I used a $1,000 gift from my grandmother to purchase my first computer in September 1984, just before starting my senior year in college. It was a used Franklin ACE 1000, an Apple II clone with a Z80 card that allowed me to run CP/M-based WordStar.
It was amazing.
Looking back I can't believe that I got through high school and my first three years of college without a computer. I was a history major, which meant I wrote a ton of papers, all of them produced in a laborious three-pass process that consisted of a first draft written out by hand, second draft revisions scribbled in the margins, and final revisions made at the typewriter. I was also a playwright and sketch comedy writer who would often spend hours after rehearsals retyping that day's script revisions, only to repeat the same routine the following day.
It was awful.
I get this same sort of I-can't-believe-we-did-it-this-way olden times feeling when I watch my daughter lugging her high school textbooks between school and her two homes, or completing assignments on photocopied worksheets. These books are huge, heavy, expensive and just aching for interactive features—exactly the kind of content that is ideally suited to tablet computing. So when I read the news that the San Diego Unified School District has purchased 26,000 iPads for its students, my immediate reaction was, of course!
Textbooks are an anachronism, a throwback to era when we wrote 20-page papers by hand, an era when the process of learning too often got in the way of learning itself. The digital textbook isn't entirely there yet; it hasn't fully evolved to take advantage of the platform and it's still too expensive for many districts when you consider the combined cost of the hardware and the textbook licensing. But I've no doubt that my daughter will look at her own children's high school experience and marvel at the fact that she ever lugged around all those godawful textbooks.