I read a TON of articles on the iPad as a media consumption device. I see over and over that it is great for reading websites, books, interacting with social media, but when it comes to ‘real’ work, it just doesn’t cut it. I have to disagree at that point. When I look at this device as content creation tool, I think there are places where it just will not work, but those places generally already have specialized equipment. When we look at what the iPad can and cannot do in terms of education, we have to be realistic about educational needs, and the future of this device and the applications it runs.
The iPad as a ‘netbook,’ or basic computing device.
For general classroom work, the iPad is a blessing. There are wonderful note-taking apps, some of which include voice recording, such as the AMAZING product Audionote, which I used during my Masters courses this summer. This app allows you to record lectures and take notes with time stamps that match the recording. A phenomenal product that students can use to take class notes quickly and effectively. Another option I have discussed before, Daily Notes, can offer more by way of managing various classes and keeping yourself organized moving from topic to topic or class to class.
The internet experience on an iPad is phenomenal, but there is generally a complaint inserted in every iPad column about Flash content. While Apple is unlikely to reverse their stance on Flash content, developers love to ‘find another way.’ I have seen many examples allowing access to flash content on the iPad/iPhone, but a simple solution is an application called Cloud Browse. This app is a web browser that accesses content in an offsite browser and loads it into the iPad for use. Voila! Flash content. In addition, sites like YouTube that carry a massive amount of Flash content are converting content into ‘iDevice’ compatible formats. It’s a problem that has for the most part disappeared, as long as you look for a solution.
If you want to be part of the ‘cloud computing’ experience, there was a time when Apple’s MobileMe was the only truly compatible option on the iPad/iPod. However, Apple has released updates to enable other online calendars such as Google Calendar inside the iPad’s default calendar app. This means students can easily access and subscribe to a ‘class calendar’ that could even give them alerts or change as the class progresses. I may be ready to use this this year. Third party applications such as Office2 HD allow you to connect to your Google Docs account to open, create and edit files.
What the iPad really offers that a netbook or other solution does not, are the phenomenal apps that make this device a chameleon for learning. As an example, I was looking for a way to ‘animate’ an image for my Masters work this summer, and make the theorist we were working with tell his story (you may have seen the post featuring this work here.) A netbook would not be able to create this kind of content, and on a full-fledged laptop the software solutions costed between $70-150. I nearly gave up on my idea until I found an iPad app (Photo speak) that allowed me to do what I wanted for a $0.99 cost. It is true that there is a need to connect with a full computer at the end of a project period in most cases (for now), to get all files together and get them organized. However, I have no problem taking my class in to a lab for a period of ‘putting it all together,’ it saves me spending a week using that lab! The latest concept flying around with developers is ‘open directories’ where other apps can access content created in their own. This is a boon for users, as open directories allow content creation to go to the final processing stage, and we’ll be able to connect all the final pieces of our content creation.
It doesn’t take long looking at the app store and the developers, who are always willing to add features and functionality, to see that the issue with iPad’s usefulness as a content creation tool is limited more by our lack of creativity and research than by the device itself. Now, I have to figure out how to get some into my classroom to prove it!