Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

Summary: The Apple iPad is an amazing tablet with textbook content now fully supported. What's keeping it from becoming the standard for the educational sector? Should something else be used instead?

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I understood I had an uphill battle to win the latest ZDNet Great Debate arguing that we would see an iPad for every child, but think the only real obstacle is money and that is something that could be solved if society valued education more than things like entertainment and professional sports.

With three daughters in the public education system, I understand that funding is an issue. I also believe there are creative ways to make things happen and if Apple offered educational discounts and we put our money where our mouth is we could get iPads into the system. Maybe I am being a bit naive, but I think kids would treat them much better than textbooks and an iPad with interactive materials would help generate some excitement for education in kids that are not as self-motivated as others.

Much of Christoper's winning argument focused on the open nature of alternative tablets, but in this regard I think Apple's closed nature is beneficial for a couple of reasons. School districts don't have large IT departments and cannot devote resources to messing with various systems, content, and troubleshooting. The iPad has a very long battery life, is stable, is easy to setup and use, and can be used for most all of the basic computing needs in schools so that even laptops and desktops could be replaced.

The major textbook publishers are on board with the iBooks 2 Textbooks program and that was something I honestly thought would be a major hurdle. They see the potential in the iPad as an educational tool. Do you think we should get the iPad into student's hands and will it benefit the educational system?

UPDATE: Greg sent me a link of an interesting collection of images showing data he gathered regarding this issue. His data shows the cost comparison in great detail and makes it quite clear that cost is a major factor in rolling out iPads in education.

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Topics: Tablets, Apple, Enterprise Software, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Legal, Mobility

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27 comments
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  • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

    You make a curious argument: spend a ton of money on proprietary and costly tablets with a huge markup on them, because school districts can't afford even a minimum IT staff? It's a ridiculous argument.

    But even so, there's a pretty simple answer: if you are going to standardize, do it on a large scale. There would be no reason for an IT staff if you had a statewide or national infrastructure like iTunes that managed student tablets. Outsource it all to India for low-cost technical support and it becomes the cheapest investment you could make to move students into the "digital textbook age." Centralized and closed you say? Well, so is Apple.
    terry flores
    • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

      @terry flores the future of ipad itself is doubtful where is the question of ipad textbooks? win 8 will kill the ipad.
      augustus_rome
      • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

        @augustus_rome I agree Win 8 looks awesome and makes the iPad look downright dowdy!
        jatbains
  • Sounds like a great idea to standardize on iTextbooks

    Yes, let's standardize on a format that Apple has made very clear will only ever be made available for 1 device from 1 company and only sold through 1 store.

    While we are at it, let's scrap all this HTML 5 stuff and standardize on Active X web pages. Everyone must use a Windows machine and IE to access the web. Sounds great.
    toddybottom_z
  • NO TEXTBOOKS SHOULD BE AN OPEN FORMAT

    I am shouting this!! What happens if Apple decides to either stop making or modify the iPad to make it incompatible with previous textbooks?

    The format of the book should be independent of the hardware. It needs to run on PCs, Macs, Android, Win8, etc...
    jatbains
    • Yes, the format for these e-books should be hardware IN-dependant.

      @jatbains "What happens if Apple decides to either stop making or modify the iPad to make it incompatible with previous textbooks?"

      You know they eventually will...so they can sell MORE hardware. Done it before...they'll do it again. But they are not alone in this, unfortunately.
      IT_Fella
      • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

        @IT_Fella

        Pleaaaaasssssseeeee!

        Have both you and jatbains forgotten that books or apps sold thru the app store are easily updated. When iOS 5 was introduced, many, if not all, app vendors updated their software to take advantage of iOS 5 capabilities. Many of those updates were free of charge as well.

