iPad showing iBooks

Apple iPad running iBooks app

Many of us have been waiting for the Apple iTablet, iSlate, iPad for some time. Some thought the announcement would come a year ago but were left disappointed. Fast forward a year to 27th, January 2010 and Steve Jobs announces the iPad to the world. This has been overhyped almost as much as the iPhone but without the ingenuity and innovation that came on the iPhone.

In the run up to the event, speculation was rife that one of the main target groups was education and that it was a ‘game changer’ that would revolutionise the classroom. Now having watched the blogs and video on the Apple iPad page, I think that it probably won’t (in its current incarnation).

It’s certainly a sexy product, 0.5 inch thick, 9.7 inch display, 1.5 lb in weight and a great 10 hour battery life (depending on usage) but to me it looked more like a leisure device (lounging on the sofa) and less of a business/education computer.

Web browsing is apparently a dream on the iPad but still no Flash … that missing plugin icon is still there on Flash enabled websites. That means no animated demos or online educational games (such as Content Generator on your VLE).

School budgets are increasingly constrained and with the Apple exchange rate the iPad will probably be too expensive for a school to justify purchasing. Steve announced the entry price was $499 for the 16GB model (with no 3G) but the Apple exchange rate will probably give us a price of £400 (at least) IMHO. International pricing will be announced later.

With a £12000 budget would you buy 30 iPads or spend it in a different way? I think that schools will struggle to see the educational value in a class set. Of course it does run the 140,000 apps on the App Store so it is a truly multifunctional device, but will the multitude of brain training apps and mini-games justify this spend?

For an additional $30 you can run the iWork suite but could the class type an essay on Pages, or will they have the patience to work with graphs on Numbers?
It could change the eBook in the classroom and make reading cool again for students but unless you give the class their own iPad to take home and curl up in bed with the latest eBook will it make a difference?

As I write, I am left with many questions but not many answers! Of course, I think the school should purchase one for me to ‘try out’ as part of our ongoing research and development into ICT in education but I can’t see it making it in the classroom yet.

So, given £12000 … how would you spend it?

Guest post by Stuart Ridout. Stuart is an Assistant Headteacher and Head of ICT at Stantonbury Campus in Milton Keynes. He is interested in ICT in education to improve teaching and learning using technology. Stuart maintains a blog at http://www.stuartridout.com (and of course uses a MacBook Pro).