With the unveiling of the iPad, Apple will more than likely re-invent mobile computing once again. The real magic behind the iPhone became the App store -- it unleashed an endless supply of software -- making the smart-phone much more than just a phone... it became a "weightless office" in the palm of your hand.
The iPad widens the mobile computing ecosystem's possibilities to include usable applications for education. The iPhone is the first seemingly learner-centered mobile platform -- the gesture-based touchscreen combined with a screen size amenable to displaying content, and the Safari browser accesses the internet just like a "regular" computer. However, with its 9.7-inch multi-touch, high-definition screen,
a powerful processor, and convenient and flexible form function, the iPad now becomes a perfect mobile learning device: instantly access textbooks, make annotations, connect to social learning communities, download apps with new learning content, upload your own content, watch videos, listen to podcasts, prepare assignments, etc. Sure, all these things you can do on a computer laptop... but imagine the ease of use with a device that is much more portable, feels natural in your hand, and is flexible in a multitude of "real-life" situations. No longer will you question whether or not to drag along your laptop with you -- your iPad now will be a constant -- just like your pen or pencil.
iPad-related innovations for education will widen the discussion about how we educate as well. With access to the SDK, students can build their own learning apps, or professors may be able to customize apps to present their own content in iTunesU. Even now, many are doing that and even making their content accessible to non-students.
The platform becomes a fertile playground, either for expanded functionality beyond the iPhone, or for innovations in how content is presented, and how it becomes more interactive and experiential. With location awareness, the ability to mobilize learners in remote locations can help engage distance learners as well. At first glance, you may think of the device as just another gadget, a laptop with less functionality. But remember, many naysayers doubted the impact of the iPhone. What Apple does best is understand how real people use technology, and what their expectations are from their device. A platform like the iPad releases the constraints that regular laptop technology foists upon us -- the iPad is nimble, reacts to real situations, and is so easy to use that it feels natural in your hands. That is the difference, and that is how this platform will speed up adoption of mobile learning.Now, educators need to start figuring out how we build effective learning apps for this platform.