Even though Apple was widely expected to unveil an upgrade of last year’s $329 9.7-inch iPad this month, press invites teasing an education-centric March 27 event definitely caught us off guard last week.

It was certainly surprising to see the Cupertino-based tech giant planning to “take a field trip” to Chicago’s Lane Technical College Prep High School, but clearly, whatever’s in store will have the classroom as its main area of focus.

For once, Apple seems intent to follow Google and Microsoft’s examples, although affordable school-friendly Chromebooks and Windows laptops are likely to only get a new iPad as a rival, at least for the time being.

“People familiar with the matter” tell Bloomberg that oft-rumored sub-$1,000 new MacBook “probably won’t be ready in time for next week.” It’s hard to say when it might see daylight if that’s the case, but you can expect the 13-incher to replace the existing entry-level MacBook Air while sporting a higher-res screen.

Unfortunately, we also don’t know an awful lot about the refreshed low-cost iPad that should be “ready in time for next week.” Previous gossip pegged its starting price at $259, which would be a solid 70 bucks less than the current non-Pro 9.7-inch generation.

Along with the mystery new iPad, some “education-related” software is tipped for a March 27 release too, including a revised iBooks app. Apple’s Classroom and iTunes U tools could also be upgraded or expanded in some way, though that’s just idle speculation at this point.

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