3 Reasons Why Schools Need the Apple Tablet

apple_tabletAs Apple is just a day away from announcing its first tablet computer, their stock is soaring through the roof and sales of other Apple products are turning the Cupertino, CA company into an even hotter brand.

While we're not sure what it will be called, the iPad, iSlate or even the iTablet, Apple fans are about as hyped as I've ever seen them in several years.  It could look something like this although no one is fully sure.

As a school leader, I'm anxious for the tablet as well.  Many high schools and certainly colleges, have jumped into the laptop bandwagon as early as 10-12 years ago.  In our area, Union Catholic High School was really the first to invest a ton of money and resources into one laptop for each student.

The results though have been mixed.  As a former school disciplinarian, I would spend countless hours walking the building and checking on classes.  What I saw troubled me- students playing video games just a few feet away from a dedicated teacher trying to communicate the truths of theology or mathematical theorems.  Even if the teacher knew that Johnny was up to no good, Johnny could simply minimize the Halo game he was playing by the time that Mr. Smith got to his desk in the classroom.  A losing proposition that is until now.

Here are three reasons why my school is- in a positive way, anticipating the tablet:

  1. The school laptop initiative has been a failure.  As I mentioned earlier, laptops in high schools are at best an occasional learning device and at worst a system-wide excuse to play video games.  They seemed like a good idea a decade ago but have yet to produce tangible results in terms of student learning.  Worse yet, schools that have come to this realization feel trapped inside an initiative that is too expensive and popular to remove.  (Read this article about a Philadelphia school that now regrets using laptops.)

  2. Scoliosis reports are on the way.  Have you seen your high school student's backpack lately?  I shudder to think of the average weight of most kid's backpacks and I worry that a medical study of American students is around the next corner.  Too many books in a backpack cannot be good for an adult, much less for an 83 pound freshman in high school. The tablet would most likely offer textbooks in a most interactive way.  Most parents I know would welcome fewer books in their child's backpack.

  3. Web 3.0 is coming.  If Web 2.0 means a higher level of interactivity with social networks around the world, Web 3.0 might blow our minds in terms of how students interact with technology.  I see the Amazon Kindle as a valuable learning tool and the Apple tablet as an even further evolution of technology.  What exactly will Web 3.0 offer?  I have no idea but you've got to think that Apple's latest creation will be on the forefront of a next wave of how people interact and learn.

So what has Steve Jobs said about the tablet?  TechCrunch has an article quoting Jobs as having said, "This will be the most important thing I've ever done."  When you consider the wild success of the iPod and iPhone in the last five years, this is a pretty bold statement.

A statement that school leaders like myself hope is true.
Web/TechMike StPierre