could see Universities setting up master stations in a back room somewhere while students edit videos and work w/ 3D modeling software from their iTablets, unaware of the heavy computing being done elsewhere.
- Screen sharing: One of the things that will be ultimately needed in a classroom full of iTablets is center station with a projector where students would easily be able to share their screen and results of whatever it is they are being asked to do. Imagine a student performing a quick image search in my Drawing class and with a quick wave of their finger, splashing the images they found up onto the main projection monitor or even sending results to my/another student’s iTablet.
- Movies, music, & the iTunes market: Apple has known for years that if they market to the college crowd they can maintain that market long after they move out of that general demographic. Besides making it easier to “school”, the device will probably offer HD movies and music on the go. Somthing the iTablet will be great at. Does this mean App store out… more web apps in? I would think so.
- Price: I think the cheapest Macbook is running at $999. With a rumored price of $700-900, what student wouldn’t choose an iTablet over it? Sure, it’s more than a netbook but you can’t do xyz (most of the above) on a netbook.
As more Universities look to cut costs, deliver “blended learning” experiences (half online/half off), and stay on top of the digital horizon the iTablet as I see it could play a crucial role in education. Mac has done this before (Macintosh, iMac) and loves to sell its products to schools/Universities.