David Parry recently wrote a very interesting post on ProfHacker regarding the impact that the iPad is likely to have on education. Parry is an assistant professor of emerging media and technology (what a cool title) at the University of Texas-Dallas and the author of academHack, one of my favorite blogs about technology and education (see my Blogroll). Parry, who is an avid Apple consumer, thinks the iPad is far from the panacea for education that its proponents claim it will be. For those of you who won’t follow the link to his post, I’ll summarize his main points.
Many are saying that the iPad will do for education (and textbooks) what the iPod did for music. Parry points out that the iPod is not revolutionary. It didn’t change the way we consume music. Instead, it was the development of iTunes that changed the way we consume music. The change in distribution channels rather than a change in consumption platform is what was important to changing the way we consume music. We can now purchase individual songs for only 99 cents (which is a price point that makes the inconvenience of illegal downloading not worthwhile) and create playlists from those individual songs. In order for there to be an impact in our consumption of textbooks, the cost would need to drop a lot and we would have to be able to assemble new textbooks from individual chapters (and perhaps even individual fragments of text) from existing textbooks. No one in the textbook business is talking about an iTunes-like experience for textbooks.
Parry’s second major point is, for me, even more important for those us who are involved in higher education. He points out that the iPad is designed to be a media consumption device. But he (and I) wants his students to be more than media consumers. To be successful citizens in the digital age, students need to be critical consumers and creators of media. With its lack of camera, lack of microphone, lack of multitasking ability, the iPad teaches people how to be passive consumers of media. Such a device is bad for educating the active, critically questioning citizen for today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital world.
Parry raises many additional issues and explains the two I mention here much more articulately than I have. Go read his post.