iPad – The Slate Comes Full Circle

In early schools, children used book sized writing slates to practice penmanship and to do lessons on. The use of a slate required children to be good at memorizing, because once the slate was wiped off, the writing was gone. An entire classroom might only have one textbook for the teacher to instruct from!

By the time I started school, lead pencils and paper had replaced slates. Textbooks were readily available, but the back pack to carry them in hadn’t been invented yet!

Today, I watch my grandchildren lugging a pack full of stuff back and forth to school each day, and it makes me think there has to be a better way of doing things. There should be a way that children can return to yesteryear by carrying a simple tool such as a slate, but a slate with modern technology. Enter the tablet computers. I think these are going to be the next big thing in education.  To see one in action, you have to look  no further than the Apple iPad.

The iPad doesn’t pretend to be a full fledged computer. It is a modern version of the contents of a child’s school pack back. At home, or at school, the iPad could be plugged into a computer to download a book, a lesson, or an App (tool) to do some specific job. When the book, lesson or App was no longer needed, it could be offloaded onto the computer and new content can be loaded on. That is how it could work, but that is not where the education system is yet.

But nearly 15 million iPads have been sold since their launch in April 2010, so what are people using them for? A study done by Resolve Market Research indicates that the iPad is being used as an e-Reader, a portable Gaming Device, a Netbook or a Laptop and an MP3 player, among other things. It is quite remarkable that this mini-computer can be so many things to so many people. While the iPad comes preloaded with a good suite of software, the most significant feature is the ability to download Apps. With categories such as Social, Travel, Sports, News, Business, Education, Entertainment and Games, it is possible for each and every iPad owner to customize their iPad experience.

Just think of all the different groups of people who are using those 15 million iPads – travelers who don’t want to pack along a suitcase of books; business people who don’t want to carry a big briefcase anymore; seniors who want to keep in touch with the family; the Cook in the kitchen looking for a recipe; children who want to watch a movie or two while dad does the marathon vacation drive…

As I mentioned in my last post, an iPad came to our house for a few days. In that short period of time:

  • a child watched a movie
  • two adults watched some incredible talks on Ted
  • three adults laughed at some YouTube clips
  • I became the supreme player of Mr. Giggle
  • the Cooker listened to music and caught up on some reading

Apple is currently the industry leader for this type of product, but many more manufacturers will be introducing products this year. It is going to be an exciting year for the tablet, and it only took technology a few hundred years to get back to building the old familiar slate!