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On Apple’s official website there is an entire page devoted to the use of the iPad in educational contexts. Considered primarily as a device for entertainment, the iPad is touted (by Apple) as a powerful tool for learning. But, one might say, surely it’s too expensive for students to use in school?

Until recently that may well have been true. At $499, the 2nd generation iPad was perhaps just out of reach for a large number of students and schools. But the release of the “new” iPad (now over a month ago) seems to have changed things. For Apple decided to lower the price of their 2nd generation tablet, making it more affordable for both educational institutions and the students within them.

And now that cheap 16GB iPad 2 tablets are on sale for just $399, it seems that schools are waking up to the possibility that the modern tablet has a real place in education. Nor is it just the schools that seem to be excited by the possibilities. Many students as well appear to be welcoming the introduction of the iPad.

Lower-priced iPads to be used in education?

Is this a good thing, though? On the one hand, there are undoubtedly many things about the iPad that make a valuable tool within education. Take apps for instance. At the beginning of last year, the New York Times estimated that there were about 5,400 educational apps designed specifically for the iPad. 1000 of these could be downloaded for free. And the number is expanding. What this means is that there are now helpful educational apps for almost all the major subjects – Mathematics, English, Science, Geography and History. No matter what the topic, it seems that there’s an app that’s designed to make it easier to cover it.

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There are other reasons why the iPad is attractive to schools, including the possible financial savings. For years schools have had to choose between buying new textbooks each year (thereby spending a small fortune) and presenting students with the same old worn-out editions, which are often out-of-date. The iPad offers a solution to this dilemma.

Schools can allow their students to access the newest version of their textbooks via the tablet itself. Textbooks can be found and downloaded from the iBookstore at a fraction of the cost of a new printed version

The iPad has another advantage over the traditional textbook – it’s light. Students who are used to carrying heavy bags filled with paper books will be relieved if and when they can carry just an iPad instead. On the other hand, it should be remembered that the iPad does not offer the user a “real” keyboard, which makes it unlikely that students will use it when they are required to write extended essays and so on. It would seem that for all its merits the iPad cannot entirely replace the traditional educational tools, which currently still include paper workbooks.

It will be interesting to see how much ground the iPad gains within education. Now that the price has been lowered, one significant barrier to entry has been removed. And with new iPad innovations expected this year or next, there’s every reason to think that we may be seeing more and more of Apple’s tablets within our schools.

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