Will you be using an iPad in school next semester? Image courtesy of Flickr user liewcf and licensed under CC by SA 2.0With a March release date, the iPad never really had time to gain much traction across campus last semester, but lots of early reviews seemed to think this device would be right at home in college students’ backpacks. Kelly had mixed feelings about the device back in January, but according to this Ars Technica piece, it seems that several colleges are ready to take the plunge.

The interesting thing here is that the schools seem to have a lot of different motivations for embracing tablet computing, and a lot of different approaches to promoting it.  Some schools are offering app-creation classes, others think tablets are perfect for field work, and most seem to think the iPad will save students money in the long term if they embrace digital textbooks.  Colleges nationwide are doing anything from keeping a small collection of iPads on loan in the library to giving one to every incoming freshman.  George Fox University is even letting students choose between an iPad or a the free MacBook that they usually give away.  The one thing the programs have in common is that they all make me jealous.

It feels like we saw this same kind of widespread collegiate testing when the Kindle came out, but as Ars points out, most students preferred doing things the old fashioned way to dealing with buggy interfaces and sluggish E-Ink displays.  The iPad clearly has a simpler interface and more diverse feature set, but the one reason that I think it’s more likely to succeed on campus is that it’s fun to use.  

Nobody wants to carry around a gadget that they don’t use often.  Unless you’re a big reader, you probably don’t have much use for an E-Reader.  Even if your school gave you one for free, you’d be likely to let it gather dust on your dorm room shelf rather than stick it in your backpack as you walk to the library.  The beauty of the iPad is that you can use it for fun stuff too.  Even if you’re using a school-purchased the iPad to play games 90% of the time, once you get in the habit of using it and keeping it with you, it becomes MUCH easier to integrate the device into your educational routine.  To put it simply, I don’t think many people will learn how to use a new gadget just for the sake of their studies. However, a lot of people will find their own (sometimes educational) uses for a device that they WANT to use anyway.

That’s why I think the iPad, and tablet computing in general, is going to perform very well in the education world, at least at schools that embrace the devices and make them easy to incorporate.

[Via Ars Technica]

Is your school planning an iPad program? Do you own one?  How do you see it working on campus? Let us know in the comments.