One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

Summary: Apple's new education program with the iPad front and center in schools leads to the question if the tablet is durable enough to survive.

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TOPICS: Apple, iPad, Mobility
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Apple wants to make a difference in areas that matter, and education certainly qualifies. Today's announcement of a new textbook publishing scheme, that provides rich textbook content for grade schoolers using iPads, is a good step toward bringing the education system into the digital age. There is one thing that may get in the way of the Apple goal: kids.

I have been fortunate to raise my kids in a progressive school district with funding to apply to new initiatives. These have included numerous attempts to modernize education through the mandatory use of laptops by students. While not all textbooks used at the time were available in digital form, some of the most important texts were provided on the laptop. According to the educators behind these early programs, the objective was not only to provide access to digital textbooks but to train kids in the use of laptops and programs to prepare them for adulthood.

As part of my interest in covering mobile technology, I made friends with several administrators handling these programs at the schools, which included both middle schools and high schools. Listening to the people behind the laptops in grade schools was certainly eye-opening, and lead me to wonder how feasible Apple's iPads in schools initiative can really be.

What these program administrators discovered was how destructive school kids can be on a regular basis. The stories they told about how thoroughly destroyed many of these laptops were over the course of a school year, in what would be considered top schools, were mind-boggling. Several years of data found that few, if any, laptops survived the entire school year without extensive physical damage through poor handling by the kids. It was so bad that after the first couple of years the budget had to be changed to reflect the inability to use a single laptop in more than one school year.

While service plans were in place to replace broken laptops, the cost of such plans skyrocketed to reflect the fact that most of the devices were being routinely destroyed by rough handling. These weren't shoddy laptops to begin with, they were specifically chosen to withstand a beating. I know the laptops my own kids were assigned were like tanks, but that didn't matter. Even by working with my kids to teach them proper handling techniques, every one of their laptops showed signs of damage by year's end.

Having seen how little chance these fairly rugged laptops had in the hands of teenagers, I can't imagine iPads being able to handle the abuse. They are simply too thin and fragile to handle the rigors of thee school day. I can easily imagine horrible cracking sounds emanating from backpacks as things are thrown on top of the tablets.

There are a lot of factors that will determine if Apple's new program can make a difference, but none so questionable in my mind as the durability of the iPad. I can't imagine them lasting longer than the laptops used in other programs, and that at lower cost than the pricey iPad. Kids are rough, and the iPad is not.

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Topics: Apple, iPad, Mobility

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42 comments
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  • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

    Sounds like another "sky is failing, be scared!" post. Kids are likely to want the iPads - they were a number one requested holiday item for school age kids. Places that have 1 iPad per kid implementations have not reported any problems with breakage. Check out the Fraiser Speirs blog about running a program at his school for the past year. (I am not affiliated with him, just find his blog informative.) http://speirs.org/
    teetee1970
    • Its realistic

      @teetee1970
      I provide my kids (all 4) with a plethora of devices, teach them how to use them and quickly discovered it is cheaper to buy a base line pc than a higher end device and get them to treat is carefully.
      Kids.

      A dropped book I can pick up and reopen.
      A dropped device, if I am lucky it will turn back on and work.
      rhonin
    • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

      @teetee1970 I get the feeling that Apple is looking to expand their sales of the IPad since overall sales of tablets (IPad included) have slowed since last summer.
      krustykanuck
  • Get the Griffin 'Survivor' case

    enough said...
    techjitsu
  • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

    My daughter's school has iPads and there has not been a single unit destroyed this year. (knock on wood) We shelled out the 35 bucks for the 1 year insurance policy and did so happily. I don't see breakage as an issue because she treats her iPad with more respect then I typically treat my own, Business Users are rough.
    cwbuechler@...
    • Mind Boggling

      @cwbuechler@...
      Thats like saying all highschool senior class students are drivers and there was not one accident the entire year.

      Not doubting, just statistically improbable....
      rhonin
      • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

        @rhonin

        Everyone cuts their finger at least once a year as well.

        The point is, accidents happen. That is why, in this case, most schools will have insurance for accidental damage and spare iPads to lend out. (At least, that would be my game plan.)

        Besides, the money saved on school books per year using this announced program would more than cover the cost for iPad insurance.

        Doesn't that make sense to you?
        kenosha77a
    • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

      @cwbuechler@...
      There are always exceptions to almost every general trend. Isolated exceptions never have changed the reality of a general rule or general trend.

      I believe the author when they say they have actual statistics, rather than anecdotal evidence, concerning schools that have adopted laptops for the children and found that in general the children are abusive.

