The Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville has replaced its history textbooks with the iPad for use in the classroom. Introduced as a pilot project among AP students last week, competition between the iPad and a traditional heavy and expensive textbook is formally underway.
The belief is that the iPad offers features that will enhance the curriculum such as photos, access to newspapers and other resource material that a traditional text book does not have. Moreover, the access to electronic textbooks that the iPad allows is expected to save schools precious dollars. Electronic text books cost one-third as much as the printed version.
As reported in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, teachers at the school are using the iPad in a variety of ways. With just a few clicks, the iPad can look up the meaning of words and their pronunciation. Work on the black board? There is an application to allows student to get it after class. Like a lap top or traditional notebooks, students can take notes on the iPad. However, the iPad has a feature called SoundPaper that lets students record a lecture and listen to it at another time.
If use of the iPad goes well, the school is planning on expanding its use.
California was beat out though by a rural school in Minnesota. Barely a week after the iPad was introduced to the world, a school district in Winthrop, Minnesota had 230 iPads on order and will be upgrading all the school buildings with wifi.
Here too, teachers as well as students talked about not only the cost-benefit to the school, but lightening of the load the students currently carry around. At 2lbs, the iPad is 10% the weight of 20 lbs in text books student are usually carrying around.
In addition to the cost savings and the sheer inconvenience of traditional text books, this brings up the important issue of curriculum content. Back in March, the Texas Board of Education revised history as well as its history textbook curriculum to reflect a more conservative Christian view of American history.
The reason, aside from the obvious, it raised such eye-brows is because large states like Texas drive the content of textbooks nationwide as the textbook manufacturers look to maximize market share and profits by only printing books that will achieve the highest sales, irrespective of content.
Will the introduction of the iPad into the classroom, and its access to less expensive, electronic curriculums, curriculums that can presumably be edited, make what happened Texas stay in Texas?
That is something to keep our eye on.
* Editor's note: To have a chance at winning an iPad, please enter our 'Declare your Independence' video contest.