When Steve Jobs announced the iPad last spring I was curious to know if it was just the latest digital toy or whether it might be an effective educational or administrative tool. So I purchased three units for experimentation. I gave one to our Macintosh guru, Josh Goldman, for testing IT applications; I gave the second one to Library Director Paula Ganyard for testing library applications, and I kept the third iPad to find out if it could replace my laptop as an administrative tool. After Josh completed his testing we invited award winning teacher and scholar Professor Andy Kersten to give the iPad a test drive for teaching and research. In this my inaugural blog, I would like to share with you what we have learned and encourage those of you with thoughts on iPads or other mobile devices to make comments on the blog.
Ease of use: The iPad is intuitive and easy to use. The interface is very similar to an iPhone. Even though I do not have an iPhone I adapted quickly to the interface.
Internet, Email & Calendar: The iPad is a great internet search tool with the same speed and functionality of my laptop. The iPad synchronizes automatically with Outlook email and calendar, and, you can add additional email accounts if you wish.
E-Reader: It is the best e-reader! It is great for reading online journal articles and books. In fact I have done more journal reading this past semester because it is so convenient and the image is so crisp and easy on the eyes. I have also been using the iPad as a “paperless meeting device.” Instead of printing agendas and meeting documents I carry my iPad with me and find it easy to pull up information needed during meetings. The e-reader not only has a bright screen for reading text you can easily enlarge the text with the touch of a finger (well, actually it requires two fingers.) You can search text and mark texts. It is very lightweight and you can carry lots of content with you. You can download e-books from the library or purchase them through commercial sources, such as Amazon, iTunes or Barnes and Noble.
Multi-media: The iPad delivers a high quality audio and video experience. You can listen to music and audio books, watch films and web broadcasts, store and view photos.
Productivity: Professor Andy Kersten reports that he found the iPad to be a great productivity tool. He used it to create, edit and present his PowerPoints in the classroom. He also used the iPad to create and edit documents, keep up with his email, search the internet and manage his calendar. He is interested in integrating electronic text books and online homework modules. I have to admit that I continued to use my laptop rather than the iPad for creating and editing PowerPoint, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. I feel inspired by Andy’s success in using the iPad as a full production tool. I guess I will have to challenge myself a bit more in the coming months.
Educational Apps: There are many (low cost and free!) custom applications that enhance the fun and productivity of the iPad, such as: calculators; translators; language learning apps; science tools, field guides with text images and audio; and exam study guides. The map application works similar to Google Maps allowing you to zoom in or out, get directions, and change the view from a standard map format to satellite images, topography, or a hybrid format. Many popular social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn integrate well with the iPad. If you have an iPhone you can share applications and content between your iPhone and iPad.
So what’s the verdict? It is fun to use and has many entertainment options, which I suppose might classify it as a digital toy. However, it is also a productivity tool. The iPad brings together your professional, educational and personal resources. While it has limitations—I am not ready to give up my laptop—the technology will continue to improve, so we need to keep an eye on it and continue to experiment. A device that has both academic use and social use increases the likelihood of adoption by students and faculty. I am interested in your thoughts on the iPad or other similar devices. Please add your comments.