Education is in the “Dark Ages”

According to a senior executive at Apple Computer, education is in the Dark Ages.

“In general, education is in the dark ages,” he said, adding that education has challenges that are “pretty profound.”

“It’s hard not to see that the textbook is not always the ideal learning tool,” Mr. Schiller said.

Apple announced digital textbooks that will be provided by Pearson PLC , McGraw-Hill and Houghton Muffin Harcourt.

Textbooks for high school students were added to the iBookstore Thursday (for U.S. residents only thus far), they will be priced at $14.99 or less, Mr. Schiller said. The store features textbooks on algebra, biology, chemistry, geometry, and physics from McGraw-Hill and Pearson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are “coming soon” according to a notice on iTunes.

Of course, the $15 price tag is a lot cheaper than traditional textbooks. However, how many school boards can afford $500 I-Pads? The other difference is that university students sell their textbooks when the school year is finished. Other students are able to buy used textbooks at 50% of the cost. In other words, under the old model, students can recoup some of their expense. In the Apple model, this will not be the case.

The smartest thing for school boards and universities would be to support open source software and open source tablets. The price of tablets is plummeting (Kindle for under $200) meaning that it is reasonable to believe that tablets with color screens will be priced under $100.

However, if school boards get locked into contracts with companies like Apple, the cost will be several times what it should be. If school boards are smart, they’ll opt for open standards that are freely available for all to use and compatible with any operating systems/devices instead of being locked into a single vendor.