Apple believes that tablets are the future. And so, it's natural to push iPads for K-12 education. The idea is that these iPads are great educational devices because they're cheaper, more secure and easier to maintain than MacBooks. But what about the ability of teachers to invoke iPads for the kinds of skills training the curriculum calls for? And fit them into the budget? Signs are, it's not working thanks to smart competitors.
The ability of K-12 teachers to use iPads in the classroom depends on many things. First, it depends on how well the operation and capabilities of the iPad works with the curriculum. If the curriculum demands that students learn certain skills using certain tools that are not on the iPad, that's a problem.
Second, the teacher's expertise with the iPad is crucial. If the teacher isn't familiar enough with the technology of the iPad, through training or personal initiative, then exploiting the operational capabilities of the iPad to achieve educational goals will be a real challenge.
Finally, if the pricing and maintenance of the iPad doesn't fit in with the school's budget and infrastructure, then the school will tend to gravitate towards known, simple, and inexpensive solutions.
This could well explain why Apple is still having trouble competing with Chromebooks in education. I've mentioned this problem before, "What to Expect (and Not Expect) From Apple in 2016," and the problem isn't going away.
Here are two more articles that suggest the nature of the problem.
- Apple Offers to Replace iPads With MacBooks in Maine State Classrooms
- Apple iPads are getting crushed in a key market by what Tim Cook calls 'test machines'
The emerging trouble Apple is having in education is a symptom. It's what happens when a big company is trying to grow quickly and relentlessly leaves the past behind. Sometimes, core markets can't keep up with that pace.
In addition, holes in the Apple's product line exist as it enters new markets or tries to push new products into old markets. Apple's product line has naturally gotten more complicated as it tries to plug those product holes that competitors have already discovered and are exploiting. But it's a never ending battle.
It doesn't help if Apple has specific, historical ideas about how its products should be designed and priced. The truth is, Apple is trying to sell iPads as K-12 educational devices because they're cheaper, more secure and easier to maintain than MacBooks Airs.
But given the constraints of iOS, are they really the best tools for students to learn the skills outlined in the curriculum? And can Apple balance the value of the iPads against educational budgets? Are educational apps in the App Store written with those common curriculum goals in mind? This is an ongoing challenge for Apple, and one that Apple must meet. After all, as Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller has said, "...education is deep in Apple’s DNA."
Now it remains to be seen if it's also in Apple's resourcefulness, willpower, competitiveness and flexibility.
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