It occurred to me to be impressed with my iPad this week. I’m surprised.
I hadn’t planned to buy one anytime soon, but within a week of starting this class, I discovered I needed a mobile device. After I researched my options online and asked friends and fellow classmates about what devices they used and their user experiences, my husband and I decided to buy an iPad over some kind of smart phone. Once we had determined which generation we should get and from where, I ordered and paid for my preferred model online, and then was able to watch it progress halfway around the world to my own front door. It left China (refurbished) on Friday of one week and arrived at my door the following Monday afternoon.
Then came the fun part of learning how to use my new device. I found applications, bookmarked websites, downloaded apps, and set about discovering the capabilities and limitations of my iPad.
I discovered I enjoyed the feeling of using gestures to control my movements around the interface, even more so than on my laptop’s touch screen. I discovered I missed being able to open multiple tabs from one site. The screen was also a little small for some kinds of browsing that needed several functions open at once. I found that I could touch type surprisingly well, but it was tiring for extended text creating or editing (although to be fair, the sharp edge on my laptop starts to wear on me during extended typing or browsing as well).
Nevertheless, within a week, I was using the iPad in combination with my laptop while I researched and worked on projects and sifted through information. Matt Smith, writing for Digital Trends, made a similar observation while testing whether a tablet could replace a laptop for various day-to-day tasks. Namely:
Productivity is considered the domain of desktops and some laptops, while tablets are used as consumption devices.
That’s what I found too (although Mr. Smith gives a much more nuanced review); it was like having a second monitor. I could read on on one device and compile and create on another device. In other words, the iPad made a surprisingly positive addition to my efficiency and workflow.
Even more stunningly, within a few weeks of first getting my hands on the iPad, I used it to give a complete presentation to my class. I showed a short video clip on YouTube via the iPad web browser, and then presented and demonstrated an iPad app to the class via a plug (aka a dongle) that connected the iPad to the overhead projector with external speakers. Anything I could stream from the internet or the tablet was possible. I probably could have used a tool like Prezi as well. This was the first time I really noticed the iPad as not just a toy or additional device, but as a useful tool in its own right.
In the same week, another classmate, Heidi, demonstrated how an iPevo document camera can work in combination with an iPad and portable wireless hub to act as a portable “cam” alternately showing work from students around the class and allowing students to analyze and interact using their iPads. (See, for example, 10 Great Classroom Activities Using iPad Doc Cams.) Wow! That’s like having a handheld smart board. (That’s assuming all the devices work in tandem as they are supposed to.)
Recently I’ve been using the iPad as a handheld reader as well. Being able to adjust the angle of the text makes online reading much more comfortable, another reason why the iPad can work well in tandem with another device such as a laptop.
So yes, I’m surprised by how incredibly useful the iPad can be, especially in combination with other devices or with other digital resources such as apps and YouTube and wireless Internet. I’m not entirely convinced it is the all-round best device to have in the classroom as a student tool, but I have been enjoying its working style and efficiency. I’ve been converted into a fan.