Two weeks ago Apple announced its new textbook initiative. Thanks to an update to the iBooks software for iPad, and agreements with the three largest textbook publishers, the company would start bringing interactive electronic textbooks to students everywhere. Schools in Madison, Wisconsin will be getting a total of 1400 iPads over the course of this year.
According to a report by the Madison State Journal, the program will put 600 tablets into the hands of students this spring, with a further 800 coming in the fall. Bill Smojver, director of technical services for the school district, pointed out that iPads beat computers in portability, user-friendliness, and price. He called the transition to tablets a major transition point for digital learning. The program will initially focus on replacing paper workbooks, though deputy superintendent Sue Abplanalp said that the transition to e-textbooks was one the district would consider down the line.
The program comes before the Madison school board for approval today. Assuming it passes the iPads will be in 20 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, and 3 high schools by the middle of March.
In a development that is sure to peg your irony meter, the money for these iPads – which the disctrict is getting for $479 each – is actually coming from Microsoft. Wisconsin (along with several other states) sued Microsoft on behalf of consumers, claiming that the software giant overcharged for its software. While the company managed to win dismissals in several of the cases, they wound up settling with several states. In 2009 they settled with Wisconsin for $80 million. The money for Madison’s iPads comes from a $3.4 million chunk set aside for schools.