        I wouldn't worry too much about that issue.
        kenosha77a
      • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

        @IT_Fella - I think there is a even bigger issue... What if Apple made a e-textbook format and nobody came? I know, as an author, I have no interest in writing and developing content in the Apple app sphere because of the terms of content ownership. I suspect that an awfully large number of authors who are accustomed to their highly developed content being their creations that they can publish with whomever gives them the best royalty deal will stay away from Apple's terms. If others copy their approach and content, be ready for a whole lot of lawsuit action over copyright infringement. I agree that content should be device-neutral. I am not sure how easily this could be done, given the need for interactive content over a wide variety of operating systems (I can't even get apps for my smartphone that everyone keeps drooling over...), but we need a better approach than the iPad. Too costly, too fragile, and too proprietary. I like standardized operating systems, but I want independent content.
        always-a-geek
      • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

        @IT_Fella - I think there is a even bigger issue... What if Apple made a e-textbook format and nobody came? I know, as an author, I have no interest in writing and developing content in the Apple app sphere because of the terms of content ownership. I suspect that an awfully large number of authors who are accustomed to their highly developed content being their creations that they can publish with whomever gives them the best royalty deal will stay away from Apple's terms. If others copy their approach and content, be ready for a whole lot of lawsuit action over copyright infringement. I agree that content should be device-neutral. I am not sure how easily this could be done, given the need for interactive content over a wide variety of operating systems (I can't even get apps for my smartphone that everyone keeps drooling over...), but we need a better approach than the iPad. Too costly, too fragile, and too proprietary. I like standardized operating systems, but I want independent content.
        always-a-geek
      • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

        @IT_Fella - I think there is a even bigger issue... What if Apple made a e-textbook format and nobody came? I know, as an author, I have no interest in writing and developing content in the Apple app sphere because of the terms of content ownership. I suspect that an awfully large number of authors who are accustomed to their highly developed content being their creations that they can publish with whomever gives them the best royalty deal will stay away from Apple's terms. If others copy their approach and content, be ready for a whole lot of lawsuit action over copyright infringement. I agree that content should be device-neutral. I am not sure how easily this could be done, given the need for interactive content over a wide variety of operating systems (I can't even get apps for my smartphone that everyone keeps drooling over...), but we need a better approach than the iPad. Too costly, too fragile, and too proprietary. I like standardized operating systems, but I want independent content.
        always-a-geek
      • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

        Sorry. Something went horribly wrong as I was posting. Don't exactly know how three copies went up to the cloud....
        always-a-geek
  • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

    "but think the only real obstacle is money"

    Considering our unsustainable economy, I wouldn't count on that being fixed in the next 10 years.

    "and that is something that could be solved if society valued education more than things like entertainment and professional sports."

    We do. Problem is, educational costs are going up steeply, and frankly I don't think we know where any of the money is going. Considering how little we pay teachers, it's certainly not going to them.

    I don't think the problem is technological. I think it has to do with schools being honest about how they spend (or hoard?) our money.
    CobraA1
    • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

      @CobraA1 We used to get textbooks from the school, they were old and tatty and they were handed out until the pages started to fall out. If you ripped or tore pages out, your parents would get the bill for a new book - so you didn't, because you knew that would have consequences.

      That meant the cost of text books was laid out over 5 - 10 years. With the iPad and iBooks, the books have to be "replaced" every year, and I don't think a single iPad is going to last from junior school right up until upper sixth...

      A lot of families I know struggle to get a single PC for the family together - usually a hand-me-down with Celeron processor, 256MB RAM and an old CRT monitor. There is no way such families could afford an iPad per child, and the schools couldn't afford the additional costs of throwing all their textbooks away and replacing them with virtual books and iPads for all pupils.

      Even a basic Kindle is currently too expensive, to expect every parent or for the district to cough up for every child, let alone the price for non-reusable text books.
      wright_is
  • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

    You were on uphill battle because what you purposed is an unsustainable model.

    The reason of why Apple is doing so great because they thrived on locking out choices and charging premium price on their product, not being open and commoditizing hardware.

    Public education system has social and fiduciary responsibility for using the most openly avaliable and cost effective tools, which in most cases will just not align with Apple's businese scheme.

    And then, personally, there is an iStrain issue. If I had kids I wouldn't want their developing eyes staring at iPad 8-10 hours a day. I couldn't read on tablet for a few hours straight like I do with paper. Strange enough, nobody seems to care about long term reading on bright surface could be a health issue.
    Samic
  • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

    Let's not forget that Apple tried this scam before with the Mac. Schools spent a fortune on it when the Mac was the new hot thing. Eventually the IBM/x86 Windows PC became a juggernaut when normal people realized they could get a better computer for a lower price. My area's schools dropped the Mac and ended up with more computers which means that more students can use them. The students are also being trained on the computers they will see in the business world.

