Apple Inc. has long dominated the education market but recent developments show that the iPad may be getting some competition in the classroom. In spite of the company’s attempt to revolutionize education in 2012 with the rollout of digital textbooks for their mobile tablet, they lost ground this week as Los Angeles school officials suspended the district’s iPad program in the face of budgeting and security concerns. This latest decision follows in the wake of similar moves by schools in Texas, New Jersey and other districts nationwide.
The plan for cooperative efforts between Pearson and Apple to merge a digital curriculum with the iPad fell short in classroom implementation costing Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) $100 more than expected per student than their budget allowed. The LA Times reported that some students expressed a preference for taking their state-mandated tests on other mobile devices with larger, easier-to-read screens with more user-friendly keyboards. Parents and administrators voiced concerns over students’ ability to break through the districts’ filters and access non-approved material on the devices. The controversy opened the way for Apple Inc.’s iPad to get a taste of competition as students are returning to classrooms this fall.
The LAUSD disclosed on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 that it is considering not only Chromebooks, but also other convertible notebooks in deciding the future of mobile technology in their classrooms. Alternative options include Google’s Chromebook, Windows Surface Pro and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Each tablet has its own set of strengths and weaknesses in price and educational potential making choosing the right tablet a difficult choice.
The Chromebook may have an advantage as a strong contender for educators, many of whom are already being immersed in the potential of Google Apps for Education to facilitate collaboration and conversation between students and teachers in the classroom and from home. Since the Chromebook uses Cloud-based technology, it provides an easy way for students to share their work with teachers from any device. Many schools find the price tag on Chromebooks more affordable than the Apple Inc. devices as well.
Of course before any large-scale effort to move forward in the digital revolution for schools, districts must address the security issues to prevent misuse and abuse. Schools must develop a more comprehensive plan for preventing the rise of cyberbullying than sometimes occurs when every student has free access to a mobile device. Enforcement is difficult but school districts can collaborate and learn from one another’s mistakes to provide a more secure environment where all students can feel safe to learn.
L.A. School Superintendent John Deasy cites the decision as a stimulus for schools to take advantage of advances in technology to better deliver a superior educational product to their students. Whether that the funding to make Apple Inc. iPads or other tablet devices a reality in the competition for getting the classroom market share happens or not is a matter that remains to be seen. However, given the rising tide of schools abandoning their iPads, it appears Apple Inc. must act quickly to get back in the lead of the competition and maintain their classroom presence.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Investor’s Business Daily