Could the Apple Tablet Make Higher Ed. Irrelevant?

By this time tomorrow, we'll know all of the technical specs on the new Apple tablet computer-assuming Steve Jobs isn't setting up his salivating...

By this time tomorrow, we'll know all of the technical specs on the new Apple tablet computer-assuming Steve Jobs isn't setting up his salivating acolytes for the mother of all Vaseline-slimed curveballs.Given Apple's track record with disrupting media industries (from music to movies), print publishers of all sorts (from newspapers to textbooks) are bracing for what the new device could possibly do. Bloomberg reports that the tablet is likely to "boost demand for digital textbooks." And the ZDNet education technology blogger Christopher Dawson seems pretty excited that Apple and textbook publisher McGraw-Hill are in talks.
Given that neither Amazon nor any of the other e-book/e-reader retailers has managed to provide a compelling electronic textbook, I should have known that Apple might be the one. ... McGraw-Hill just happens to be the number 3 textbook publisher in the world. That spells a lot of potential content.
Yesterday, I wrote about online education-specifically about Bill Gates' enthusiasm about its potential. Thinking about it and the Apple tablet concurrently made me think about how this machine is the delivery method for a killer app known as "distance learning."Imagine your tablet screen with a window that had a fully searchable textbook page, which a student could mark up at will. Then maybe put a Quicktime window in one of the corners with a professor going through a lecture about the material in that textbook. All of a sudden, students are highlighting along what the lecturer emphasizes, maybe jotting notes in the margins. All of a sudden, many of the tools of the classroom are right there on one device.What if that video is a live stream and the student could use Twitter to send in questions for the professor to answer (as is sometimes done during presentations at SXSW Interactive)? Who needs the classroom at all, then?If you're looking for a preview of what this brave new distance learning world could look like, the production company Small Mammal's video blogs "The Monitor" (done for Scientific American) and "Grand Unified Weekly" (hosted by Slate) offer a peek into the future. Here's an episode of "The Monitor."[youtube] via
via Jason S Campbell / Twitter

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