Vineet Madan, vice-president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education eLabs, spends time developing ways that technology can improve learning among college and university students. He recently talked about the reasons why iPads are ready for the college classroom.

K-12 schools across the country (and just down the street) are putting huge chunks of cash aside for 1-to-1 iPad initiatives.

Madan argues that iPads are tailor-made for the university level. But are they really ready for K-12?

I think they are. And to paraphrase Madan’s college arguments:

iPads Are the Best Way to Show Textbooks

iPads are capable of displaying incredible ebooks featuring images, video and audio. You just can’t do that sort of thing with a normal textbook. Learning about the Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freedom Riders. With the tap of a finger, kids can watch it, trace their finger over it, get historical footage, links to other articles and listen to period music. The result is a more integrated learning experience, much more engaging for kids. Madan says “this isn’t the future — this is today.” Textbook companies, museums, non-profits need to start working together to make this happen.

And when there is text, the iPad allows students to highlight text, take notes in the margin and access a dictionary directly within the book itself. Teachers can even start creating their own texts as ePubs and post them in Apple’s iBooks app.

Kids Are Ready for Tablets

While iPads have been around for just over 14 months, kids have been using smartphones for years and understand touchscreen technology. The iPad 2 also has cameras and video that kids use all the time. The appeal of the iPad to K-12 students is obvious: They’re much easier to take to, and use in, class than a laptop. They’re lightweight and start up instantly. Longer battery life means that students don’t have to worry about carrying a charger with them. When classrooms don’t implement what has now become “everyday” technology, we’re doing students a disservice.

iPads Can Raise Test Scores

We’re beginning to see early research suggesting that the use of iPads (and other mobile devices) is raising test scores. When kids are engaged, they learn better. iPads are engaging. The right iPad app in the hands of the right kind of teacher makes learning a no-brainer.

iPads Have the Software to Be Competitive

When the first iPads came out last year, I wasn’t convinced. Creating stuff on the iPad was difficult and clunky. But companies are pouring time and money into creating useful and powerful software for the iPad. In addition to the thousands of exciting educational apps available, iPads are fully compatible with online teaching and learning platforms, such as Blackboard.

iPads Integrate With Education IT Trends

Schools across the country are being forced to cut corners and save money in all sorts of ways. One way is to move away from traditional productivity suites like Microsoft Office to cloud-based tools like Google Apps for Educators. iPads have been specifically designed for this sort of computing, given their portability and options for constant connectivity. With iPads and cloud-based systems, students can work just about anywhere and make sure that their work is saved in a central location and accessible from all of their devices.

iPads Are Becoming More Available

Madan suggests that one of the primary reasons that iPads have been slow to penetrate the education market was their limited availability. Apple is working on its assembly / supply chain issues and more iPads will be the result. Increased competition from Google and other tablet companies should also start to drive down prices.

Is the iPad a silver bullet? No. Will it solve every education problem? No.

And I’m sure there will be unintended consequences as their use becomes more widespread. But to ignore their possibilities doesn’t seem right, either.

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