iPad – first few days

When i saw the trailer for Avatar, I thought the movie would be unimpressive. When kids in high school nagged me to play Warcraft, I decided it was a waste of time. When I read about the iPad, I knew it would be a ‘big iphone’. I am consistent in being wrong.

Two days in and the iPad is living up to the hype Apple evangelists dole out. Yes, multi-tasking is needed, and I want a proper shift key and arrow keys. I still think iTunes is a dog and disagree with Apple Australia’s boss that it’s a gateway to curriculum.

The iPad isn’t a utopia but certainly is an epoch on the time-line of computing. The key lies in being able to select applications that make you more productive, more connected and more online.

For education, I’ll stick my neck out and say that the iPad in more likely to engage the conscientious objectors and disenfranchised teachers than anything previously attempted.

The entire point is for it not to be a skinny netbook or a telephone, the lack of sockets and ports defines what you should do with it. The iPad form is a breakaway from bloated desktops or miopic smart phone screens. It delivers a simple computer that changes the dexterous nature of interacting with software and information, resulting in a new imperative and focus for software development itself.

There’s real potential for education to end the brain missing pretense that teachers need to engage with technology by producing more private information – privately.

The absence of a physical keyboard and mouse promotes critical consumption of existing public information. Education’s meta-thinking deficit disorder may have a much needed tonic in the iPad. The distinct lack of a word processor in favour of plain online text discourages cut and paste approaches to collecting and engaging with information. You might actually read, not skim. It is everything we loved about the first Macintosh.

Mono-tasking leads to more deliberate transfer of information from web to brain as the iPad is all about reading and watching, not producing per se. You hold it, you don’t sit at it – that in itself forces a fundamental shift in behaviour.

In the hands of instructional desingers, it should be a rune-weapon. Every instructional designer should be seeking quality training in developing applications for it – and thinking very hard about the next 3-5 years, not the last decade.

Enough of this organic inferred approach to technology in education. The iPad is as significant as the home micro computer was in the 1980s.

The immediate response from those ‘leading’ education will be to compare it to a pig and miss both the point and the opportunity. We will no doubt see more trials and pilots as leaders try to determine how best to apply lipstick on said porker. It will be private school affluents that will adopt them, while Canberra procrastinates and makes excuses, unable to veer from its limited vision for public school children. I have no hesitation in giving my kids 3G iPads for learning – though I doubt those running schools will.

The iPad is for the jilted generation and will see marginal prescribed use inside formal education for some time to come in my view. But since when is that news. Drink the Kool-Aid, join the Raft … the iPad holds the key to professional, mobile development of teachers. Now all I need is a box of iPads and a nice consulting contract with DET. Yeah right. Dream on.

One thought on “iPad – first few days

  1. Here’s my top-ten advantages and purposes that I see for the iPad, having had one since they were released here (three days).

    1. Extremely portable
    2. Cold start in 23 seconds
    3. Very intuitive. The iPhone user interface “makes sense” to just about everyone. iPad is the same with a bigger screen.
    4. No complexities added by a permanently visible keyboard and mouse as you have with a traditional computer, for newbies, these are hurdles to overcome.
    5. Simplicity. One app at a time.
    6. > 10 hour battery life
    7. People don’t seem to have any fear that they’ll break something with it
    8. Some of the apps are very practical from a newbie’s POV. eg. “Epicurious” (a free app) puts hundreds of thousands of recipes at your fingertips. Tap what ingredients you have and bang, there’s a stack of recipes to try, including feedback from people who have tried them. Very powerful. And that’s just one example. App Store is a shopping mall for newbies – as is iTunes Store and iBook Store.
    9. Internet browsing without the complications. No plugins to install, things either work, or they don’t (flash). Accept it as it is.
    10. (so far) It’s reliable. Turn it on and it just works.

    iPad does not replace your computer if you are already a computer user. But it’s a handy, convenient option for doing some things, and it does them very elegantly. If you always avoided ICTs, iPad is YOUR gateway to the web.

    Sorry, I sound like an iPad salesman, but that’s my impression seeing the impact it’s had in my own home since Friday – and apart from setting it up and having an initial play with it myself, I’ve been hands-off. My newbie wife has OWNERSHIP.

    Is it for everyone? No. You can live without it. But if I wanted a way to get “ICT-Avoiders” to start using ICTs, I would give them one of these.

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