Saturday, June 19, 2010

The iPad: Initial Impressions

I was fortunate to receive an iPad (Wifi model) the day they came out in Canada (thanks to my wife for the combined Anniversary/Father's Day gift!). I excitedly opened it up, downloaded a large number of apps,synced it and started playing. First off, I will admit it, I am a devoted Apple fan, I have a mac mini, a 27" iMac, an old iBook (and soon my daughter's old Macbook) an iPod Touch - alas, no iPhone, so I might be a little biased. I primarily use Windows at the University, it does the job, has some great features, but generally, it causes me much frustration - but to each his/her own! Now back to the iPad.

Is it the next great thing? Is it a game changer? Tough questions, the answer, I think, depends on the user. I have no doubt that it can, and will, have an impact on education and on personal, mobile devices. Is it perfect? - no, but few devices are. Many of the criticisms leveled at it are justified - and others not - it depends on how you view it.

In some ways, it can replace a laptop or desktop, but I don't think that is the purpose. I have come to really enjoy using the iPad, it has all the advantages of the touch - but is easier to read (old eyes), type on and generally to work on. I find it easy to use - although I find it easier to hang on to with a case, the "naked" iPad was harder to keep a good grip on - maybe I was just afraid of dropping it. The touch screen is very responsive, although, like the iPod Touch, you have to get used to fingerprints! It is quick to turn on and for Apps to launch, that is one great bonus over a netbook, Windows in any incarnation: XP, Vista or 7, takes forever to boot (I have used all these Windows versions). So it is easy and convenient to grab, turn on, check email, twitter, RSS or jot a note. I will like it when multi-tasking is available, it is not a big deal, but it would be nice to listen to streaming radio while reading news feeds or whatever.

Another complaint was no camera. I don't see this as a major problem, most everyone has a digital camera and you can transfer photos by syncing, using a web service or buying the connector for cameras. As well, wielding an iPad around to take photos might be a little awkward. It would, however, be nice to have a small web cam built in for use with Skype.

There are so many great Apps (I won't use this post to discuss Apple's policies in this regard),some of my most used Apps are: Twitterific, SimpleNote, Adobe Ideas, FeedlerRSS, QuickVoice, AccuRadio among many others. I recently purchased (most of my Apps are free), Office2HD, it seems very good, so far. Photos and video look great on it, it came in handy showing off pictures of my new Grandson! There is so much to choose from and try out, I have only scratched the surface. I have some free books on it, but have not spent much time using it as a book reader, yet, but the various Apps for this look good.

Finally, there are so many Apps for education - many free - that I can envision this being a great (albeit expensive) tool for schools. I have several amazing astronomy Apps, some excellent graphing calculators (who needs an expensive graph calc?), an amazing Periodic Table (guess I didn't really have to memorize it all those years ago - yes, I had to memorize it!) and more. I can also see how it can be a great tool for e-textbooks, imagine all texts on one device, easy & quick to access, with built in multimedia? I hope to get a few iPads and give them to my students to try out and play with to get their impressions about how they might use it in their classrooms. I have heard some stories of their use in schools and I look forward to reading more about this from teachers and students as this information starts to appear. Of course, schools should consider their needs (based on student learning!) before making any major purchases, perhaps the iPad is not the answer, but maybe it is.

In summary, I very much enjoy my iPad. I look forward to using it more and trying more Apps. It has shortcomings and will not replace my computers ... but it has been an excellent companion so far.

Friday, June 11, 2010

TLt 2010: Saskatoon

( originally posted on ICTology, imported in September/15)

On April 26 - 28, 2010, four members of the ICT Committee attended and presented at the TL^t 2010 Conference in Saskatoon. This conference was hosted by SIAST for post-secondary faculty in Saskatchewan - and beyond. The conference featured interesting keynotes by Scott Leslie, David Wiley and Harold Jarche. Our presentation was about the initial steps we have taken in our efforts to facilitate ICT within the Faculty of Education at Brandon University. The session seemed well received and was a full house. The Prezi for the presentation can be seen below. It gives an overview of the process we used up to that point.