I used to think that Apple hadn't brought iBooks to the Mac because it just hadn't gotten around to it. But then today, after watching the keynote, a conspiracy theory formed in my mind. I could see that Tim Cook was really excited about iPads dominating the education market. And generally, I've heard more and more about iPads in schools. My mom is an elementary school art teacher and has been given a personal iPad and her school gets grants to buy iPads for students. But she thinks that they aren't that effectively used and is upset that the school district can no longer buy Macs (only PCs) and that the big emphasis is on iPads. (I honestly don't know any more than that on why she thinks they're not effectively used.) I'm taking a developmental psychology course right now, and in the class my professor has been talking about the disparity in the quality of education between school districts since schools are locally run and largely locally funded. She specifically mentioned that she believes kids in poorer schools without iPads are at a disadvantage! This message about pumping schools full of iPads to solve problems seems to come up everywhere. I'm personally not an iPad fan (I like traditional computers more), and so it's a bit hard for me to get my head around why iPads are so great for education. My best education was when I went to school in Sweden for one year as a child. Our school had an ice skating rink, a woodshop, a sewing room, a real gym with actual working showers, a forest and meadow to play in during recess, and a dining hall with real silverware! But I doubt it cost as much to build as many US schools. It was a series of very plain, wooden buildings that surrounded a courtyard. We didn't even use indoor lighting a lot of the time because there was plenty of sunlight. And when I think back on it, I actually remembered stuff I learned that year, and that was 21 years ago! I'm fluent in Swedish because of it, but I also learned quite a lot more. And there were no computers in the school then. I'm sure there are now . . . Anyhow, I've started to realize that the idea that schools need iPads is becoming accepted. The second part of that is that Apple (or at least Tim Cook) believes that tablets and computers are different animals. Meaning that many customers need both. I question that belief (I do think traditional computers are a frequent necessity, not convinced that tablets are in addition to traditional computers). But it made me start to wonder. If schools that already invested in those large-purchase MacBook programs for example wanted to get in on this iBooks textbook new deal, they will still need to buy iPads. But is it really any harder on your eyes to read a book on a MacBook's screen than an iPad 2's screen? Apple even thinks reading on an iPhone is a user experience they should go after rather than allowing you to read on a Mac. And now, Macs are coming with crisp "Retina" displays that would be perfect for reading books. I really cringed when Tim Cook read the following quote from a Texas principal (I cringe whenever he talks on stage because of his exaggerated tone, but this really went over the top): "The iPad has been a real game changer in education. No technology has impacted the way teachers teach and students learn more quickly and more profoundly. With the iPad, the possibilities are endless." I have so many qualms with that I don't know where to start. First, I think students should be thinking about inventions in ways commensurate with their actual historical significance. Giving a child an iPad and telling them it's the future would be like giving someone a VCR and telling them if they knew how to hit play they understood the future. I think students shouldn't be made to be so passive but allowed to be more creative. Think about their own inventions. Learn how to program. Using an iPad is not a competitive skill. When I was in school, I fought with our school's IT director to allow Macs. He said kids needed to learn Windows 95 because that's what they would need to know in the marketplace. I said to him (and this really got his attention): "Do you actually think it's preferable for students to only learn how to use one computing platform?" I made a point that we had no idea what would be a prevailing computing system 10 years down the road and that in any event, learning how to use any arbitrary system without instruction is a more valuable skill than being proficient in only one. Anyhow, obviously with the iPad, the idea is less about how to use a device and more about the content. But is the content really "game-changing"? If there had never been computers or the Internet before the iPad, then yes, that would be game-changing. But the iPad is a computer, whether Tim Cook wants to admit it or not. It has a different UI. Big whoop. You use a finger, you use a mouse, whatever. It's not game-changing. The printed press was a game-changing technology for education. The Internet and WWW were game-changing for everyone. Word processing was game changing for how we write. Public education itself was game-changing. But I don't see how an iPad is game-changing. And the sentimentality about them, the gushingit bothers me. And what does it mean that the kids learn more quickly and more profoundly? Have they mastered the fine art of the aphorism like their principal? And of course the possibilities are limited (rather than endless)! Are you going to teach computer programming on an iPad? What about building iPad apps? Can you do that on an iPad? And don't get me started on art. The response time on the iPad isn't good enough for precise control, and yes I have seen the proofs of concept that you can make art on the iPad, but I have a secret: most of them are using the hush-hush stylus that Steve Jobs made verbotten. I'm not anti-iPad if you choose it and like it as a consumer. Wonderful! What I am thinking about are the kids who have already purchased MacBooks and are going to be facing the proposition of having to buy an iPad now to get into the iBooks system. It seems crazy to me. I went through the same thing when I was in school with Texas Instruments. I had to buy a TI-83 my freshman year and a TI-89 my senior year. And they weren't cheap. I did an investigative report for our high school newspaper on why every student had to buy these things and interviewed the math teachers. It turned out that Texas Instruments hosted free conferences with room and board for teachers, along with free calculators and free overhead projectors to use with the calculators, along with providing a curriculum. And that's how my teachers said they decided to use them. I asked about competition, and one teacher told me she had preferred HP's graphing calculators, but there had been no freebies. Anyhow, I was a muckraker even back then! And I tell you, you can't lay out a newspaper and write articles on an iPad! We used Pagemaker back then. I think there should be some oversight regarding why iPads are needed in school. I completely agree that the printed textbook model is beyond outdated. It's overly expensive. It's not up-to-date. But there are much cheaper e-ink devices that could handle textbooks (and do). I know they don't have the same multimedia as iBooks, and non-interoperability between platforms of these multimedia textbooks is one thing, but non-inoperability between a company's own products to possibly spur more purchases is another. I don't know much about the money situation in general, but least at my mom's school it seems like they get grants for them. It might be good for the kids if they put some windows in the schools instead! (I went to a school with no windows--it was built in the 70s, and that was a big thing back then apparently for environmental reasons, and that's where my mom teaches now.) Anyhow, this ended up being much longer than I planned. Thank you for reading.