    Right now the iPad is hot. Android may or may not catch up but Windows tablets will. They will have the advantage of compatibility with the existing school software infrastructure and the existing IT staff will be able to support it. Give it a year or two and this i thing will blow over. Apple will go back to being an entertainment company.
    HildyJhnsn
  • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

    Before I post my rant, I'll answer "Yes" and "Yes" to your last questions, Do you think we should get the iPad into student's hands and will it benefit the educational system?

    I followed this debate and thought to myself that anyone ZDNet chose to argue the anti-Apple position would win "hands down". Even ZDNet Health blogger, Denise Amrich, could have won this debate in place of Chris. Why? Because of the overwhelming emotional anti-Apple and pro-open source beliefs of ZDNet Talkback posters regarding this topic. (Notice I didn't include ZDNet Bloggers - although, IMO, they helped fan those flames with their opinions.)

    Just based upon the observations, facts and logic presented by both debaters, I felt that Matthew offered the least biased and factual statements and, just focusing on the debate answers alone, should have won this debate. For example:

    Regarding the debate question, Can Apple recapture the magic in education?, Chris offered this opinion. "What will actually win the education market will be the ecosystem .. Right now, it looks like Android has a better chance of becoming the dominant player on the potential of price alone; the ecosystem has yet to emerge."

    Chris relied on "potential" arguments while ignoring Apple's dominant ecosystem advantage.

    Regarding the debate question, How makes the iPad a great educational tool?, Chris volunteered this insight. "Apple will remain a niche player."

    A niche player in educational tablets?? It's hard to justify that observation, IMO, when you take into account Apple's considerable lead already in that category.

    Regarding the debate question, What about Apple's interactive books plan, Chris states the following. Not game changers. In some cases, yes ???"

    Well, that was very "wishy-washy". A true political flip-flop statement if I ever read one.

    Regarding the debate topic, The ecosystem thing, Chris borrowed a page from Ed Bott's super hyperbole playbook with this accusation. "Beats the Draconian eyes of Apple"

    Yeah .. it's so Draconian that Microsoft will adopt most, if not all, of the Apple App Store "Draconian" measures. By the way, look up "Draconian". Nothing about Apple's educational policies, actions or philosophy is - excessively harsh and severe. (definition of draconian)

    Regarding the debate topic, IT in education, Chris opines, It hurts Apple.

    Well, I can't prove this but I'll bet that Apple products and software (in use at public primary schools thru University levels) far outnumbers Android or other "open source" computer resources. (Excluding Linux based mainframes)

    With statements like those above, Chris won this debate hands down?
    kenosha77a
    • Ummmm....

      @kenosha77a

      I'd love to see an instance of where I ever used the word "Draconian," much less misused it.
      Ed Bott
      • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

        @Ed Bott

        You never used that word, Ed. I pointed it out and used your blog posts as an example of hyperbole. I mean, "evil", "mind-bogglingly greedy" are not exactly accurate or "level headed" descriptions of recent events, wouldn't your agree in retrospect? (especially that "evil" part.)
        kenosha77a
  • RE: Great Debate lost: Do you think every student will eventually have an iPad?

    OK, why are we having this debate and why do we need tablets/computers in the classroom? I have yet to see proof that computers in the classroom offer improved learning experiences, with the exception of niche applications. It seems to me that the people who invented/built the foundation for modern electronics used slide rules and the lack of computers didn't hold them back. I would rather see an emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. Learn approximation and reasonability. Once you have these skills, computers are useful tools to increase productivity.
    fwelsh
  • What if....

    Every student were armed with a piece of technology that could

    - Access the Internet
    - Read documents that are in a format that is readable by a piece of free software

    That is all student needs to learn. Not a proprietary piece of hardware, nor books created with proprietary tools (wth Draconian EULA's attached to them that force you to give a cut of your work to the most despicable company on the planet).

    But, to answer the question the title proposes, the day my son comes to me saying "I have to have an iP{ad (or any proprietary device) for class X, my answer will be to drop that class!
    omdguy