Monday, September 24, 2012

The iPad is the Future of Education... or is it?

Disclaimer:  I am a teacher, I am a school owner and I own an iPad (2)... and I love it.

The iPad is a wonderful device and can be a great tool for education.  Digitizing textbooks is definitely the way to go, but for those that say, "Buy every child an iPad and the traditional textbook is no longer needed.  They will have everything they need." I think this is troublesome, and here are just a few reasons why.

1.  There are no productive skills being taught, or learned.  The iPad is great for consuming, but not for producing. I mean real production, not dropping and dragging into a preset template that has been designed.  Term papers, graphic design, audio/video editing, schematics, etc... all need an environment conducive to productive skills.  Not the "lite" version you get on an iPad.
2.  No multitasking.  For learning, you need to be able to view the material, search the net, take notes, enter info into a spreadsheet, etc...  Nice to do all at once (several windows open at the same time).  Not possible with the iPad.
3.  Moving info on and off the iPad.  Not easy.  I cannot get pics onto my iPad without "emailing them to myself."  This is because I do not have an iTunes account.  Apple requires that I install their software just to access MY own files, the way I want.  Could you imagine if Microsoft ever tried to do that?  How are students going to move, backup and manage their files?  Cumbersome at best.  Have a separate device (laptop or desktop), install Apple software, connect the 2 devices and wait for that process. 
4.  Expensive.  Not only the device, but every textbook/material you get will need to be made into an app and sold through the App Store (of which Apple will get 30%).  This makes it expensive for developers and will drastically narrow the playing field.  Big and rich will prosper (able to absorb costs).  Small and innovative will find this hit and miss.  But it is hardly democratic.  This would be mandating that ALL educational materials would be controlled by one entity... Apple.  This is a company that openly censors content already, so who actually decides what content is "acceptable?"
5.  At the moment, a number that I have heard is that about 30% of iPod Touches (the predominant device for HS and JrHS students) are damaged, stolen, go missing, etc...  What happens when the iPad gets dropped, lost, stolen?  If a school board is going to hand these out to students, what happens when replacements are needed?  Parents are on the hook?  The school or school board?
6.  Batteries.  What happens when these start to go?  Each device needs to be shipped off to Apple as there is no way to replace a battery on your own.  Who pays?  Is the student excused from class?  Are deadlines changed for these students?
7.  Small HDD.  Unless you go with a more expensive iPad, the lower end ones have an extremely small hard drive, which soon gets filled up with music and pics (and movies?).  There really is not much space on these for an array of textbooks, especially the kind that everyone envisions (with videos).  If the videos are not on the device (to save space), then are students only allowed to access the material when they have an internet connection?  When they try to study at home, without a connection, what do they do?  They may have internet access, but do they have WiFi at home?

Do I think that schools should NOT use iPads?  Absolutely not.  They should be free to choose.
Should they mandate iPads?  Absolutely not.

To go digital does not mean either going with the iPad or not.  It is pretty safe to say that every student in North America either has a device, or access to a device.  This can be the richer student with an iPad, the middle class student with a Win or Mac (desktop or laptop), or the lower income student who can access a computer either at the school, or at a local library, etc...  The ability to "go digital" is definitely within reach.  However, you needn't mandate that every student use one device.

I would suggest that rather than supply every student with an iPad, you supply them with a flash drive.  All of their books, notes, reports, etc... should be housed on this stick.  You put it into the computer you are working with and you have access to everything you need.  Forgot your stick at home?  You should still be able to access the textbook on your phone, iPod Touch, or other devices.

Put the money allocated to buying every student an iPad (let's say $700 each) and use the money like this:
1.  $50 - large flash drive for each student (64Gb or larger)
2.  $400 - credit towards the device of your choice (laptop, iPad, tablet, or other)
3.  $250 - put towards content creation, invest in the school/board, or to buy textbooks to give to students

Very democratic and a much better use of our money.  We allow the student to access learning materials in the way THEY choose.  Have a Galaxy Tab?  Use it.  Love Windows and used that all of your life?  Use it.  Hate Microsoft?  Use an Apple device.  We don't mandate what you should use... we should allow you to freely choose how to access these materials. 

Education should be about choices, accessibility for all, and learning from a variety of sources.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

First Post

Welcome to the DEC Publishing Blog.  This blog will be dedicated to an open discussion with regards to multimedia, digital publishing.  You will find links to articles concerning this topic, as well as comments from publishing professionals.  In the spirit of full disclosure, we at DEC Publishing have aligned ourselves with the BookOn Publish format, which allows for cross-platform, across-device publishing.  The folks at MediaTechnics Corp developed this system more than 15 years ago, and have successfully used this method for textbooks in use by millions of students around the world.  A proven system can be hard to find these days, so a track record like this cannot be discounted.
I must also further disclose that DEC Publishing is neither an Apple enthusiast, nor Microsoft apologist.  We are device agnostic and we currently have, use, and test our books on the following:  Mac laptop, Win7 laptop(s), iPad 2, Nook Tablet, Acer 7" tablet (Android), Acer Iconia tablet (Win7), GTablet, Android phone, Blackberry, and iPod Touch.
We are firm believers that digital publications should work on the device you have, in the way you want