iPad, its critics and its potentials

Well.

My mother believes in the transformative power of technology. So accordingly, she bought me an iPad for Christmas, sorta. Belatedly. And in the roundabout ways of boring school mail, this iPad arrived in my hands Sunday evening after study hall.

It’s now Wednesday.

So I didn’t exactly rush to judgment.

And I’m not utterly disappointed.

I’m not wholly thrilled, either.

First of all, it is an exceedingly sexy device. Everywhere I’ve gone in school or elsewhere with it, people have been interested. It is slim, lightweight and distinctive. Yes, I know the WePad from Germany is just as distinctive. But I own this, not that. I’ve used it to play games, read a book, write this blog entry, tabulate data for the track team, manage a grade book, send Twitter messages, and answer mail.

It does not do these things perfectly.

But it does do them well… enough.

It wants a camera — in the old and new sense of both lacking something and desiring it. It wants multitasking, to connect the art and writing tools more clearly. It wants video recording capability. Audio quality is decent enough. The tools for working cloud computing are inadequate —iWork.com is not a suitable substitute for GoogleDocs. The integration between the three iWork tools and iWork.com isn’t seamless; it isn’t even visible, since I’ve been waiting since about 10:00 to have access to a presentation.

But.

I can teach more astronomy with an iPad, SolarWalk, and StarWalk in 15 minutes than in an hour with a whiteboard or IWB. Under a starry sky, no less! A colleague used it to teach a powerful lesson on the periodic table of the elements yesterday evening with an interactive PToE app. And I’ve played chess, checkers and poker tonight, as well as many multiplayer games of HarborMaster, with several groups of kids. And I’ve read two and a half books.

It’s not perfect. But it’s powerful in a way that mere “expanded iPodtouch” doesn’t explain. Colleagues that don’t care about computers were interested. They saw it as a gateway to a computer experience they actually understood, and could afford, rather than a high-end toy they would never completely understand.

I think this may be transformative … at this school. It won’t change this place overnight but I suspect there will be a lot of ipads on this campus by next fall.

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One comment

  1. David Pogue, as usual, hits the nail on the head, I think:

    “And the techies are right about another thing: the iPad is not a laptop. It’s not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it’s infinitely more convenient for consuming it — books, music, video, photos, Web, e-mail and so on. For most people, manipulating these digital materials directly by touching them is a completely new experience — and a deeply satisfying one.”

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