iPads are the new Slate Boards.

From Slate Boards to Tablets

The more things change…

Old is new. It’s a concept that can be seen throughout history. I never paid much attention to this concept back in school, or even bothered to take the time to learn about history because, like many Baby Boomers back in the 60’s and 70’s, history class during those school years was most likely one of the most boring classes that we all were forced to sit through. If only we had iPads back then.

If you are (hopefully) now interested in reading about history, you will find that many of today’s modern day ideas, products, and services, existed in similar, older-style versions. For example, as I looked at a picture in a magazine that shows ‘slate boards’ sitting on each students desk back in the 1800’s, I couldn’t help but notice how much they resemble one of the hottest products on the market today; the iPad (tablets). Much like an iPad, these old wooden-framed slate boards were portable (carried back and forth from home to school), were used to write assignments, calculate numbers, and draw pictures. Could this be where the original idea of the iPad tablet originated? Hmm.

Another interesting bit of trivia is that the reason the ‘chalkboard’ was invented (by James Pillons, a school headmaster in Edinburgh, Scotland) was because the teacher had to go to each individual students slate to either write out the lessons for them or to check their work; could you imagine the pure drudgery of doing that today? So, could there be a modern day chalkboard invention currently in the works at the Apple labs that will mirror the chalkboard invention that followed the adoption of slate boards? Perhaps it will be in the form of a large screen, high definition, super-thin wall mounted iPad tablet?  Let’s be clear though, this board, would be an ‘Apple cool’, fun,and easy-to-use version compared to those other ‘Smart boards’ that are on the market. Students could come up to the iPad tablet board and effortlessly create, demonstrate, and present almost anything they want with a swipe, touch, or scroll. That would be cool, albeit expensive, but look at how fast the prices have dropped on big screen TV’s. One last observation: following the slate board came paper and pencil, so maybe we’ll see the tablet followed by electronic paper and digital pens? In fact, Apple just applied for a patent for the ‘iPen’, a pen that uses ‘Haptic’ technology http://bit.ly/JixNtm . Old is new again?

That’s why I think that history will again repeat itself with the ‘old is new’ concept, with the tablet being the key tool for learning. We’ll see these modern day versions of slate boards on every desk. It’s no secret that the trend of using tablets has already gained strong momentum. A recent survey by ‘Forrester Research’ states, “Tablet sales will top 760 million worldwide by 2016, and a third will be iPads”. Wow. I have already read several articles about ‘early adopters’ working in the education system that have already jumped on this trend and are seeing the benefits of using iPads (tablets) in the classroom. However, I have also noticed that many of these early adopters are in the public school and high school system and not in the higher education system. Unfortunately, I still see a slow adoption rate with many profs for using iPads in higher education for teaching. Personally, I think all profs today should start using them as a teaching tool sooner rather than later; I know I will.

When I recently saw my 4-year old nephew, who is in kindergarten, effortlessly pinch and scroll on an iPad to learn the alphabet, it just confirmed to me that it is just a matter of time before tablets are commonplace in all public schools and high schools.  Well, I don’t know about you, but personally, I don’t want a 4 year-old teaching me how to use an iPad. That reminds me, I’m going to have to show my nephew a cool history app that I just downloaded. After that, maybe I’ll get him to show me how he gets those high scores on ‘Angry Birds’.




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