I know...it's the Apple rumor mill hard at work. The blogosphere is and has been abuzz with news of an upcoming uber-Touch from Apple and a new storm of news hit the Net today with the Financial Times announcement of some degree of rumor confirmation and a tablet, for sure (really) this fall.
I can see why people get excited about an Apple tablet. The iPod Touch is cool, no matter what you say about Apple. Make it bigger and price it below an entry-level MacBook? That has to be good, right? And it probably will be. Wherever we stand on the MacBook fanboy spectrum, it's hard not to admit that Apple makes cool products and a multitouch tablet at an almost-reasonable price would be among the coolest.
I have two words for you: Electronic Textbooks. Here's a few more: brilliant, high-resolution color, multitouch interactivity, annotation and storage, EVDO Internet connectivity. You get the point, of course. This has the potential to be a real game-changer in the classroom, whether K-12 or post-secondary. No more laptop walls, but rather interactive versions of texts, supplemental materials, notes, and web access in a portable, durable package; this is the promise of an Apple tablet in education.
This is also what is known as an empty promise. While Apple talks "Cocktails" to convince people that they really should buy entire albums from their iTunes store, complete with large liner notes that will surely have some very cool multitouch navigation and will look amazing when people are sitting in bean bag chairs listening to "albums" together, I can barely get a PDF of many textbooks.
No matter how cool this new tablet ends up being, without smart educational content, it's the last thing I want to see in a classroom. I can view those PDFs (if they exist) on a $200 netbook. I want Apple to announce that it has major textbook publishers on board posting fully interactive versions of their textbooks to the iTunes store, not that media companies are making bigger and better liner notes that will look pretty on a 10" screen. When Houghton-Mifflin and Harcourt and Pearson start developing for multitouch, then we can talk. Until then, the new tablet about which the Financial Times (and everyone else's brother) is talking can stay in a bedroom with a lava lamp and said bean bag chair.