Photo: Associated Press
Last night we got this email from a teacher friend with his take on Apple’s new education initiative with iBooks 2 and iPad textbooks.This teacher works at a private K-12 school. Most families who send their kids there are pretty well off.
This teacher is also responsible for recommending technology purchases for the school. His take on Apple’s iPad textbooks? They’re not good enough yet.
He points out that if a school is going to make a big technology purchase, it’s just as important that students are able to create content (write papers, etc.) as consume it (textbooks). He also says e-textbooks are already available on PCs and they’re just as good, if not better, than what Apple showed off yesterday.
For now, he decided not to recommend iPads for his school. They’re going with cheap laptops instead.
Here’s the email if you want to get the full argument:
Just read your review of the textbook. Essentially, the way that Apple is going to make this work is when developers and book publishers look to offer something truly unique at a highly (not consumer “highly,” but education “highly,” which is much lower) price point. I know that what you saw today was pretty cool in comparison to what you are accustomed to seeing or what you expected to see, but we have been looking at e-textbooks this year that offer as much (perhaps more).
Here is the value proposition for my school’s parents: Right now, each student (their parents) buys an average of 6 books a year at $100-$200 each. The e-textbooks that we are looking at are approximately $50 each. Therefore, a parent saves anywhere from $50-$150 per book ($300-$900 total). Right now, we are asking them to buy a simple laptop at about $500-700 in order to be able to get the e-textbooks, have them available in school, and have a device that not only accesses the content, but allows them the opportunity to write an essay. If a parent makes that investment in their kid’s freshman year they have pretty much paid for it in that year and the remaining three years are free. That is a good deal!
Apple’s problem is that the iPad is a fantastic “content accessing” device (except they can’t access the many educational Flash sites still out there today), but kids need to generate content in order to be assessed (write a paper, produce a video, etc.) Right now, they can do that on an iPad, but it is not easy at all.
Frankly, I voted no to rolling out iPads to middle school and high school students. I would rather them have a laptop…for now. Let’s talk again in two years and my tone might change.
Actually, if I had my choice I would like for them to have an Ultrabook, but they are way too expensive today.