As is often true with tech trends, I’m behind. I’ve spoken out a few times against tablets in classrooms without admittedly spending a whole lot of time with one. While I’ve had an android tablet and a Blackberry Playbook, both of them had some limitations and I never made an honest, serious attempt at integrating one into how I use technology day to day.
About a week ago I wrote a post outlining how, through a Town of Snow Lake initiative, I’ve ended up with an iPad. We are attempting to cut back on paper and this seemed like a good place to begin. After about a week this is what I’ve noticed:
1.) A massive increase in the amount of time looking at screens. I try to spend a bit of time reading my Bible each morning: now its on my ipad. The few books that I’m reading right now: transferred to Kobo and Kindle apps on ipad. Sent dozens of emails, attended a few different meetings: all documents on screen, spent far too much time in the app store and in set up mode: all on a screen. While I certainly spent a lot of time with my laptop before I got he ipad, now it seems as if all of the documents I work with are on a screen. I’ve noticed that I have sore eyes in the evening and I’m guessing that it’s due to all of the screen time. Great to have access to most of the things I need in an average day in one place and on one device, bad that it all revolves around a screen. Paper seems to have almost disappeared completely.
2.) Meetings. The tablets were purchased in order that we could significantly reduce our paper use in the municipality at the council and office level. The amount of paper that even a small local government produces is stunning. One (yes, one) meeting I was at last week, between all of the people present, used approximately 3200 pieces of paper. It is simply unbelievable. When it comes to handling pdfs, calendaring dates for meetings, searching up quick pieces of information while you are in discussions, the tablet works flawlessly. I don’t know why, but I find it far easier to read from compared to my laptop screen. The way you sit with it? The way it is propped up on its case? The retina screen? For this purpose, the machine has quickly become an effective and efficient tool.
3.) The Apple Ecosystem. I’m not new to Apple products by any stretch. I’ve had laptops made by them and ipods for years. But in the ipad, the entire content ecosystem, the depth of the app store, music, movies, books and tv shows shines through. While I haven’t actually gone too crazy overheating my Visa, ( I think I’ve spent about $50 total on apps that were needed to fully get the machine up and running to meet my needs), I can see how people send all kinds of cash to Cupertino. $2 here, $5 there. It would be very easy to do. This machine works flawlessly at consuming content.
4.) Content Creation. I read this week a deep reflection and well written article about the ipad as a content creation device vs a content consumption device. This has always actually been my sticking point for tablets as useable machines in a classroom. There is no doubt that they do what they do very well. But can they do what we need in classrooms? I’m still out on this one. Since I’ve had it I’ve pounded out emails, two blog posts and dozens of twitter updates, but this is pretty small stuff. I wouldn’t call the ability to write 140 characters content creation. Even the blog posts that I’ve written on the tablet were smaller ones that were simply text. The larger things I’ve written this week (an edtech article for a magazine, a regular newspaper column I write as mayor, this post as well as another one) were all written on my laptop. I’m not confident enough to try to work in html mode, or to multi task to find and insert pictures, etc on the tablet. I wonder if these more complex tasks will ever be easy on that device. I would suspect not. I guess this might come down to the difference between tasks that might be looked at as “microcreation” compared to “macrocreation” as are talked about in the blog post I’ve linked to above. Are there apps that let you create things and pundits who say that the ipad is the greatest content creation device the world have ever known? Of course. I’m not one of them.
5.) Screen Size. There is nothing magical about the screen size of the ipad. When it comes to screens I’ve got a 4 inch phone, a 7 inch Playbook, a 10 inch ipad and a 15 inch MacBook Pro. Which is best? It all depends on what you are doing. There are tradeoffs with every device at every size. Even though it has its tech troubles, I still love the size and construction of the Playbook. You can hold it in your hand like a book, throw it into a backpack or briefcase and hardly notice that it is there. The ipad sits in my lap as I use it. It’s too heavy to hold up and read from for any length of time. This means a lot of time with your neck bent over looking down. The big tech news this week is the breathless anticipation that the tech world has for the Google Nexus 7 and the rumours that Apple will be coming out with a 7 inch ipad in the fall. It will be interesting to see how those two pieces are received.
Overall, the device of course just works. Apple has sold millions of them for a reason. They are slick and well designed. Able to use our fingers to draw and write like we are finger painting back in elementary school, ipads have made technology even simpler to use and very personal. A device that can go anywhere with us and meet most of our needs. But, as always, the sticking point is in the trade offs. What do you need the device for most of the time? How and where will it be used? How much time do you want to spend with it during the day? Is multimedia work or other complex creation tasks an important part of what you do?
It’s interesting how fast the ipad has become an easy to pull off of the shelf piece of technology. I’ll grab it instead of my laptop if I need to do something small and quick. It constantly serves up new and interesting content in innovative ways. It reminds me of something that Neil Postman would have envisioned when he wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death. Harsh? Possibly. But possibly valid as well.