Lots of folks have kicked around the idea of iPads replacing textbooks or laptops in school classrooms, but I think both discussions are missing the real value of an iPad or tablet in a classroom—the input. The key stumbling block for software instruction is input. Humans are vastly better at understanding what children know and what they don’t know than computers are. Humans can gauge student mastery by listening to what they say, by reading what they write, or simply by looking at the expression on their face.
Well, throw in a little voice-command, some handwriting recognition, and add a camera with “confusion detection” rather than “smile detection” and you’ve made digital education vastly more realistic. A little too Buck Rogers? Today, maybe. But give it a few more years.
In the short-term, I’m most excited about the immediate benefits for math. If a student does their math homework on an iPad, an awesome algebra app could follow along with HOW they’re solving the problem and show them exactly where in the process they may have messed up and instantly link them to the correction and instruction they need to keep working towards mastery. I think iPads and tablets open the door for us to teach complex math subjects, like algebra, as effectively as games like Timez Attack teach multiplication.
What do you think—doable?