And very few people seem to realize how incredibly broad that competition is. Obviously this includes the Kindle and Netbooks, and probably most other things with screens on them (ahem, televisions). However, even though the iPad will replace a lot of technology (hence the Internet is all in a frenzy over it), it’s way bigger than that. This is another event in a far more important timeline–the march of information technology revolutionizing the way we get information.
Tyler Cowen observes
that the iPad is creating a new market. He imagines the iPad will compete with and/or supplement education programs. Paul Boutin describes
how a company is already writing interactive textbooks for it.
From a higher perspective, however, what I see the iPad really doing is taking us further down the path the Internet started us on. More and more people can choose what they want to listen to, read, and watch in more and more situations. In other words, less information is pushed down on people and more information is pulled down.
Changing who controls information is a big deal. Extreme government regimes have gotten away with incredible things by controlling information. What about our own government regime? My guess is their grip on our information will continue to loosen.
With the Internet and its devices up until now, they all but lost their grip on media. (e.g. the last presidential election was brought to us by YouTube.) With the iPad, they may loose some of their grip on public education. And by education I mean what K-12 graders actually learn. This is because the iPad will make reading and learning fun, easy, interactive, available in almost any location, and with its price, available to a whole lot of people. Hence newer generations will learn less of what they are told to, and more of what they want to. In other words, while they may not remember all fifty capital cities or what year George Washington was born, they will probably know lots of the current and interesting stuff. I bet they will be really good at computers (though not as we know them), be halfway decent at a handful of languages, etc.
What I’m describing is already well in motion, but I think the iPad is taking it another step. The other potential effect is that any poorly run classrooms will be all the more intolerable–because HEY! I could be learning twice as much about this on my iPad at home!!! In the short run, less skilled teachers may struggle to an even greater degree to capture the attention of their students, but I think over time, this kind of competition will force (and empower) educational institutions to compete with the education being offered all around the world via the iPad. Technology progression (cell phones) unraveled the government-granted local monopolization of the telephone. I think it is having a similar effect on government-run monopolization of education.
Interestingly enough, the idea that the iPad will make the Internet so ubiquitous scares some people into imagining
a future of people staring at screens and accomplishing absolutely nothing all day like in Pixar’s Wally. I disagree. Perhaps it isn’t good to stare at a screen and absorb whatever comes down the pipes with no interaction, but for those of us who are excited to learn and explore more of the world around us, well, it helps to be connected to an Internet full of authors, researchers, and educators. Isn’t searching online what inspired the captain in the first place to try to go back to earth?
A major issue I do see becoming only more challenging with greater Internet ubiquity, however, is how to encourage children to choose enriching content and how to protect them from destructive content. Hopefully Apple hasn’t completely ignored this issue.