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From Paper to Laptops to iPads: Can Apple's Device Really Take Over Education?

written by: Austin•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 11/21/2011

Using the iPad in education may seem a bit taboo to older generations, but many studies have shown that the touch-tablet actually has the chance to become the center of education tools in the near future. Could this really be possible?

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    Technology in Education

    ipad 3g 20110302 Ever since the dawn of the first (massively sized) computers, schools have been clamoring to get their hands on new technology, and with each years comes a new slew of devices to replace the ones from last year that are now outdated. Inkwells gave way to pencils, then we added overhead projectors, moved onto the desktop computer, the laptop, and now, studies show that the iPad may be the next big thing for cutting-edge schools. But what benefits would this really provide? Is it worth it to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on technology that may not even be all that helpful?

    Regardless of whether or not it's useful, however, the fact of the matter is that a lot of people think it will most certainly happen, and while many experts may take the side of Apple, personally I can't imagine that we'll see widespread implementation of iPads in schools until at least 2020. By then we'll probably be on the iPad 7 anyway.

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    Finances: Public vs. Private

    A big point of contention in this debate comes from whether we're talking about public or private schools, whether the schools are inner-city or suburban, and whether or not the schools lay in a district or state with more money for education. Let's start with the richer side of things:

    If you want to jump right in and say that private schools will probably have full iPad implementation in the next five years, then I certainly won't be the one to stop you. If funding comes directly from the students' families (especially at schools that cost upwards of $20,000 a year), then schools have at least $5000 of spare money to spend one each student, which is more than enough to cover on iPad for each student. From a financial perspective, there's no reason why we wouldn't see Apple devices permeating the private sector of education.

    But if you take a look at the funding gaps we already have when looking at education, factor in the fact that things don't seem to be looking any better in the near future, and it becomes a lot harder to see iPads making their way into any public schools, much less all of them. The average cost per student is already around $8,600, and adding another $500 on top of that may not seem like a lot, but when you can have upwards of 1,000 students in any given school, you're looking at $500,000. And that's per school. There are almost 100,000 schools in the U.S., so to put iPads in all of them will cost us about $50,000,000,000. That's right. Fifty billion dollars.

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    But Is It Practical?

    Financing issues aside, could this theoretically happen? Would it be a smart move for schools to make? I'd have to save that, absolutely, having an iPad for every student in the school system would be incredibly helpful and allow people to do things that would be otherwise impossible. In fact, I'd venture a guess and say that there's at least one helpful function the iPad has for every school subject:

    Geography: Imagine being able to map out locations, view great landmarks, and pinpoint historic points in a split second.

    Math: Endless calculations can be made using the iPad's features, and notes can be taken and stored for later use.

    English: Entire books can be read on the device, saving paper and time. You can also search through dictionaries and thesauruses on the fly, making reading easier.

    Music: The array of musical applications on the iPad is nearly endless, but some key features include being able to play a little personal piano, figuring out note positions, and learning simple song structures.

    On top of these four basic subjects, it's pretty easy to see where the benefits would outweigh the costs on all educational subjects. Additionally, schools would no longer need to buy textbooks, as digital books could be used directly on the iPad. This would, eventually, mean that the iPad could pay itself back over time. A great prospect, but if you don't have the money for an initial investment, you have to wait to make the purchase.

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    Other Pros/Cons

    overview performance 20110302 In this increasingly technological world, people who don't have a grasp of how computers and gadgets work tend to fall behind those who do grasp such concepts. For this reason, iPads are additionally helpful, as they force a student (and perhaps a parent) to get used to the idea of having technology as part of every day life. Unfortunately, there's a downside to having technology everywhere.

    When the kid gets home, do you think he'll be taking out his iPad to study? Probably not. Chances are that he'll find a way to get games onto it, and play around with those instead of using it for the proper features in education; something that he or she would be unable to do if they had a textbook or a calculator. Not without a knowledge pf programming anyhow. Let's also not forget that iPads are not exactly Tonka Tough. If a child so much as misuses, misplaces, or drops the device, you could have a $700 bill for schools to pay per iPad broken. Remember how many textbooks used to have ripped pages? If they can't take care of a book, how can it be expected that they can take care of an expensive piece of technology?

    So what it comes down to is whether or not we can get funding. The benefits are definitely numerous, and certainly outweigh cons in the long run, but if we don't have the money to do it, then we don't have the money to do it. I don't see us getting that money within five years, and really, probably not even in the next ten years. Who knows, tough? Stranger things have happened.