Whether or not the iPad is the Holy Grail in education has yet to be determined. But when one of the biggest textbook publishers in the world invests in a pilot program specifically for the Apple tablet, it’s a good indication that, at the very least, it’s on the short list.
Since last fall, 400 California middle school students have been using the iPad to learn Algebra with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Fuse program. This first app, Holt McDougal Algebra 1, is an interactive version of the textbook, and with it, students get feedback on practice questions, they can write and save notes, receive guided instruction, and access video lessons.
“We like to say that the course is ‘re-imagined,’” said John Sipe, senior vice president, national sales manager at HMH. “It’s a lot more than just adaptation. We know that it’s a more iterative process than a revolutionary process in moving things to mobile delivery to a place like iPad.”
The pilot study, which includes a total of 1,000 students — 600 receiving the same instruction with traditional textbooks, without iPads — will go through to the end of the school year, after which, the research firm Empirical Education, will evaluate and deliver results by the summer.
Here’s the first part of my interview with John Sipe.
Q. Will HMH create apps for other devices, too, or just the iPad?
Right now, the apps are developed exclusively for the iPad. It was the first device that we could take full advantage of. It can support multimedia components, the multi-touch environment. And it’s the first device that realized the vision that we’ve all had for a student learning device, a tablet.
But that said, we do have to be where schools are. So if tomorrow, dozens of school districts decided to adopt the Motorola Zoom Android-powered tablet, we’d be forced to take a hard look at porting our app over to Android. Many big app providers produce an Android version as well.