      School districts should not make book-purchasing decisions, or adoption of new tech that is to replace books, based on isolated exceptions or on anecdotal evidence but rather on hard evidence of reality.

      My daughter has at times brought home used school books that seemed to be in pristine condition and only the information page indicated the book had been previously used but most of the used school books that my daughter brings home show abuse that would have killed an ipad. Just because some of the books my daughter has brought home are in pristine condition does not mean it is a good idea to shift to fragile iPad.


      On a different twist on this subject, what if apple was to come out with a smaller ipad? An ipad designed specifically with a 'young' student in mind? An ipad that was a bit more rugged and had a hard cover that closed over the glass? And what if this smaller ipad cost around $200 to $300? I think it would put a new spin on things.
      John238
  • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

    Schools should drop ipads and go with Windows 8 tablets. Windows 8 is more robust, more secure, and more cost effective than anything made by Crapple.
    Stephen-B
    • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

      @Stephen-B
      Do they have textbooks too?
      Scrabbler
    • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

      @Stephen-B Are Win8 tablets even available yet? (I don't think so) And are they really less than $500? (again, I don't think so) Even if they are priced lower in the long run, will they be so much less expensive that they would outweigh the build quality of the iPad? (possibly, but not likely if they cost less). Apple can make products with higher quality for less because the produce in huge volumes. Unfortunately, other tablet manufacturers don't have the scale to compete equally on build quality and price. Maybe they will in 5 years, but not yet.
      reasonableman
      • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

        @reasonableman the Crapple ipad is built by the lowest bidder, so the build quality is typical Crapple crap. The Nokia Lumia 710 phones are worlds better than those overpriced Crapple iphones, so everything with Windows cost less, and is better made. That's a stone cold fact, and no one can dispute facts.
        Stephen-B
      • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

        @Stephen-B

        Well that added nothing to the conversation, did it?
        jgpmolloy
  • Lets just hope it doesnt get that far. Its such a bad idea to start with.

    Not etextbooks in general but this proposed app/publisher incarnation is nothing but a complete taxpayer ripoff that's nothing short of disgusting. It just sickens me to even think about how sick they are to try this at any time, let alone now when the public education system is already on hte brink. How dare they. And with such smugness it's insulting. Apple reached a new low today :(
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

      @Johnny Vegas

      You have a singular point of view regarding this topic.
      kenosha77a
      • Really how? Im all for etextbooks. I know all about the 30-40lb backpack.

        And Im all for the cost savings. The problem is theres none of that here. This is for the benefit of apple and the publishers, not the kids or the schools or the taxpayers. The Department of Education should pick a standard open format (html5?) and a standard DRM. It should make sure there are free ereaders available for windows, android, ios, kindle, etc. Many kids already have laptops or tablets and there's no reason to get ipads as well. Apple, amazon, microsoft, etc. should provide the ereaders free as a way to get you to buy their platform and compete on ereader extra features. They should also make sure the books are avaiable from the publishers themselves or a competitve marketplace exists like amazon, b&n, etc. Giving any oem like apple a cut of any school/publisher transaction is stupid, they add no value. They can make and charge what they want for publishing tools, thats fine. But nothing for the books. Thats a taxpayer ripoff. And the "for life" crap, give me a break. Thats apples way of getting the pubs on board for a gravy train. Are you wishing you had your "See Spot Run" from K for life? It's pure greed. The schools reuse textbooks for years and that number of years should do nothing but increase with etextbooks. The schools still need to buy 4th grade books for this years 4th graders and then resuse them for next years 4th graders. Not rebuy them. If any kid wants to own a previous grades book they can always buy it. Thats going to be 1%. The rest is pub and apple app store ripoff. The pubs are already making very large profits now and etextbooks takes away about 98% of their cost of goods. Marginally cutting the price alone is a ripoff, they should come down to the $1-$2 range. This is a blatent money grab by apple and the pubs, and at a time when our public education can least afford it. It's disgusting. Do it but do it right so it benefits the kids and saves billions, not lines apples pockets for zero value add.
        Johnny Vegas
      • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

        @Johnny Vegas

        After reading your rebuttal, I believe you are mixing two different scenarios to make your financial points. Let me explain.

        Either a school district will purchase an iPad and textbooks for it's students or it will support a "Bring your Own Device" policy with either a school supplied electronic textbook or leave it up to the student to purchase their own textbooks and a tablet to view them on.

        Let's examine your arguments in that understanding and see if the two of us can come to a resolution, OK?

        You state your support for e-textbooks, a reduction in overall textbook weight and a preference for cost savings. But you state that the iPad/iBook business model does NOT satisfy any of those points.

