The Devil in the Hardware – Really?  

There is a strong argument here, but the parallels drawn with Desktop PC hardware may not appropriate. Tablets (iPad or other) are increasingly more likely to be bought for the student, not the classroom, and by parents, since a mobile device with eTexbooks ideally needs to go home and be used for homework. Ownership and maintenance is shifting as many desire an iPad, and not primarily for education. The public at-large will be more willing to bear the cost. Provision of an enabling device will be seen no differently than ensuring children and students have clothing, stationary and buses.

The first barrier is cost, and it’s an obvious one. Public schools in California, where I live, face such gigantic budget cuts that even if books cost only $15 apiece, it’s more likely that any given school will choose to stick with a 10-year-old textbook than buy an entirely new library.

This mindset may not be applicable because the factors will be different. In the current ‘computers in education’ model, desktops in classrooms do not replace textbooks, so computer costs are an overhead. Also, as school systems have adopted online tools for distributing schedules, notes, homework and grades, families are already forced to have a home computer to keep up. The cost is duplicated in the old model though, requiring a device in the classroom (1 computer:1 student – ideally) and at home. The mobile/tablet and eTextbook model requires only one device AND replaces books.

Therein lies the problem with iPads in high school: devices break.

This is true for both desktops and tablets, however the cost of maintenance and replacement may shift for tablets. Contingency plans will have to be in place, for both teachers and parents, since breakage or malfunctioning of a device will stop a student in their tracks. Rather than costly troubleshooting and tinkering by IT staff though, a model that allows quick replacement will need to be in place. It remains to be seen how Apple will support this, either for individuals or families.

January 21st, 2012