It's the end of the textbook as we know it...and I feel fine.
On Friday, news broke that a school district in Auburn, Maine has made the decision to purchase iPad 2s for every one of their kindergartners and kindergarten teachers. 285 of the new tablets will be purchased. The district has budgeted $200,000 for the project- which includes educational software and training for teachers.
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For tablet PCs, the educational market is potentially as lucrative as the enterprise market. Students, especially very young students, interact more easily with a large touchscreen device than they do with a traditional PC. The keyboard and mouse are barriers to a direct, action/reaction computing experience. Kids learn better and have more fun learning on a device they can directly manipulate. I saw this for myself when I brought my iPad 2 to play with children in a rural Guatemalan village.
Apple has big plans for the educational market. But they aren't the only ones eying the impressionable young minds of our collective national future. Intel has just made the first move towards establishing themselves as a major player in educational tablets. They're set to invest $30 million in Kno.
Up until recently, Kno made a line of dual and single display educational tablets. The recent explosion of tablet offerings has caused them to re-evaluate their strategy. The company now plans to focus on releasing educational tablet software designed to work on a variety of platforms. But this doesn't mean the dream of the Kno Reader is dead. Intel plans to draw up plans for hardware and push them through several OEMs.
While Apple has quite the headstart here, there's reason to believe Intel's Kno tablet could be real competition. Kno already has agreements with four major educational publishers, covering an estimated 90% of higher-education curriculum. Kno's OS is entirely browser-based. It supports highlighting and stickying and stylus use. In fact, the stylus is a critical part of Kno's approach to the educational tablet. From Kno CEO Osman Rashid.
“There is no real concept of a stylus on the iPad, the current iPad is meant for the finger. We hope Apple over time sees the value of a stylus in education because kids do need to learn how to write.”
This is an excellent point. While touchscreen-only interaction is perfectly fine (perhaps even ideal) for very young students, learning to write is still a necessity for any grade-schooler. If tablets are going to take off with the larger educational market, they'll need software and hardware that is focused on the unique demands of the classroom. Apple will need to do more than simply 'show up' if they want to win here.