        I disagree for some obvious reasons. One 1.5 pound iPad weighs far less than traditional textbooks even if the combined textbook weight is not in the 30-40 lb class. As far as saving overall costs, we first must examine whether the school system or the student/family will be responsible for book/iPad costs.

        If the school system purchases the e-textbooks, the costs are cheaper under the proposed Apple Business model. Even you can see why. Electronic books CAN'T be damaged. If the school system purchases the iPad (as many school systems have done so), the e-textbooks can be used by students year after year - as long as the material remains relevant. There are obvious cost savings by the school district since - once again - electronic books can not be damaged or lost and their costs are cheaper initially as well.

        In the BYOD student/family scenario, the school system might normally be expected to supply the textbooks used by student so no extra student expense for textbooks would be incurred. But, in a school system that did not fund a student's textbooks, the cost to the student would still be cheaper than if he would require a traditional paper based textbook purchase.

        Only in the scenario where a school system requires a particular e-textbook which requires an iPad for use and the school system neither supplies the iPad or the textbook to the student, would the student/family be expected to incur this added student expense.

        I was amused by your "See Spot Run" example. (As an historical fact, my first dog - which I named - was called Spot. I wasn't too creative for my choice of pet names. Grin) But I see your point. If a person was required to purchase his textbook, than the advantage to the student or family expense budget is that "Spot" could never eat his/her textbook. In other words, the "See Spot Run" e-book could never be lost or damaged while it's subject material remains relevent to the student. The advantage is NOT being able to keep his "See Spot Run" textbook for ever .. at least I hope so. GRIN!

        Expecting any manufacture to supply an electronic device free to students is an unrealistic expectation. Your concept of a student utopian environment where all educational costs to the student or schools systems are zero for any hardware required is .. as I stated .. a singular point of view.

        Your desire to see a standardized e-book format approved by the Department of Education is a reasonable one. But, until that occurs, you can't fault Apple or any other Business concern for instituting a system where standards are not in place.

        I disagree with your opinion that the iPad (with appropriate educational material installed or available to it) is of "zero value" to the student. Numerous examples already exist (even in the iPad's short two year history) where a student's learning environment has been objectively and subjectively improved over an environment using traditional textbooks and traditional course material. (There are just too many examples to cite. I leave it as an academic exercise to you to research this for yourself.)

        In summary, we don't live in a perfect "Walgreen" world. Apple has instituted a program that should benefit students, families and school systems which adopt it. If it doesn't benefit all students, all families, all hardware platforms, all business concerns and all unicorns than, what can I say or state except that I fail to see how an improvement, even in a limited way, is an evil, greedy endeavor.

        Unless a student or family presents a religious argument that prohibits their use of Apple related products or material in a school setting, I can't even comprehend why you believe Apple has reached a new low today.
        kenosha77a
    • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

      @Johnny Vegas

      You are 100% right. And this type of thing is not up to Apple at all as all universities I've visited (and the one I attended) had facility owned and operated bookstores, and course materials are up the professors. This is Apple trying to force themselves into a value chain where they add nothing.
      qwetry
      • RE: One thing may rock the Apple iPad for education scheme: Kids

        @qwetry

        Any University Professor is not harmed by this initiative by Apple and the select Publishers. Your University Professor can choose whatever textbooks he feels his students require.

        This Apple initiative also includes the OS X program, iBooks Author, as an aid to any teacher in creating custom textbook material which would then be posted on Apples iBooks 2 app store. (If the professor wishes to release this custom digital textbook for free, than there are no further complications. If he wishes to charge for his work then there are other considerations and requirements that must be met.)

        The term "empowerment" springs to mind when I consider this new Apple textbook initiative. It is an aid to teachers in teaching course material since they can create there own textbooks rather easily. The professor and the school districts are free to adopt this program or not.

        You don't need to fear this. Apple isn't trying to "force themselves" onto anyone.
        kenosha77a
  • Works for college .. K - 12 not so much

    I highly doubt you will have many school boards approve an budget to do this at any large scale. Like Apps the Textbooks are not loanable. You buy it - you own it. K-12 rarely buys books they are provided by the school in most cases so even at $15 or lower you would need to buy every student a new set of ebooks yearly. You also have the iPad costs, Apple pretty much killed their education discount a few years ago and I don't see already cash strapped schools footing the bill for an iPad for every student, I don't see struggling parents bearing a host of increased costs footing that bill and I certainly don't see lower income parents paying a dime for an iPad.

    How do you govern the device? Do you allow AppStore, Safari? These textbooks can be up to 2gb per book so how does a 16gb iPad even have enough capacity for textbooks and other content?

    A nice idea but outside of private schools with wealthy parents this will be like PING.
    MobileAdmin