iPads offer new touch in restaurants, classrooms


At a press conference yesterday, Apple unveiled the new iPad 3, complete with an improved camera, sharper screen resolution, voice dictation technology and a faster, smarter processor. The original iPad was unveiled in 2010 and the iPad 2, which has gained significant popularity, was unveiled by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs last year. Locally, some schools and businesses are jumping on the iPad bandwagon, integrating the tablet computers into their class – and dining rooms.

As the iPad technology gets better and better, will school textbooks and restaurant menus become things of the past?

Raymond LaBelle, CEO of POSinet doesn’t think so. At least not yet.

POSinet, a point of sale technology integrator, is now promoting the use of their Digital Dining Pro program on Apple iPads in restaurants. However, the use of wireless and tablet technology is nothing new to POSinet.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time,” said LaBelle, who began integrating Windows Mobile and Pocket PC’s into establishments in 2003. “The technology has progressed with the iPad.”

The iPad, an Apple innovation roughly the size of a traditional paper notepad, offers users touch screen technology and wireless internet. Users can use iPads for music, photos, gaming, web browsing, emailing and a slew of other applications.

LaBelle said they’re a good fit for restaurants because they offer mobility and faster service.

“You can enter the order tableside,” said LaBelle. “And you can up-sell specials and desserts by showing the customers pictures on the device. Someone might not be sure they want the chocolate mousse cake, but when they see it they’re more apt to say ‘I want that.’ Some people are visual.”

Beso’s Tea House on Main Street in East Greenwich recently integrated the iPad system into their restaurant. Tony Morales, the owner of Beso’s, purchased three iPads for $500 each, and said the devices have been very convenient.

“Servers take the order tableside and it goes straight to the kitchen,” said Morales.

Morales said there are never holdups because multiple servers don’t have to wait to use one computer to fill orders.

LaBelle said the functionality of the iPads are greater than the traditional POS terminals, and can cost less. With the combined cost of the device, the software and a backend computer, LaBelle said the iPad system is often less than a POS terminal, which can cost between $2,000 and $4,000.

Customers at Beso’s said they thought getting their order taken with the iPad was fun, and being able to see pictures of their food beforehand was helpful.

Despite the novelty, LaBelle said he doesn’t see paper being entirely eliminated from restaurants, although the capability to replace menus with iPads is there, if the restaurant can afford the investment. He also said Microsoft is working on perfecting Surface, a technology that would allow the entire dining table to be a touch screen.

In addition to Beso’s, area schools are putting a technological foot forward and are integrating iPads into their classrooms.

For ten years, The Rocky Hill School has had a 1:1 laptop program that provides each upper school student with a laptop to use in the classroom and at home. This year, they’ve integrated an iPad cart into the lower school, providing enough iPads for each classroom. But new director of technology, Tom Adams, thought the middle school students were getting the short end of the stick.

“The middle school students were not using anything other than the computer lab,” said Adams, who joined the school in August. He approached some middle school teachers with the idea to implement a 1:1 iPad program for grades six through eight.

“I thought it would be the perfect bridge between lower and upper school,” he said. “But I wanted to involve the faculty first and foremost.”

So Adams rounded up several middle school teachers and sent them home with iPads over December vacation. He told them to get to know the device, and experiment with what it had to offer. When they returned from the break, the teachers met with Adams to discuss what they thought of the iPads.

What the teachers told Adams surprised him.

“They thought a 1:1 program would be good,” he said.

With the backing of the faculty, Adams began to take the steps to implement the 1:1 program by next fall.

Adams said late Apple CEO Steve Jobs initially wasn’t sure what applications the iPad would have in education when he introduced the device two years ago. But the education community has rallied around the tablet computer and has devised applications that Adams called “phenomenally useful.”

Not only can students download existing textbooks on their iPads, teachers can create their own textbooks that cater specifically to their lesson plans.

“We’re traditionally not an all Apple school,” said Adams. “But the iPad as a device just won me over.”

In order to supply every student with their own iPad, Rocky Hill will have to invest in approximately 60 of the tablets.

“We want to be able to control the device,” he said. “We don’t want Angry Birds [a popular computer game] coming into the classroom.”

The school plans to lease the devices from Apple for three years, which Adams said would help them keep up on the latest technological advancements.

“In all likelihood… the iPad we buy today won’t be the one we want three years from now,” he said.

Adams said the school receives an educational discount of roughly 15-percent off of what the average consumer would pay for the device, which are about $500. He said it cost the school about $2,100 to lease a 10 pack of iPads for the faculty, and expects a similar price range for the students.

Adams called technology a “new form of literacy.”

“Well, it’s not even that new anymore,” he continued. “Students can access, interpret and synthesize information and present it in a way that’s creative and informative. These are things the iPad really lends itself to.”


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