An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | February 6, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: One way or the other, e-textbooks are coming. But will it be an Apple-dominated market?

Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

Inevitable

or

Impossible

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Best Argument: Impossible

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Fad or sea change?

    Will tablets in education be a short-lived fad, or does this represent a major sea change? Explain why and how you see it unfolding.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Tablets will eventually be as common as textbooks

    It took a while for people to see the benefits of the iPad in the consumer space and I think we will eventually see tablets in the educational system. If the cost issue can't be figured out in the next year or two, I think it will get ironed out over the long term and tablets will eventually be as common as textbooks in the classroom. Consumers are tech savvy and the school system lags in this area so it will eventually catch up.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    Students will bring what they can afford

    There will be a split between tablets and other mobile internet devices like Chromebooks. Some student populations and specific needs are still far better served with a keyboard and a single, robust device will be preferable to a tablet, a bluetooth keyboard, a doc, etc. These students will end up with Chromebooks and Classmates (or similar devices). Others will be served very well by tablets (e.g., younger students, heavy content consumers, artists, and special education students, for example). More than anything, though, the BYOD movement will dictate that students will bring what they can afford and schools will need to ensure that these hetergeneous devices can access a strong ecosystem of content, assessment tools, and e-learning applications.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thank you for joining us

    Matt and Chris will post their closing arguments tomorrow and I will declare a winner on Thursday. Between now and then, don't forget to cast your vote and jump into the discussion below to post your thoughts on this topic.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Key factors?

    What are the key factors that will determine whether or not the iPad becomes an educational standard and ends up in the hands of virtually every U.S. student?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Cost, cost and cost

    I think the main factor is cost. There is no way schools will pay $500 for each student to get an iPad. If Apple is serious about this market they have to come up with a way to make it attractive and affordable for school districts. I think there are some major advantages and a reasonable cost can be justified if Apple "sells" these advantages. Parents also need to make a committment to holding their kids accountable and responsible for the device they may be issued.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    Price, open ecosystem, differentiated devices

    1) Price: iPads need to be cheaper. They need to compete in the Kindle Fire range. 2) Opening their ecosystem: iBooks is a nonstarter outside the Apple faithful. There needs to be hardware, software, and content that all contribute to drastic improvements in student achievement and are mindful of the bottom line. 3) Providing differentiated devices for different age groups. 10" iPads in the hands of 1st graders will strike fear into any taxpayer's heart.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    IT in education

    Education tends to have notoriously slim IT departments. Does that help or hurt Apple's case?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It helps Apple

    I think this clearly helps Apple since Apple products require minimal IT support. I have moved most of my extended family to Apple products because I was tired of the constant calls for help. I still get calls, but they are far fewer than ever before. There is some management of products to be done, but a minimal staff can take care of it and even teachers can help out with devices like the iPad.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    It hurts Apple

    Even if Apple drops its prices, those prices won't be able to compete with those of Android devices and other emerging platforms (thin clients and Chromebooks, for example). If scarce financial resources are devoted to hardware, then IT departments must shrink even further. Just as teachers are being asked to take their teaching into the 21st century, so are IT staff being asked to take on the role of facilitators and coaches (as well as ???IT guys??? with traditional tech support and project management roles). IT staffing needs to grow, not shrink, so anything that can reduce costs and keep the focus on teaching and learning in the context of tech-rich environments will prevail. Shiny tech toys with high price tags will not.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Closed ecosystems as educational standards

    Is it even practical for a closed ecosystem like Apple and iBooks become an educational standard?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Ecosystems in education are already closed

    Yes, as I mentioned in my last answer, I think the ecosystems in education are already closed, so why not choose another system from Apple? How is Apple different than McGraw-Hill or any other publisher creating educational materials? Several of the textbook publishers currently providing textbooks in paper form are providing iBooks textbooks already and the system isn't even up and running in school districts yet. It is practical and it is already being adopted by the textbook publishers.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    It's neither practical nor appropriate

    There are too many individual, local, state, and federal interests to be addressed. Teachers as well, through Race to the Top (RTTP) and a major education reform effort that goes way beyond No Child Left Behind, are pushing themselves to leave their roles as sage on the stage and really up their game in the classroom. They are guides and brokers of knowledge; a closed ecosystem can't accommodate that (or the peer-level sharing among teachers necessary to advance the state of the art in teaching and learning).

