Since I purchased an iPad a couple of months ago, I have been really enjoying using it and seeing how it fits into my work and play flow. My kids really enjoy using it to see how it fits into their game playing flow. Students in school enjoy seeing how it fits into their before-school, working, hanging-out, doodling flow. I thought the iPad might be a popular item, but I had no idea what temporary rock-star status I would have simply by having one. I knew something was up when, while picking up food at a McDonald’s drive-thru, the nice young lady at the window looked in the back of the car where my son was playing on it and screamed, “Is that an iPad?!?!?! Cool!!!!
What has changed? I now have a small form-factor device that allows me to be in a meeting, workshop, or other group environment and be able to read documents, take notes, and research supporting information on the Internet, without having an intrusive laptop screen sticking up. I can easily pass the device to someone else to use as if it where a piece of paper, not a piece of equipment. This may seem like a small deal, but to me it really is a big deal. Now when I prepare for a meeting or conference, I do not print out copies of documents, I just make sure I have them loaded on the iPad.
A couple of things make this setup even better. The iPad relies on touch, obviously, but there are times when some type of pen would be handy. I found this out when I was trying to sketch a diagram at a conference a few weeks ago. Drawing with your finger is not comfortable when trying to handwrite. Enter the Pogo Sketch from Ten One Design – this handy stylus has a capacitive tip which allows you to use it on the iPad (and other touch screens) as if it were your finger. Another item that will help my workflow is an app that allows you to markup documents. Often in meetings you want to write notes on various pages – I have browsed the App store and there definitely are solutions for this – I just have to pick one and run with it.
I knew things had changed for me a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for a book. At the Summer School Conference for Administrators, a principal from Roscoe did a great workshop that related leadership to lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird. Having never read the book (amazing, huh?), I turned to the iPad to purchase/download it. I wanted to be able to read it on the fly among the many other things I do on the device. Interestingly, I could not find an electronic version in the iBook store, Kindle store or anywhere else. I *gasp* resorted to going to our school library to checkout a *gasp* paper copy! Don’t worry – I’m not saying that I don’t want print books – it’s just that there is now an option that blends multiple media into one place, and I’m hooked.
Let me put in the disclaimer now that while the iPad has a ton of possibility, it is by no means perfect. Do some things drive me crazy? Sure – the whole Flash-non-support deal is frustrating since there is so much Flash on the web. The App store is huge, but that results in thousands of proprietary ways to get something done, on a device that is very proprietary. I am very excited that Google announced a tablet, and if the One-Laptop-Per-Child concpet tablet ever gets going, that will be awesome also. All I’m saying is that right now, the iPad’s positives definitely outweigh its negatives.
So now I wonder, if this has really changed my game, how might it change the game for a student who is able to go through the school day with it? One-to-one initiatives are popping up all over (finally), and the iPad may be one solution for students. An iPad is a consumption device more than a creation device (we still need laptops or desktops), but the types of input and resources available make it a real possibility for student use. I’m going to try an experiment this week with a couple of students and let them take it to all their classes for a day. I’m really interested in how they think an iPad might (or might not) make their learning better. Hopefully I’ll convicne them to share there thoughts here next week. Stay tuned…