I love my iPad, but I think a laptop would be a better tool for school...
I'd like to agree with you for many of the reasons you listed, but even though a laptop has its affordances, so does the iPad. In the fall we'll expect to see fast app-switching and Apple's multitasking implementation with the OS upgrade, and that will do as far as most students are concerned. You're right in the regard that no student has enough practice with typing on capacitive devices with no haptic feedback to type an essay, but this is not at all supposed to serve as a primary device (evidenced by the fact that you need a PC or Mac just to get started).
The reasons why I see this as more viable for education on a mass scale, are:
- Standardized hardware with hardware-specific software development
- iOS 4 is closed and controlled, reducing the possibilities of user errors in use, software installation, upgrades, etc.
- Its UI lends itself to being manipulated by a wide swath of cognitive levels and user technical abilities
- Built-in push notifications
Laptops and/or netbooks can't really offer this w/o a clunky enterprise solution with full-time network adminstrators as an added cost.
In addition, I'm sure you can imagine early elementary schools students replacing their textbooks with a netbook...right? Little 6 or 7 year old booting up and opening MS onenote to get ready for the lecture? Going home and booting up to open up Paint to do their color-by-numbers mathematics homework? Trying to open their map for geography and realizing they don't have a program that opens PDFs, so Googling PDF to find, download and install the proper application. That could happen, right?
The iPad makes replacing traditional textbooks and materials with digital content that much less intimidating and that much more plausible. The richness of content can provide multimodal input from the moment you hit the power button, without the need to know much about computers. I honestly had a 5 year old watch me find and install an application that she wanted. She promptly took the device from me, found another application that she wanted, bought and installed it before my very eyes. That can be quite rough on the pocketbook to be sure, but luckily app buying can be restricted in the settings, and accounts are password protected.
As far as typing is concerned, there are a wealth of keyboard options available now, and they will only grow in number and functionality, in the future, so that when a student who uses this device arrives at the point that they have to start typing reports on the go, they will have the tools they need to get the job done.
I'm a PC (Windows user and Ubuntu hobbyist), that has no gripes with PCs. I used WinMo for many years, and love Android. As an educator, the iPad provides the best possible solution for more interactive materials and general progress in the field (in my personal assessment), and it provides it, now!