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Is Jobs looking to overhaul education with the tablet?


TechCrunch is reporting that Steve Jobs has been heard saying that the Apple tablet will "be the most important thing I've ever done."
We haven't heard this first hand, but we've heard it multiple times second and third hand from completely independent sources. Senior Apple execs and friends of Jobs are telling people that he's about as excited about the upcoming Apple Tablet as he's ever been. Coming from the man who has created so much, that's saying something.
This got me thinking. More "important" than the iPhone? Why "most important" and not "most innovative"? Maybe Steve wants to do more than reinvigorate the publishing industry? I dug back through some stories where I could surmise what Steve Jobs viewed as "important" – and for a guy with such strong feelings about so much, one thing stuck out: his passion about the importance of education reform. Could it be possible that Steve sees education as the primary function of the tablet? Does Jobs see a tablet in the hands of every school child in America?

In 1995, giving a speech to the Smithsonian, Jobs said:
I think the school situation has a parallel here when it comes to technology. It is so much more hopeful to think that technology can solve the problems that are more human and more organizational and more political in nature, and it ain't so. We need to attack these things at the root, which is people and how much freedom we give people, the competition that will attract the best people. Unfortunately, there are side effects, like pushing out a lot of 46-year-old teachers who lost their spirit fifteen years ago and shouldn't be teaching anymore. I feel very strongly about this. I wish it was as simple as giving it over to the computer.
Twelve years later, Steve Jobs gave a speech at an education reform conference in Austin, Texas. At the conference, Jobs reiterated that no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers. However, at the same conference he reportedly told the audience that he envisioned schools in the future replacing textbooks with a free, online information source that is constantly updated by experts.
"I think we'd have far more current material available to our students and we'd be freeing up a tremendous amount of funds that we could buy delivery vehicles with -- computers, faster Internet, things like that," he said. "And I also think we'd get some of the best minds in the country contributing."
Maybe Steve sees the tablet as a dynamic textbook that will allow schools to free up those funds? Or, at least these textbook publishers hope so. Who knows, maybe iTunes U was just the start?

This is, of course, nothing more than conjecture – an educated guess, if you'll pardon the expression.

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