iPad – "non-distractive technology" for schools

I assume everybody have already read about the Apple’s iPad launch. What kind of devices it is, to be used in schools?

I have been Mac user for more than 15 years. I am not a “fan” but very satisfied customer – even relatively big customer. I do not like the close ecosystem approach of the Apple, but highly appreciate their design thinking behind the products.

In the demo yesterday Steve Job explained that iPad tablet should do a better job than a smart phone or laptop computer in some specific areas. This is definitely a right way to design a product like this: to think some important things and make a product that is really good at doing them. This sounds simple.

Job’s list of important things in which iPad is really good at was:

  • web browsing,
  • email,
  • photos,
  • watching video,
  • listening to music,
  • playing games and
  • reading ebooks.

Now we may ask: what students need from their ICT device at school?

In 90% of cases this is it: web browsing with the ability to submit things online (including longer texts, such as blog posts), email, photos, watching videos, listening audio, playing games and reading books. In addition to this, students need a simple real-time communication channel with their peers, teachers and parents: a chat or phone. I assume, in the iPad there soon will be an application for audio/video call with add-on video camera. This is definitely something needed. On the other hand, I think students will anyway have their mobile phones, too for chating and calling.

Firefox interface OLPC, personal computer, web browser and connectivity

I see in the iPad some similarities to the “ultimate network connectivity school device” I wrote about some time ago: a touch screen and “limited features”. That’s what we need in schools – well designed, simple and elegant tools that are non-distractive.

Why the simplicity is so important in school? Learning is a cognitive process. All extra cognitive load put on the use of tools is out from the learning. The technology used should never take the main role from the actual learning situation.

In a way this is the case with all human activity. That is also why Apple have took over smart phone market and have made internet mobile.

Often Apple is considered to be a “high-end” technology, but actually their competence is in their ability to design for the “masses”, the people. This is why they should have at least 50% of the school ICT-device market (actually I think this is already the case in some parts of the world, like in UK).

Some one just sent me a link to another example of simplicity and respect of human cognition. Do not make me think – I just want to “consume” my magazine!


Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

7 replies on “iPad – "non-distractive technology" for schools”

Hi Teemu – this seemed like an image of things to come. I’m still a little concerned about the ‘lock-in’ (etc.) aspects, as expressed by the ‘open’ community over the past few days. Still, there’s no doubt that the iPad will offer something valuable to many people – including educators and learners.


I remembered this Apple Vision video from 1995:
Well, it’s getting there…after 15 years. As Teemu noted the teleconferencing requirement is still missing from the iPad specifications (this year).
But maybe, as important as the design aspects, is that Apple has always had a vision about learning technologies and pedagogical development.


Very nice post about the iPad helping in the classroom. On my blog I talk a lot about this as well. My most recent post has been how the iPad is not just a media consumption device as it is being heavily touted as being excellent at doing, but it will also be a very powerful media creation device as well. You can read more about this at Please check it out and let me know what you think.


Hi Teemu,

Nice to read you and see your visions about this wave of portable touching devices. In fact since I changed my usual previous laptop to a touch one (the lenovo X61) and after using with with a small portable video beam as my cheap touch blackboard I told to myself that touch computing will be the future and I don’t image myself going backwards. But I don’t thint that the slate form factor of Ipad or Archos or N900 is for everyone. I don’t image myself wirting long code or mails on a slate and lossing real state of the screen for thing that requiere a lot of it (like desing), So I think that tablets with a new interface will do it fine also in this market and will be better, for example in Universities and high school. Asus is trying some of that changes on Interface while keeping some continuity with the Windows old one interface and I think that some continuity is important, so we don’t have a intitutionalized learning environment that is disconnected from the rest of the world (the one we have now with “office centered education” is too much connected).
My point is that in this context of going from one user experience and change from a culture of PC to other ones, mixed and continuos points, from software/hardware and interfaces will be needed.




According to the swedish site rejoy bloggen Geohot has publicized news of a new untitled jailbreak and he claims that his method will ‘most likely’ work on the iPad too! Not good news for The apple company, especially considering their latest development isn’t even released yet.


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