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The ecosystem thing

    Let's talk ecosystems. Education tends to prefer open ecosystems, right? Why is that?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    "Openness" is over used

    I am not an educator and I don't work in the education sector so I can only speak from my experiences as a previous student and current parent. I have heard this open ecosystem argument before, but don't see that myself. Where exactly are there open ecosystems in education? If the schools use Windows, that's not open. If they use Microsoft Office, that's not open. I was required to buy specific textbooks in college for each course and had no choice to get something else. There are a few major textbook publishers, and schools pick one and use that for courses -- so that doesn't seem open to me. I think "openness" is over used and would seem to only apply if Linux was used in schools -- and I have never heard of that happening.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    Beats the Draconian eyes of Apple

    Too many teachers have been content to ride on the content provided by textbook publishers. There is pushback on this approach from both the grassroots educational level and from state and federal governments. Teachers need to uphold national and state standards but still provide individualized education for their students. OER are far better suited to this approach. Similarly, just as open source software has made positive headway in the educational market, so will open ecosystems to which teachers can contribute, draw from, and use at will instead of under the Draconian eyes of Apple.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What about Apple's interactive books plan?

    How about the promise of interactive non-fiction books created in the new iBooks format? Could those be compelling enough as an education tool to drive iPad sales?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Can motivate more students

    Textbooks have been around for a long time and in today's modern digital society I think it is important to engage students. There are many students who love school and are doing fine with textbooks as they are today, but there are also many other students who I think will get reenergized and excited about the interactive features of iBooks textbooks. After using the sample iBooks textbooks on my iPad with a couple of my daughters I honestly think they can enhance the classroom experience and help teachers motivate students to study more while also giving students another element of teaching.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    Not game changers

    In some cases, yes, but the trend towards open educational resources (OER) and teacher-driven instruction (instead of historically heavy reliance on texts) makes this unlikely. iBooks and iBooks Author were absolutely not the game changers they should or could have been. There are much larger non-fiction book efforts underway that are open to both Apple and Android devices (as well as any other Internet-connected computers).

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How makes the iPad a great educational tool?

    What about the iPad is compelling enough to quickly get Apple back into the game?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Drop dead easy to use

    Many of the kids I see at my daughter's school have iPods and Apple is a brand they associate with cool technology and innovation. When the first iPad launched I wrote that it was not really a necessary device, but that it was a joy to use. Having a device that is drop dead easy to use, has a battery life where you don't even really think about it, and something that lets you carry out the functions that most consumers use on a computer is compelling.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    Apple will remain a niche player

    Right now, the UI is arguably smoother and cleaner, with more educational apps and a server infrastructure that provides a reasonable (though quite incomplete) suite of management tools for iOS devices. More importantly, whether students should be using tablets or not, and whether or not those tablets should be iPads, most parents and administrators immediately think that 1:1 initiatives should involve tablets and by far the dominant brand in the consumer tablet market is Apple. With the right pricing and the right content ecosystem (apps, textbooks, cloud applications, and management), Apple could ride this to the top. However, even with rumors swirling of a price cut on the iPad 2 and its potential positioning as the proverbial ???white MacBook??? of tablets for education, there is no indication that an open or adequately robust ecosystem will emerge that will make this possible for Apple. A look back at those white Macbooks and their meager marketshare in the face of cheap PCs is enough of a history lesson to suggest that Apple will remain a niche player here.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Can Apple recapture the magic in education?

    Apple was once a stalwart in the education market, but in the last two decades most schools switched to almost all PCs, right? Isn't it going to take time for Apple to win its way back into education?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Apple is better positioned today

    My three daughters still have a mix of Apple and Windows computers, but I do think Apple has given up its dominance in the education market over the last twenty years. Apple is in a much better financial position than it was back in the 90s and their market share has grown significantly. If Apple wants to "own" the educational market, it will take serious financial contributions to make it happen and shareholders will have to buy into the plan as well.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    It all depends on the ecosystem

    This was driven by the proliferation of cheap PCs and Windows management ecosystems (and the resulting uptick in software development for Windows vs. Mac OS) as Apple moved further and further into the high-end consumer market. Apple is certainly seeing a resurgence, both in education and the enterprise, driven more by IT consumerization than any real improvements in their enterprise ecosystems. However, the educational market is big enough (it's arguably the biggest and most important vertical in IT) to support many players. The advent of the cloud means that locking into a particular vendor is far less of an issue than in the last two decades when the Mac vs. Windows debates had any real merit. What will actually win the education market will be ecosystem. Just as it allowed Windows to emerge as the dominant player for the last 10 years or so (desktop, server, peripherals, and software, all designed to deal with lots of Windows PCs), so will the right ecosystem of apps, management utilities, and cloud-based software, combined with the price points that educational institutions need to hit. 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.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Why will tablets succeed this time?

