Once upon a time, humans learned from tinkering. To be human, you immersed yourself in the world, observed how things worked, engaged in trial and error and eventually made advancements. Over the past few centuries, education has turned into what I call a transmitter/receiver relationship. In the attempt at educating the masses, we’ve standardized an education model where we are told what to learn and when. To make matters worse, the few times students are allowed to write their thoughts in essay form, they are graded by a biased professor who is more interested in regurgitation of their opinions than having a classful of rebellious thinkers.
I feel the iPad and its inevitable tablet brethren are going to change a lot of how we view education. If every child had a tablet computer and the right software applications, teachers jobs could morph into “Proctors of knowledge” and give children assistance when they got stuck. In between however, children could fully immerse themselves in interactive learning that can be constantly measured to make sure everyone is on track and kids aren’t being left behind.
How did I come to this conclusion four days after the launch of the iPad? I visited Apple’s page dedicated to some of its more interesting apps available at launch. The three apps I immediately saw educational potential in were the Periodic Table (Elements) app, the Marvel comic app and the Scrabble app.
You’ll need to watch the videos to see what I mean. The Periodic Table app speaks for itself, I want to spend $500 on this device just so I can learn from this app in all it’s visual glory. The Marvel app caught my eye as well, you can now download comics to your iPad and flick through the story just like a normal comic book. Imagine a digital comic book about America’s Revolution with questions about the content trickled through the story. A child could devour historical content and be none the wiser that he was actually learning. Finally Scrabble brings a fundamentally fun and challenging game into the 21st century that children could circle around to learn vocabulary. Because the game is housed in a sleek brand spanking new Apple product, why wouldn’t kids want to play Scrabble on it?
It’s about time we realize that education like our other archaic institutions is overdue for a major overhaul. We should embrace these new form factors of computing and shape the next 300 years of education instead of being stuck in what USED to work.
One thought on “The iPad can revolutionize education”
Having just watched the presentation Apple did at OSU-Stillwater about the iPad, I’m inclined to disagree. It’s not that the device and the platform can’t revolutionize education – because it can – it’s that Apple wants too much control over the device and what can and can’t be done with it.Apps can open and save files, but any type of real file management is impossible without jailbreaking the device. And you have to have iTunes installed. This isn’t a coincidence or a technical requirement – I can mount my iPhone (same OS) and access its files as a drive *without a jailbreak*. The only reason iTunes is required is so that you’ll have iTunes installed and buy music/apps/books/etc.Then, the lack of multitasking UI is so incredibly stupid. The iPhone does multitasking – right now. Install Backgrounder in Cydia, set it up. I have the SiriusXM app set to background. Then you start the app. And then press the home button when you want to send it to the background. It plays music while you go check your mail, reply to a text, post on Facebook. This is my exercise routine. Now, pretend you have your textbooks on an iPad, and then find yourself wanting to take notes. You should be able to press Home, press the Notes app, then start taking notes (PREFERABLY with handwriting). And then press home, then go back to the book. Without having to wait for the app to reload. And due to Apple’s draconian controls, you can’t copy a part of the book out into the Notes app. Someone at OSU-Stillwater pointed this out and Ken Gray, the Apple senior systems engineer in the area, was confused why there was no copy – his rationale is that "Copy is really only meant for copying and pasting in the same app, and there’s nothing to paste to."Oh, and Apple’s apps have an unfair advantage. The Apple eBook reader has a brightness control and may possibly background like I describe. Any third party app, which may be a better eBook reader, will not be able to do that. And it doesn’t do PDFs. Even though the OS will open PDFs, they can’t be read in the eBook reader.I guess, what I’m saying, is that if higher education or K-12 is to adopt the iPad as the next generation learning platform, Apple is going to need to either pay the technologically inclined people to STFU, or stop disabling features that are fully possible because it’s not in their greater business interests to allow you to use them.Also, I registered for Twitter just to reply to you on this. Doesn’t change my opinion of Twitter :P.