Ever seen those funny but vaguely disturbing youtube videos of toddlers becoming frustrated and confused when their magazines don’t automatically resize or reorient themselves at the brush of a finger? Apparently, Apple realized that it was on to something—the company recently announced a partnership with textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin to research educational improvements that could be made with tablets:
“Students’ interaction with the device was more personal. You could tell students were more engaged,” said Coleman Kells, principal of Amelia Earhart Middle School. “Using the iPad was more normal, more understandable for them.”
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Pizza was just declared a vegetable for public schools. Next thing you know, iPads are going to be deemed “textbooks.” But the question of interactivity and tactile, responsive learning might be more complex:
Another study centered on an iPad game, Motion Math, has shown that the iPad can help with fundamental math skills. Fifth graders who regularly played the game for 20 minutes per day over a five-day period increased their test scores by 15 percent on average.
“…with iBooks, learning will be a lot more experiential,” Scarfi told Wired in an e-mail. iBooks also have the potential to ease some of the financial burden of schools, as ebooks could save on textbook costs. “Other benefits include more timely and relevant content, and the ability for students to interact and share this content with ease. Textbooks will now become social in a variety of ways.”
It’s not entirely clear how something with a $500 price tag will revolutionize educational accessibility, or how games of Math Blasters, The Oregon Trail, and (god willing) The Typing of the Dead will improve flagging test scores. But given the ubiquity of this new technology, it’s hard to deny its continued potential as a game-changer.