iPads in the Classroom: A Sound Investment or Bottomless Money Pit?

by Matt Klassen on January 20, 2012

iPads in the classroom: Apple hopes its the future of education, but questions remain whether its practical or affordable.

As expected Apple unveiled its latest technological advancement geared specifically to the education sector yesterday, digital textbooks. Part of its newly revamped online book service, dubbed “iBooks 2” Apple’s upgrades will allow textbook manufacturers to create fully interactive titles for the iPad in an effort to bring education to life.

While many are praising Apple for adapting its popular tablet for educational purposes—no doubt soon to be followed by adaptations for the medical community and other public sectors—there are some that see this sort of technological “progress” as nothing but a bottomless money pit dressed up to look like a sound investment.

Here’s a quick look at some tentative numbers: To outfit a student body of 700 students at current prices schools would need to spend approximately $350,000, and that’s just for the hardware. To outfit one particular class, say Chemistry, with the needed textbooks—at Apple’s quoted $15 per book price—would likely cost a little over $10,000, to outfit the entire school with every textbook they needed for every course would cost significantly more than the hardware itself.

All told, an average size school would need to find approximately $500,000 to equip its entire study population with iPads and digital textbooks, and with most schools struggling to find funding for programs like art, music, and physical education, current financial priorities may be elsewhere.

In an era where almost every educational institution across North America is strapped for cash, lacking the necessary funding to supply things like, oh, teachers, it certainly seems ill-timed for Apple’s digital textbook release. That’s not to say that schools across the continent wouldn’t be delighted to get their hands on enough money to supply their respective student bodies with advanced iPads, but knowing that such technology is out of reach amidst stiff budgetary restrictions feels almost like a slap in the face.

Even if the necessary budgetary surplus existed to allow schools to purchase iPads for their students, I would still consider it to be a poor investment simply because of the hardware.

If you have ever worked in a corporate IT department I don’t have to tell you about the daily headaches dealing with employees who have found unique and creative ways to destroy their various devices. Many of my closest friends who work in that industry lament every day that while adults should know how to properly treat their gadgets, the reality is quite different. The bottom line: devices break (and break often), and if adults struggle to keep their smartphones, tablets, and laptops in one piece, what hope do elementary school children have?

The issue, at least as it stands now, is that Apple is hoping its consumer oriented iPad tablet will fit seamlessly into the classroom while the reality is that it would need to be commercial—if not military—grade to be able to survive a single school year.

In the end, I’m sure the classroom of the future will feature tablets for interactive learning, I’m just doubtful that they’ll be Apple’s expensive and fragile iPads.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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