iPad and Education – Is it worth the Investment?

Picture: flickr user bengrey

The thing I love most about being a blogger is the direct engagement with my readers. Getting feedback and thoughts on posts directly is always enlightening and brings up different angles of a story or delivers the basis for an analysis like this one here.

This post is based on a comment in the Edupreneurs Club on Facebook (if you are an edupreneur and did not join our secret circle, what are you waiting for?). Based on my piece about the ShowMe App for iPad Glenn Weidner pointed out that Salman Khan is using a less costly setup to create his famous lessons and that the price tag for an iPad might be too high for most teachers who are looking to contemplate technology in the classroom.

Before I give you my take on this, I would like to thank Glenn for bringing this up and for posting the link to where Salman Khan explains his setup, something I had wondered about for quite a while. I really appreciate it.

I did not buy the first generation of the iPad as I felt back then that it did not live up to what it has eventually become. There was no camera and I did not like the form factor. And by now we all know that the second generation of Apple products is usually much better. So when it became lighter, thinner and featured two cameras I bought one but only the WiFi version with 16 GB. I don’t use mobile Internet because I find it still too expensive and there are enough WiFi connections available these days, even in rural Brittany. I also don’t need a huge disk space because I won’t download music, videos or tons of applications. Hence I paid 489€ and had to add another 39€ for the Smart Cover thanks to Evernote and StudyBlue later on.

The thing is this, when you decide to invest in an iPad you are investing into much more than just a nice looking gadget. As I said, the iPad features two cameras which turns it into a photo camera, a video camera and a video conferencing device.

With the iPad come the applications and as Apple paid over $2.5 billion to its developers up to now you can imagine that a big chunk of the brightest amongst them are creating apps for the iOS ecosystem. Therefore you will get an ever rising choice of really awesome applications, ShowMe is only one of them.

With the iPad comes its simplicity. I am also using Camtasia for my video interviews so I know that you need to have at least some experience in video editing to use it. Then you need to know how to upload a video, either to YouTube or other services. Then you need to know how to get viewers to see it, either on one of the major video platforms or, even more difficult, on your own website or blog. And of course you need a PC or Mac which, when we assume a teacher starts from scratch, is another big investment besides Camtasisia’s software and the tablet to draw on. On the iPad you download ShowMe and can start right away. If you are done you click on upload and the ShowMe is on a portal that is made for students to search for and find video lessons.

This last argument may sound cheesy, but the iPad is the future. You might have heard of the “post PC era” and the iPad 2 is definitely a very good example for this. It has about the same specs like my laptop but it fits in my handbag. Many of your students will most likely already have one or are going to have one in the family in the coming weeks. Remember the days when in a computer shop all the shelves were full of desktop or tower PCs and there was only a tiny one that had two or three laptops on it? Last time I counted 24 laptops vs 4 desktop PCs and this will again switch to tablets vs laptops.

The tablet will become the digital backpack of students. All textbooks will be digital in a couple of years, South Korea is aiming for 2015. Tests will be taken on tablets or smartphones, I will have an EDUKWEST with Naiku, one of the pioneers in that field, tomorrow. Learning and homework will be done via apps like StudyBlue and watching videos like Khan Academy or Brightstorm. Live tutors will be just a finger tab away as we can see already now with Motuto.

Now, is the iPad worth the investment? For me the answer is yes. Sometimes, you simply have to pay a certain price as an investment in yourself and for that matter into your own future. Or, in the words of the Prince of Darkness “Life won’t wait for you”.

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  • http://www.french-classes4u.com/ sophie depons

    I bought an Ipad to use it as a tool for teaching french. It is great to for videos,  books especially for children etc. but there is a huge drawback than many people don’t know before buying it (I didn’t know): the Ipad does not support Flash applications (at least the first generation, didn’t check this info for the new one) and 8o% of the applications on  internet uses Flash! that means that you cannot use many great audio applications that are out there available to help learning a language. In that respect I was highly disappointed and went straight back to my labtop….

