Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Why the iPad Has Moved To the Head of the Class

Why the iPad Has Moved To the Head of the Class

Apple is attempting to change the way textbooks are conceived, produced, and delivered.

There is no doubt that the iPad currently dominates the ed tech field. Recently, it was determined that the iPad captured 94% of combined K-12 and college tablet use. The skeptic might rightfully argue that those K-12 numbers are skewed due to the fact that many of them represented institutional purchases. At the university level, tablets are generally provided by the student.

However, iPad usage numbers among the general public are also high, topping out at about 77%. It is safe to assume that whatever the #2 tablet at the university level happens to be, it is dwarfed many times over by the number of iPads in use. That kind of dominance asks an obvious question, and demands an answer: Why? Here are three possible explanations for why the iPad has moved to the head of the class:

Apps for organization and collaboration

To be clear, all tablet ecosystems have applications that can be used in an educational setting. However, it is much easier to write apps for the iPad due to the limited number of models available. Also, all iPad models currently selling are running the same version of the operating system. Chances are, if the app works on one iPad, it works on them all.

There are also only two iPad resolutions to target, and only one aspect ratio. That means that the user interface for one iPad is the same for them all. The iPad also has a mindshare advantage among devs and users as it has been around the longest.

As a result, 1:1 and BYOD applications and services such as Meridian Planners integrate well, and are so easy to deploy on the iPad. In this particular case, the application and service combo allows collaborative opportunities between students, teachers, and parents that can scarcely be found elsewhere in one package. Besides keeping all interested parties quite literally on the same page, it helps students stay organized almost effortlessly. 
One example of this is that class schedules and assignments are auto-populated in the planner. These sorts of tools are the perfect companions for the iPad in the classroom.

iTunes U

It was around long before the iPad, and gets only a fraction of the recognition it deserves. But one of the best reasons for a student to choose an iPad over a competing tablet is iTunes U. The service is available to everyone with access to iTunes. On mobile devices, it is exclusive to iPhones and iPads. It is a repository of class lectures from the leading universities around the world. More than lectures, it provides class notes, slides, and other printed materials pertinent to the class.

iTunes U is not just a static list of videos of old classes. you can subscribe to ongoing classes. As a student, if for some reason you miss a class, or a whole series of classes, you can easily get caught up by following your classes on iTunes U. If you misplaced that critical handout, just download it directly from the service which happens to be absolutely free.

iBooks textbooks

This third aspect of the iPad’s advantage is still a work in progress, but what a work! Apple is attempting to change the way textbooks are conceived, produced, and delivered to students. iBooks textbooks are a good start, but they have a long way to go. Apple opened 2012 with an event to introduce the components of that bold plan to reinvent textbooks. For the purposes of this article, the important takeaway is that these new books would be exclusive to the iPad.

Apple focused on the big, unwieldy, and expensive science texts. They got the big publishers of textbooks onboard, and somehow convinced them to sell their textbooks for no more than $14.99. That is a savings of up to hundreds of dollars per book. If only a handful of a student’s textbooks can be acquired through iBooks, it is worth it. Beyond the cost savings, there is the fact that these books have been completely retooled for the iPad, including a rich multimedia experience.

While many companies like Google and Samsung have provided free or discounted hardware for educational institutions, Apple has provided unique apps and service like iTunes U and iBooks textbooks. Developers have also taken more advantage of the infrastructure and ecosystem provided by Apple. That does not mean that Apple has a permanent advantage. Others can do the same. For the sake of students everywhere, let’s hope the competition among tablet makers really heats up.

Layla Davis
Author: Layla Davis
Layla is a freelance writer who loves painting, thrift-store hunting, and everything in the color spearmint. She has a background in marketing and most enjoys blogging about business and education.
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