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An Inkling of Things to Come for the iPad

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The cat is only just out of the bag, and still there are iPad-related websites, accessories, and apps being promoted across the web. Some were clearly just waiting to create something for whatever Apple (s aapl) released, and some appear to have been potentially been in on the secret for quite a while, unless they just have a very fast, talented graphics department.

Inkling is one of those that had a very slick website apparently waiting to go, since its updated site design went live shortly following the announcement, complete with mock-ups of the new iPad running its yet-to-be-released software. And Inkling covers a blind spot in Jobs’ iPad announcement, one which may have been created by a McGraw-Hill faux pas: education.

Billing itself as “the world’s first end-to-end platform for mobile learning content,” Inkling aims to go beyond the traditional textbook before traditional textbook availability has even really been discussed as an iPad advantage. As of yet, details about what that means for an actual distribution product aren’t that clear, though there are some promising suggestions about what it could mean.

First of all, there’s interactivity. It may seem like an obvious detail, but truly interactive independent learning education material is actually quite hard to come by. I can count on zero fingers how many times I cracked the seal on the CD cases that came bundled with my university textbooks which promised interactivity through software applications.

I think the iPad has a better chance at accomplishing true interactivity for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is the potential for sharing learning experiences between iPad devices. As Inkling’s site points out, learners and educators will be able to network using the devices and share what they’re working on. Research and comparing notes could actually take place with an ongoing element of synthesis, instead of via periodic check-ins, which could change the way we learn in a fundamental sense.

Right now, Inkling is mostly vague promises about a fairly Utopian view of a futuristic educational environment in which every student and every educator has an iPad, all of which can be connected. The scenario effectively eliminates the need for paper textbooks, and promotes collaborative work and healthy competition between students. I’m not naive enough to imagine that this is how things will look in June, or even in a few years following the iPad’s release, but I am glad to see people thinking this way.

If I’d had an iPad when I was a student, I probably would’ve paid a lot more attention to my studies. I definitely would’ve been more organized, since I wouldn’t have been using a single padfolio to organize all of my course notes. And I might’ve become a better group learner and worker, which would definitely be beneficial in the long run. I may not be sure about how useful the iPad is for everyday use, but it definitely has a future in education, so long as Apple makes a concerted effort to cultivate that future.

19 Responses to “An Inkling of Things to Come for the iPad”

  1. What interests me most (as a recent student, but sadly graduated now, grumble) is the note features actually. To be reading a textbook and be stuck somewhere, and to highlight it and be like “What does this mean”. Then somebody else in the same class can write a note explaining the paragraph better, which you are able to see updated.

    Seriously, how cool is that?

  2. As a middle school teacher I see some distinct advantages the iPad has over our current mobile computer labs and classroom desktops. As mentioned here there are numerous education and productivity apps perfect for my students already available in the app store.

    I embrace the idea of social networking amongst my students as an online portfolio and forum to share their work and ideas. The amount of collaboration, reading, and writing will go through the roof. I will be able to monitor, provide feedback, and grade assignments posted for me – no more paper.

    The lack of a camera makes no difference in a classroom as video chat hogs bandwidth. Text chat encourages more writing and leaves a written record for later use. Special software? No thanks. My students live on the web. Hello Google apps and Wave. Not worried about storage, we save to the web. Textbooks? Don’t need those either and at $75 per student per book (x math, science, language arts, history) a golden cow for the textbook companies. Will an education model iPad appear anytime soon? I’d bet on it.

    • Schools have been doing these things for years now. 4 years ago I was grading my students papers in electronic format with e-ink and redistributing the papers online. It’s nothing new, the only problem is funding. You will have to force every kid to buy an ipad or raise the funds to buy one for every kid.

      Then how do you handle it? Do you loan out thousands of ipads or do you let the kids keep them? And if you let the kids keep them then how about the rights to the text books? With everything being online do you pay for kids to get internet if their family can’t afford it?

      These problems are not easy and will always cause a slow adoption of technology into the classroom. The ipad will be no exception.

  3. the iPad is the final exam. First was the click wheel, then the iPhone, later the iPod Touch, now the iPad will be the tool to let us all jump to the next computing era wagon. no more folders or HDs icons, touch and go is the next big thing. I’m ready for the change.

  4. They make a handy way to keep class information significantly easier to find, its called OneNote and it helps immensely. Sadly I am yet to find something comparable to a convertible tablet + OneNote. I personally have awful handwriting so the combination of a keyboard to type fast notes with the option to take a pen out and draw diagrams on the same page is invaluable.

    With rumors going around that the ipad was going to revolutionize education I was excited, but the ipad falls short in many educational needs. Can one write notes in the margins of books? Can one have the text to read on one half of the screen while simultaneously taking notes on the other half? Can the ipad run the required software of some institutions?

  5. ajelliottjr

    Ok the iPad looks nice… but I believe it is missing the stand alone ability – why must you have a Mac or PC? and why no webcam? My laptop has 110GB HD and I thought that is small – even for I got the 64GB version it would still be very small on data storage… What will be done to get around these issues? Andy

  6. I think interactivity for interactivity’s sake is overblown, as is multimedia. But I think the iPad does bring a lot of possibilities to education (including some more ‘nuts and bolts’ practical innovations.) And if you go forward a few of years, I think the iPad could do for education what the OLPC was originally intended to do (compare the original iPod to today’s models in price and features.)

  7. Gazoobee

    As someone who has spent many years in a University environment, and in the field of Education I can say quite categorically that the whole idea of multimedia interactivity as a learning tool is pretty much BS. Multimedia technologies can be used to *present* material in an interesting way (moving diagrams and graphs etc.), but there is no “interactive learning” going on. Ever. It’s a buzzword that doesn’t mean much at all.

    You should think of textbooks getting a few more whiz-bang diagrams (that move! wowzers!), and maybe some embedded video, but this in no way actually enhances learning, and in no realistic way could be thought of as “interactive learning.”

    Videos are now the new colour pictures is all.

    • That’s a pretty cynical view. What would you have people do? Use textbooks for all eternity?

      If everyone thought this way, we’d all be riding horses and suffering from the plague. Congrats.

    • You’re grouping everyone together in one learning style. Plain and simple. And you sound like a luddite.

      I’m a hands on guy. There’s very little I learn by just reading it out of a book…I just get bored out of my mind reading stuff in textbooks. I have to do things with what I’m learning. Having interactivity with concepts of what I’m learning (physically tangible or not) is a must for me.

      Not to mention, being able to present data in interactive formats can make it significantly easier/faster to find and get to information. Accessing information more efficiently most certainly enhances learning.

    • AviLocke

      What surprises me is that you say you have spent years in education. If that’s the case, then how can you not see the occasional use of a highly engaging electronic device as motivational and awesome? Every good teacher knows that if you cannot engage your student learners than all you are doing is lecturing to a crowd that doesn’t care.

      Use the iPad every day — certainly not. But use it to gain instant feedback on math concepts or debatable topics in an English class — absolutely.

      Our classrooms need these devices, not just for research, collaboration, and motivation, but also to keep up with a global market and motivate our future engineers to do better.