The good folks at Apple must be elated. Read these quotes:
I would buy iPads for every student in the school so we could have good educations.
Without iPads, most kids in my school will never go to college and have a chance at a happy life.
I would make sure every kid in the district gets an iPad. Everybody knows education is the most important thing.
I recently judged a nationwide seventh-grade essay contest in which students answered this question: "If you were given $5,000 to improve education in your community, how you would you spend it?"
The above quotes are from seventh-graders. Talking about the future of education. It doesn't come down to mathematics or literature, the arts or sciences. It doesn't come down to invested teachers, invested parents/guardians or invested students.
It comes down to iPad.
Our school needs iPads if we're going to get good educations.
Congratulations, Apple. You've done it. You've tapped into the market of tomorrow and convinced them that iPads = learning. They don't, of course. They might be incorporated into education sooner rather than later. But nonetheless, and it's tautological to say this, only education = education.
Let's not get too swept up by the flavor of the half-decade. There was a time when school districts distributed Palm Pilots to students. The Office of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education at the University of Illinois headlined a piece in 2001, "Palm Pilot in Math Education."
We get it. iPads are smoking hot right now, and iPads in classrooms – which defray the costs of updating textbooks as well as (supposedly) streamlining communication between district, school, student and parent – is an idea being discussed in districts across the country.
And yes, iPads are fun. Technology is fun. New gadgets are a blast. But they are not a cure-all to our education system. Even worse, in this case, technology is a distraction because the technology will change again in five years and suddenly that – something; whatever – will be the thing students and districts have just gotta have.
I read about 700 seventh-grade essays. At least a quarter said they'd buy iPads for their schools. The other three-quarters discussed other ways to spend the $5,000, including money for tutoring, teacher bonuses, facilities repair and defraying the cost of school supplies for their low-income peers. The winner wrote that he'd spend his money to assist a school on a Native American reservation that he drives by every day with his family. Those are all noble options. Even the iPad is a good option. It's the reasoning for the iPad that is most alarming: If I don't have an iPad, I can't get a good education.
That's a great thing to hear if you own Apple stock. Not so much if you're a parent or teacher.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.