As a publisher of multi-touch books for the iPad, the prospective release next week of the Apple iPad Mini is a big deal; particularly for those of us who see the potential for this incredible technology having a positive impact on education in America and around the world. The iPad Mini, as it’s being unofficially called until it’s supposed announcement by Apple on Oct. 23, has the potential to expand the market reach into the educational arena.
And while some pundits are seeing this as a move by Apple to take on Amazon and it’s line of Kindles, such a viewpoint is really missing the bigger picture.
Essentially, this is a very strategic move to change how students of all ages learn around the world by making the platform to do it much more affordable. And while this may give Amazon a run, what it’s really going to do is make it easier to bring this technology to classrooms, which is where it trumps all the capabilities of the Kindle, Nook, Surface and traditional textbook, and so much more.
The iPad Mini–The MacBook of iPads
Making the iPad Mini is much akin to Apple’s strategy for it’s laptop computers. There’s the MacBook and then there’s the newer, sleaker, faster, MacBook Pro, which constantly is updated, has the top of the line features and is the thing that everyone wants. The MacBook Pro has the retina screen. It has the fastest processors. It’s the newest technology packed into a laptop made by Apple and is supported by a HUGE R&D budget.
The MacBook is basically the technology of a few years ago wrapped in what used to be a white case. It’s not pushed for the latest developments. In a way, you could say it’s technology that’s already been amortized. In other words, it doesn’t cost a lot to produce this version of the product. All the R&D already has been spent on it (when it was in a MacBook Pro a few years before) and because there is no need to spend lots of resources keeping it up-to-date, it’s cheaper to produce and then sell at an ever increasing margin because it costs less and less by the day to manufacture and support it.
Without having seen an iPad Mini, it is assumed this is the same strategy that will be used to develop an iPad Mini. Already rumors abound that support this premise. The rumor mill has clearly been saying that the iPad Mini isn’t going to have a retina screen like the version 3 iPads that came out earlier this year. The screen will be smaller. The processors likely are going to be iPad 2ish in speed because that’s probably what’s going to make up the guts of the unit.
And because of all this, Apple is going to be able to sell them for a price point that starts lower than the iPad generation 3. In other words, it is believed, and makes perfect sense, that the iPad Mini is about to become the MacBook of iPads.
HOW THIS HELPS PUBLIC EDUCATION
This is what is going to cause a boom in the field of educational technology. An old boss of mine and I were talking in June about what it would take to supply the 4 million public school students grades 3-12 in Texas with an iPad. At the $499 price point in a time of budget woes and the refusal to raise taxes of any form in Texas, that made the price tag almost seem ominous. And for the installation of an iPad into a public school classroom, a school district also has had to consider almost as much in costs for the infrastructure necessary to help them all talk to the Internet. That’s a steep price tag.
But what if the price of the units all of a sudden were significantly less and instead of running iPad 3 technology, there was a smaller unit available using a “MacBook” level of technology?
What if there was the iPad Mini?
This is how Apple makes it easier to expand the number of books, like the ones Claxton Creative, LLC makes with iBooks Author, into classrooms worldwide and do so at a much more cost-efficient rate for strapped school districts, while at the same time, making technology that isn’t available on the Kindle, Nook and one assumes, Microsoft Surface, available for broader use.
This means students will be able to use books that have 3-D images, muti-touch drawings and photos, hours of video files of real-life instructors teaching, in-chapter quizzes, etc., in short, things the competitive products CANNOT do, and they will be able to do it on a unit that doesn’t cost as much to produce, and doesn’t cost as much for school districts and parents to buy.
This means the opportunity exists to change how students learn because books made for the iPad also have the ability to ensure that a student has demonstrated proficiency in an area before being allowed to advance to a new area. In a traditional school today, the idea is that a student’s knowledge base expands throughout the year and they learn a core competency and then move on to the next one. But what if that core isn’t really learned and understood by every student in the class? Does a teacher wait for those lagging behind to catch up and not keep advancing?
With the technology of the iPad, a student can be compelled to demonstrate their competency and understanding of a concept before being allowed to advance, thereby ensuring that learning has taken place. This can be done at a student’s own pace. Remember, they can’t go on to the next thing until they’ve shown the iPad, and the teacher, they’re ready. Now which system would you rather have your children learning with?
So when you hear the pundits write/talk the next week or so about how this is a move to take on Amazon, Microsoft and Barnes & Noble in the sale of units, it’s only part of the picture. Apple is after the education market where its competitors simply cannot play, and to us, that’s the most exciting thing about the iPad Mini.
MacBook v MacBook Pro
Reduced Cost to Increase Role in Education