iPad may enable new education breakthroughs

Blair Hanley Frank

Apple yesterday announced the iPad, a new tablet computer that blends e-reader, office software and a general computing device.  Its screen measures 9.1 inches on the diagonal, is half an inch thick and weighs in at one and a half pounds. That’s slightly smaller than Amazon’s Kindle DX, which is an apt comparison due to the new iBook app that will ship with the iPad.

At $499, the entry level iPad (16 GB of storage and Wi-Fi) costs $10 more than the Kindle DX and boasts four times the storage capacity of Amazon’s e-reader. Couple the storage improvement with the versatility of the iPad, and it becomes a serious contender for textbooks, text-to-speech applications and other educational uses.

With the announcement of the iPad, Apple also introduced iWork for iPad, which brings the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation capabilities of their office suite to the new tablet. With iBooks and iWork, it’s possible to use the iPad as an all-in-one textbook and notebook. In a lab setting, it would be possible to reference your digital textbook and record your data, all while listening to music from your iTunes library.

The universal access features on the iPad include text-to-speech, as well as the ability to invert display colors for higher-contrast viewing. That creates potential benefits for people with learning differences.

Director of Academic Resources Juli Dunn is optimistic about the possibilities that the iPad holds.

“My prediction is that it will be a huge breakthrough for certain segments of the learning population and I am super-excited to see how it takes off and to what extent it can be utilized to support the principles of universal design learning,” she said.

The iPad should be available in late March.