    Mass market tablets have been around for over a decade. Microsoft's Tablet PCs were hyped as classroom disrupters. Why will the iPad and the new breed of multitouch tablets be different?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    More interactivity at a better price

    Microsoft's previous Tablet PCs were simply Windows computers with a different form factor and an overlay that added some stylus-based tablet elements. They were adopted by many in the health industry, but never became popular with the masses. These Windows Tablet PCs were priced quite high and with the premium cost over desktops and laptops, their advantages were not realized. MWC 2012 The iPad, and other multi-touch tablets, have the potential to be classroom disrupters because they are much more interactive and priced less than computers. They also require much less IT support and so far have shown much less susceptibility to viruses.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    They're cheap, they're light, they're fast...

    ...and they're optimized for touch and an apps ecosystem rather than shoehorning Windows into a form factor to which it's not well suited. Windows and its derivatives beg for a keyboard and mouse. OK, they're not exactly cheap, but prices are dropping fast and the devices are infinitely more durable, likeable, and rich than the enterprise tablets of yore.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The case for tablets

    What advantages do tablets have over traditional computers in the classroom?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    A host of advantages

    There are several advantages of tablets over computers, including longer battery life, less required maintenance and management of the device, more portable, more secure, and better form for textbook usage. You can also use it for basic computing needs, such as web surfing, document/spreadsheet editing and creation, and multimedia.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    Touch and size

    The touch interface resonates very well with kids, especially those with a variety of disabilities. It???s completely intuitive for young people to interact with their hands instead of a keyboard (us old people still dream in QWERTY.) In terms of size, even Intel???s Classmate PCs, designed for use by kids, can be a big awkward to balance on a small desk or shove in a backpack. A tablet, appropriately protected and sized for the right age group (smaller 5??? or 7??? tablets for the younger kids and 10??? tablets for the older kids) easily sits in an arm, on a lap, or on a desk. Tablets also avoid the ???wall of laptops??? phenomenon, making it easier to draw students??? attention back to the instructor, while still preserving the micromobility (the tendency for kids to group, cluster, move around, and land within a set space like a classroom) that allows for natural learning to occur.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mic check

    Are both debaters ready to roll?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Bring it on

    Looking forward to this...

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Inevitable

    Let's get on

    with the debate

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for Impossible

Talkback

185 comments
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  • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

    Inevitable. Because everybody wants to be original and creative.
    paul2011
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Inevitable
    • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

      @paul2011 - BYOD is going to happen. Right now, the dominator is iPad and it will be more dominant with the increased use of iBook textbooks. What parent wants their child to tote around half his/her weight in bound books? Not to mention the obvious benefits of interactive, highlighted, bookmarked, customized, content.
      This will result in 1:1 since the students who don't have their own devices will have increased access to school technology because of those who bring their own. The onus will be on the schools to provide secure, reliable access.
      poteatj
      Reply Vote I'm for Inevitable
      • Not happening

        @poteatj <br>If this BYOD is to work, even the poorest household needs a way to provide these to the students. There is a significant portion of the population where the household cannot afford a basic computer. How then will these families and students participate?
        rhonin
        Reply Vote I'm for Impossible
    • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

      @paul2011 Surely, that's tongue in cheek. If they want to be original they don't want Apple's walled Orchard
      jmeinhart
      Reply Vote I'm for Impossible
    • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

      @paul2011 I use HTC and I am very creative and very original ...
      AdnanPirota
      Reply Vote I'm for Impossible
    • So why aren't you thinking different then?

      @paul2011 <br><br>You're thinking (just pretending, maybe) like any other Apple fanboi. Definitely not original. And not very creative either.
      Not a Fool
      Reply Vote I'm for Impossible
    • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

      @paul2011 what a laugh riot, original and creative? was apple ever original? if this baby o.s survives next 5 years hitler will come back and rule the world. there are just not enough resources for these type of devices to become mainstream.
      augustus_rome
      Reply Vote I'm for Impossible
  • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

    NOT iPad - but any tablet.
    helmut.leuprecht
    Reply Vote I'm for Inevitable
    • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

      @helmut.leuprecht@... I think you voted incorrectly. Chris said there will be tablets for everyone, just not iPads.
      chadness
      Reply Vote I'm for Impossible
      • RE: An iPad for every child: Inevitable or impossible?

        @chadness

        The title says iPad and the voting box is before the arguments, it's a misleading click bait using the iPad name instead of tablets but I voted before reading arguments, so it's impossible to get iPads to everybody, but cheaper tablets might be possible.
        lepoete73
        Reply 1 Vote I'm for Impossible