Tablets Go To The Head of the Class, Part II

On the eve of Apple’s big event tomorrow, the technology media is all a twitter with what new marvel may or may not be announced tomorrow. But despite the excitement and curiosity which surrounds the event for Apple fans and competitors, a number of media outlets are looking beyond the fanfare and delving into the significance that the iPad Mini (or the iPad Air, depending on which rumors you believe), and other tablets to a lesser extent, will have for consumers, students and the marketplace. Business Insider examines how the iPad Mini could be a game changer for students, teachers, schools and district budgets around the country. And they’re not shy about where they come down on what the future classroom will hold. From “How the iPad Mini Could Be A Massive Success for Apple In the Classroom”:

Apple executives plan to make a point of highlighting the iPad’s educational capabilities at tomorrow’s event, according to a person with knowledge of the planning. Little wonder. Education spending on information technology, including hardware, was about $19.7 billion in the 2010-2011 period, according to the Center for Digital Education.

Educators’ bet on tablets mirrors a trend in the broader consumer-electronics market, where consumers are buying iPads instead of traditional personal computers. PC sales in K-12 fell 8 percent in the U.S. last quarter, the third straight decline.

“We’re moving away from desktops and laptops,” said James Ponce, the superintendent of the McAllen Independent School District in Texas. “Ninety percent of the work is now being done on mobile devices.”

Tablets seem to be taking over the space traditionally occupied by laptops and desktops for schools. The reasons for this are undoubtedly both practical and financial. The touch screen works well with users untutored in the use of mouses and the smaller form factor surely works better for smaller hands.
But the early adoption and continued popularity also has a financial component. Quoting Bloomberg Businessweek sources, Ars Technica reports that the widely-anticipated lower cost factor of the iPad Mini will be a critical factor to school districts and tablet adoption as administrators struggle with shrinking budgets and consumers find themselves still working their way through a tough economic climate.

When Apple released the third-generation iPad in March of this year, it retained the 16GB iPad 2 at a lower, $399 entry-level price. That price drop made the already attractive tablet a better deal for cash-strapped schools, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. For instance, San Diego’s school district bought the tablets once the price dropped to under $400, and the McAllen Independent School District in southern Texas recently inked a $3.5 million per year deal to outfit its students with about 25,000 iPads.

“Once these tablets get in to the $200 to $300 range we are going to see a real aggressive uptake in the K-12 market,” Vineet Madan, a senior vice president at McGraw-Hill Companies education unit, told Bloomberg Businessweek.

But the same reasons that will make tablets a sure thing in the classroom will as make sense for the home as well. Founding editor of TabTimes, George Jones, offers the opinion that

Q4 2013 will be the real tipping point for tablet adoption. Here’s why.

All reasons for delaying the purchase of a tablet device are about to become obsolete. All excuses for not ever needing to or wanting to buy a tablet will also.

You wish that there was a smaller iOS tablet for reading? That’s not a concern anymore. You’re waiting for a real Windows tablet? Okay, it’s here. You need a real keyboard to really operate a tablet? That’s here too.

Mr. Jones places the tipping point a full year from now, Q4 2013, but I think it’ll happen much sooner than this. With the new iPad Mini, new Windows tablets and increasingly sophisticated Android devices, no matter which OS schools choose, classrooms and learning will never be the same again. What a great time to be a student!