Apple's tablet phenomenon, the iPad, is more than just a consumer electronics product on which the company's fortunes have improved — it is also the leading edge in Apple's continuing expansion into the education market.
Recent numbers released by the company suggest that when Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said at the beginning of last year that "Education is in Apple's DNA," he was not exaggerating. During the course of 2012, the company broke its own sales record in the education market with the iPad leading the growth charge. In the third quarter of 2012, the sales of the tablet nearly doubled from a year ago with nearly a million units sold during that period.
The rate of iPad's adoption surprised even the company's head honcho himself. During the earnings call announcing the third quarter results, CEO Tim Cook said that he'd never seen another product come even close to the iPad sales growth rate.
Apple is riding (some would say, driving) the tablet-adoption wave. Use of tablets and smartphones by K-12 students has hit 50%, according to an analysis released in October at the Wireless EdTECH conference by Blackboard and Project Tomorrow. The report, "Learning in the 21st Century: Taking it Mobile!" found 50% of high schoolers and 40% of middle schoolers use smartphones or tablets on a regular basis.
Combined with the cheerleading of the company's executives, it might be easy for educational institutions in the market for tech to overlook the fact that alone, iPads will not serve as a panacea. No single piece of technology will solve every problem facing school systems today unless a strong use policy is adopted alongside it. Jennifer Carey, writing on the Powerful Learning Practice blog, summarized it as such:
"You cannot simply âadd iPads and stir.' Administrators must be prepared to fully support the faculty and students before any significant technology initiative is going to be successful. Simply handing out iPads to teachers and students (and going over the security protocols) isn't going to accelerate learning in your school. Educators need to become skillful at using these tools and then think deeply about how to integrate them into the learning environment in powerful ways."
Information Week cites Regis College as an example of a school that did iPads right. When the devices were distributed to students and faculty, they came preloaded with academic software that will be used in classes. In addition, everyone was provided with training on how the iPads were to be used to maximize the benefit gained.