ipads changing our relationship with text

An observation about iPad’s that I’m exploring with colleagues is that they change the relationship people have with technology and with writing. Firstly, let me put this in context. Most of the people that have these where I work, are involved in some form of writing process. Secondly, the people that have the iPads are not typical power-users of technology in many cases.

For example, a colleague who, for the longest time used a computer as a writing tool (Word) on a desktop computers will not have the experience that those who carry Word around on a laptop will have to write almost anywhere beyond their desk. Perhaps they are more used to note-taking at a conferences, meetings or interviews  on paper – followed by a wordprocessor write up.

The iPad, in the first instance is handed over with no assumptions, and people encouraged to play and do what they like with it. I think adults are quite capable of setting their own learning goals.

Amazingly, many who have not used technology for work in mobile ways, start to do so – and within a few weeks we see the iPad appearing at meetings and discussions over the pen and paper. Many have downloaded something like Sound Note or Audio Note, and have started to record audio, and tap out notes ‘live’ so to speak. Before that they learned how to download – all sorts of app-store-flotsam.

Sound Note allows you to flick files to Dropbox, where as Audio Note likes you to connect to it or email it. What some have started doing is recording interviews and meetings – taking no notes, and then when they come back, have played back the audio and make more notes from it. Audio Note inserts time stamped text, relative to the point of the recording – where Sound Note doesn’t.

Two very different approaches to writing – and both very different to a laptop and a desktop – so what are they writing about? Are they writing less, writing more, where does it go? … a whole pile of new questions arise from this new behavior and technology.

When asked about writing ‘in the community’ , these people would not have taken a laptop.  They would not have used the internet to transfer data from device to device, and would not have used audio and text concurrently to write.

They now take their iPad along with them, prepared to use technology in ways which they would not have done previously – this is is 24/7 PD right?

When I hear about people, using or not using technology  – especially when asking students – I have to think that they are talking about laptops and desktops – and usually in relation to some form of writing. So the questions and answers we get relate to this, and to a lesser extent mobile phones (which young people really do use as telephones). iPads change so much more … as writing on an iPad does not occur in the same way as a laptop.

We need new questions.

So I’m thinking here, that iPads – do seem to engage people that might not otherwise consider technology. I also think that at $600, they are a very cost effective acquisition strategy. The trick seems to be – don’t tell people what to do with them, or set rules. This will of course sound orkish to those brains who like to control and dictate everything – usually with almost no success. Go on, buy someone an iPad.


3 thoughts on “ipads changing our relationship with text

  1. Agreed! They are personal devices and SOE’s aren’t meant to be!

    But… I would pre-load some apps before giving someone an iPad. Some of the “must haves”, and arrange them on screens in a way that makes sense (magazines together, writing stuff together, audio stuff together, etc). Sometimes it’s hard to find apps through the app-store unless you know what you’re looking for. There’s not a lot of serendipity.

    I did this for my parents – didn’t tell them what the apps were and just left them to discover.


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