Do School Administrators Behave Like Apple Fanboys?

“One of the things that is so rewarding and so amazing to us is how quickly iPad has been embraced in education. Administrators, teachers and students have found iPad to be an incredible learning tool.”

So said Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company’s recent event announcing a slew of new products, most notably the iPad Mini. But Vineet Madan, senior vice president at McGraw Hill Education is concerned that the iPad Mini will cause headaches for educators, administrators, and possible app developers. Madan’s company has a line of over 50 interactive textbooks developed in partnership with Inkling.

Speaking rather candidly, Madan said to Talking Points Memo,

“The almost instantaneous obsolescence of the new iPad was a bit of a surprise. If I were a teacher who had spent the last pennies of his or her budget buying new iPads for students a few months ago, I don’t know if I’d be too happy waking up and finding out that there’s a new iPad with a completely different connector cable now. If you’re operating in a classroom that has iPads, now if you want to upgrade or replace a device, you’re going to have to maintain multiple chargers.”

Madan is of course referring to the new Lightning connector which first appeared in the recently released iPhone 5. A few iPhone owners were a little miffed at it, but given the impressive sales of the new phone, I’d say people have largely calmed down.

I think Madan is making the mistake of assuming that administrators of schools with iPads will be disappointed that they won’t be able to get the iPad Mini. Something tells me school administrators aren’t like stereotypical Apple fanboys privately frustrated at what they perceive to be the sudden obsolescence of a device upon the release of a new one. Administrators of schools lucky enough to have iPad programs are likely very happy with the products they have and won’t give too much consideration to the fact that the new iPad Mini uses a different connector, or that the resolution isn’t up to par with competing devices because they probably won’t give too much thought to purchasing it. Click this because it is hilarious.

I think the iPad Mini will be of value to those school districts and educators which aren’t yet using any tablet device. That being said, Madan does have a legitimate point when he criticizes the price of the new tablet, which at $329 is higher than industry speculations earlier in the month, which suggested it would debut at under $300. As Madan points out, “… it’s only $70 cheaper than the full size version. I don’t know why you wouldn’t just pay the extra $70 to get the full size version, which is going to provide a better, richer experience.”

Then again, for some school districts, $70 multiplied by the number of devices needed to make a theoretical iPad program work properly equals a significant sum. Districts are in the penny-pinching business, especially when it comes to implementing new technology.

Madan isn’t about to completely write off the new device just yet. If it becomes popular, his company will follow accordingly. As he pointed out, the company’s iPad offerings will work just fine on the Mini, even though a few interface tweaking may be required to adapt to the smaller screen. But for the most part, McGraw Hill is focused on developing products for whichever device attracts users: “We’re happy to work on whatever devices school districts and college students choose to use. If they start to choose more of the new Windows 8 devices, we’ll respond appropriately.”

Good on you, Madan. Have faith in Windows 8. Personally I’d love to watch what would happen if a school implemented a Microsoft Surface pilot program.

Don’t laugh! It could happen!