Time for low-cost educational iPad is now

February 25, 2012

“Get ‘em when they’re pups,” goes the old saw. A research study that put Apple’s magical and revolutionary tablet computer in the hands of kindergartners gives that saying new meaning and is yet another data point along the road to a digital education future where individual students actually matter.

Given that the Apple tablet has only been around for two years large, multi-year studies aren’t available. However, the early data we do have is very promising with iPad using kids throughout K-12 posting impressive results in reading, algebra and, as has been widely reported, special needs.

That said, Loop Insight chatted with educators in Auburn, Maine where 266 kindergartners participated in a unique program — roughly half use iPads and the others get traditional instruction only.

“The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there,” said Mike Muir, Auburn School Department’s Multiple Pathways Leader. “We are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.”

And, here’s the punchline. After nine weeks the students with iPads outperformed their peers in every literacy measure tested. Auburn hasn’t published those numbers, but an impression has clearly been made.

“We are seeing high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms,” said Sue Dorris, principal, East Auburn Community School. “What’s more, teachers can customize apps to match the instructional needs of each child, so students are able to learn successfully at their own level and pace.”

That sounds like the digital education holy grail and Apple’s moving quickly to make that happen, giving thousands of iPads to teachers and, of course, with their digital textbook initiative.

The one thing that could kick educational iPad adoption into high gear is a lower cost model and that has been a consistent rumor from the beginning. With schools, educators and students ready, now is absolutely the time…

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