January 23, 2012
For a long time, Apple has been talking about revolutionizing textbooks with the iPad. The firm finally had its dog and pony show, but the whole thing turned out to be bizarrely retro: we can make learning fun by embedding animations in textbooks!
Look, moving textbooks onto electronic tablet is a good idea in the long run, for two obvious reasons, neither of which Apple did enough to emphasize:
1. A single iPad weighs a lot less than a half-dozen massive modern textbooks. From 7th through 11th grades, I used to ride my bike to school, but my textbooks only weighed a few pounds back then. These days, there is only one kid in my neighborhood who rides a bike to school, and he has these elaborate saddle bags on either side of his rear wheel because that's the only way to keep his bike from being dangerously top-heavy.
2. A tablet also serves as a workbook providing immediate feedback. The program can even make the next problem easier or harder depending upon how you do on this one. Teachers won't have to grade homework because the computer system does it for them. For math an iPad might be even better than a laptop with a keyboard because it's a lot easier to do math problems with pencil and paper than with a keyboard.
At present, tablets are still kind of expensive, but the future for them looks pretty clear, although my guess is that the future will be a clamshell even thinner than a Macbook Air, with a touchscreen and a sophisticated set of hinges that lets you use it in either tablet or laptop mode.
By Steve Sailer on 1/23/2012