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Apple does not support Flash at all, at least on the iOS devices like iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad.

      The argument is that Flash is an old technology that uses far too much of the devices resources and it causes a lot of crashes. And if you take a look at the recent launches of different tech companies you will notice that the shift is clearly to HTML 5 and that is supported by Apple.

      You are right, Apple should mention that fact.

      • http://www.french-classes4u.com/ sophie depons

        yes, I read that argument when I did my research on why flash was not supported. but I think the battle between the 2 companies go beyond this argument.  and even if   the shift to a newer technology is for the better, it is not overnight that all the applications on internet will change .  So the reality today is that you cannot use most of the applications out there with the Ipad.

      • Larnibus

        Like other posters have noted, this has a lot to do with Apple’s business manoeuvring to prevent another rich-authoring platform running on its devices.  The majority of scorm content I’ve seen uses Flash – why?  Because it’s much more powerful and easier to use than javascript and html. 
        Aside from Silverlight (which Apple would definitely not take on) – there isn’t anything else like it that’s multiplatform compatible. 

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein


    What a crisp and clear and informative post this is. 

    iPad’s are already a de facto standard here in the states. And a platform for the burgeoning educational market. This is no longer a question mark.

    There is a host of early and mid stage funding and start-up innovation in all sectors on the iPad platform but also a significant amount in the education sector. There is no risk in building nor getting funding for iPad only apps. Building solutions for the iPad on HTML5  is standard.

    In this particular case I have some first hand glimpses into the educational segment. I’m working as a mentor for an early stage (and quite remarkable) start-up here in NYC– NewQuill( http://newquill.wordpress.com/) who are in the Startl incubator program.

    In presentations to the teachers, even in the public school sectors, the iPad platform is considered part of the future.

  • http://newquill.wordpress.com Michaellawrencemorgan

     You touched on this a bit in your post – when you buy an iPad you’re not just investing in technology, but a new way of thinking. 

    The power for learning differentiation using tablet and other mobile technologies is worth the investment – the iPad has an automatic “cool” factor for kids. I taught at middle school in Los Angeles and a student simply READING on an iPad brought a group of 8-10 kids hovering around them wanting to “try it” next. 

    What is missing are more tools like “showme” that make the iPad a legitimate learning tool with a creative experience that differs from a strictly  consumer experience. 
    There’s a lot of room to grow. Sophie, we understand your frustration with the lack of Flash, but trust me when I say that HTML5 (HTML and Java Script) is BETTER – WAY better. It’s a user friendly experience and far more customizable than flash was. There are only a few applications using HTML5 functionality in their apps right now, but we at newquill are working as fast as we can to get it out to the masses. 

    Where are you located? Perhaps you’d like to beta our application in your classroom? :) 

    • ChinaMike

      To the masses? Ouch!

      • ChinaMike

        “HTML5 is BETTER- WAY better”. As it stands this statement is a great example of hyperbole.

  • http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel Joel Heinrichs

    Good post! And yes, iPads create a new way of thinking and a ton of student engagement! I just addressed my thoughts on “The Year of the iPad” in my latest blog post. http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel/2011/07/06/reflections-on-iste-2011-part-1/ 

  • http://whatafy.com whatafy

    No way. The education must be made with the books in your hand. 

  • http://www.acceptly.com Kathryn Favaro

    Nice post! Thought you might be interested in a site I’m building Acceptly.com. Online tool to guide high school students (and parents) through the entire college prep and application process. Let me know if you want to take a look.

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Hey Kathryn, thanks for stopping by. I am always interested to learn about new startups in education. Will shoot you an email 😉

  • http://mckennaconstructiononline.com Outdoor playground equipment

    There are a host of early and mid-stage fundings and start-up innovation
    in all sectors on the iPad platform, but also a growing amount in the
    education sector. There is little/no risk in building apps nor getting
    funding for iPad only apps. Building solutions for the iPad on HTML5  is
    pretty standard.