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Apple's iPad Textbooks Will Harm U.S. Schools and Widen the Achievement Gap

Earlier this month, Apple released their new textbook initiative for the iPad, with interactive video and note taking features. While this would appear to be the new direction of education technology, this initiative is problematic.

We have been through Apple’s market waves time and time again. First the iPod, then the iPhone and iPad, and now the company wants to venture into the next big market that affects the age range they have so magically dominated for the past couple of decades: learning. Ebooks have already become a popular product for young people because they are cheaper, more convenient, and even more fun to use than reading a paperback. Even though I weep at the thought that in 50 years, paper books will not exist and “hardcover” might refer to the type of case you have for your Nook or Kindle, I admit that e-readers are beneficial and progressive for society. But, Apple’s new textbooks are not.

In order to use Apple’s textbooks, you have to buy an iPad of course. This is a convenient caveat for Apple, allowing the company to reap huge profits while improving education technology. Until now, education has been universal in this country, and now Apple is trying to increase the price tag. The textbook market is such a huge market already, and Apple is just trying to move in on new territory.

To be sure, buying textbooks is miserable for college students, on the list of top ten burdens for the semester along with pulling an all-nighter and having to take three midterms in one day. While Apple’s initiative would make it much easier to buy textbooks, it would not necessarily make it more affordable. Imagine buying a textbook and a couple of weeks later, Apple announces the release of their 2.5 version.

What about high school students? I attended a public high school that barely had enough computers per period for a class of 30, much less for a school of 5,000 students. Unless Apple plans on making it more affordable, this technology will only further the achievement gap between wealthy and poor students.

From an educators’ point of view, investments into Apple textbooks seem risky and not worth it. Money spent within schools is scarce enough. The economy and money for education will not significantly improve anytime soon. Thus, while Apple’s new technology may be great and the next big step toward learning, it will just be another way of widening the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Really Apple, enough is enough.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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