I’ve had my ipad for a few months now. I’ve been doing some thinking lately about its effects on my habits and how I use it.
I never wanted an ipad. I got because in my role as mayor of Snow Lake, I felt that we needed to push towards being paperless as a council. It is amazing how much paper even a small town municipal government produces. I often attend meetings with 150+ pages of information in a meeting package. For myself and 6 councillors. Several times each week. In my mind it was simply environmentally irresponsible to keep this behaviour up. We had to change.
In my role as mayor, my ipad has completely changed things for me. I keep all of my meeting packages, information and notes on it. I have access to my calendar all of the time and can bring up information from past meetings instantly when I need it. My first year as mayor produced a paper box filled with documents in my basement that I needed to sort through anytime I needed something. My second year produced a much smaller pile in my basement and instead I now have everything I need in any meeting I am at. (Of which there were over 140 of them – yes, I counted). Score 1 for the ipad.
At school, my ipad has served a different role. I have it during silent reading time so that I can pull out something to read when I have time. I have used the calendar to keep my life organized and the camera to take pictures of whiteboards or classroom situations and work that I want to save (no IWB in my classroom) and have even used google spreadsheets to do some mobile marking of what kids are working on in real time. I have no ipads in my classroom for my kids to use. I will lend it out in my classroom when a student needs a computer or some other small app (ex. calculator), but overall, this device has had negligible effect on the kids in my classroom and their learning. I can only evaluate how I use it as a teacher. Score another (small) one for the ipad.
At home is where I see the biggest effect. The damn thing is always there, always on, easy to use and pick up. It comes out of my bag when I get home from school. I catch up on the news as I’m cooking dinner. I take it to bed to read a few pages of a novel. I watch a video from the web rather than something on TV. The fact that it comes on instantly when I open the cover has made it an effective “gee, I wonder” and a fact checking device in our house. Need to know something? Pick up the ipad, and in 5 seconds you’ll have your answer. But I also notice that while I am using it a lot and reading a lot of content, most of the things I’m reading are smaller. A lot more twitter time. Short news stories. While I have access to millions of novels through Amazon, Kindle and others, (I’ve currently got three of them sitting on my iPad), I’ve been reading them a lot less. Instead, I’ve been spending a lot more time with things like Flipboard and Zite. I’ve recently taken out a 4 week trial subscription to the International Herald Tribune newspaper (only 99 cents, a heck of a deal actually) and am constantly flipping through their app. Overall, I’m probably better informed about all sorts of issues than I used to be, but I am doing less deep thinking and deep reading. There is simply so much content out there to consume. I feel the information overload I first experienced when I learned about RSS. There’s simply too much out there and it’s too easy to access. I’m giving this a minus 1 for the ipad.
I know that in the end, this is about me and my habits. The device is not to blame, after all,
I’m the one who is using it. But design drives use. That’s always been true. But this device makes me worried about Nicholas Carr’s Shallows - and I’ve never done that before.