Will iPad Fail in School?

Brother Rice High School envisions an iPad in every student's hands but must wait for Apple to bring enterprise-class remote monitoring to make it happen.

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Tue, June 15, 2010

CIO — Ryan Lawson, director of technology, would like to get his hands on more than 700 iPads for the entire student body at Brother Rice High School, a private all-boys Catholic school in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. It would be a crowning achievement after five years of searching for the perfect laptop for students.

Ryan Lawson, director of technology, uses Citrix on the iPad to install updates on a server.

But the iPad has a serious failing grade: no remote monitoring.

Lawson sent an e-mail to Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs, as well as his Apple rep, asking if Apple plans to bring this enterprise-class feature to market. No response from Jobs, but the Apple rep told him that a lot of people have asked for remote monitoring although he's not aware of any specific Apple projects.

"Now that could mean it's a top secret Apple program that's coming out tomorrow—who knows with that company," says Lawson. Nevertheless, he's left waiting for more options.

Apple Goes to School

The education market straddles the line between consumers and the enterprise. In other words, it occupies the gray space of Apple's dominant strength and notorious weakness. History shows that students comprise the most critical market for Apple. As young people grow up with Apple products, they naturally take those products into their adult lives.

Over the next couple years, Apple will need to shore up its iPad for education lest the Cupertino company risk losing this core market. Apple's education market has been under siege lately from cheap netbooks. Yau-Man Chan, CTO of the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley, told me last summer that he saw a rise in netbooks around campus among undergrads.

With its similar price point, the iPad was supposed to reverse this trend, say industry analysts. So how is the iPad faring? At the high school level, not so well. The iPad holds a lot of promise, says Lawson, but its lack of remote monitoring features keeps the iPad from entering the classroom.

A Wired High School

Founded in 1960, Brother Rice recently renovated many of its classrooms filling them with state-of-the-art technology. Almost every classroom has a digital projector and Wi-Fi, and most classrooms have touchscreen SMART whiteboards that let teachers deliver lessons and write in digital ink.

Over the last five years, Brother Rice has been exploring a one-to-one laptop scenario whereby all students would have a laptop that connects to the teacher's master laptop, as well as whiteboards and the Internet. The laptop would have to be cheap, ultra-portable and manageable.

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