For the love of the iPad

I’ve been asked to give a 45 minute talk next week on the iPad in education. I have about 30 seconds worth of stuff to say on that, so it occurs to me that I might need to devote some time today to thinking about it.

I’ve been reading some of Steven Krause’s posts about the iPad. He has good links and good points to make. That’s helpful, but I’m still not sure what to say. I think maybe I’ll just plug the iPad into a projector and spend 45 minutes saying, “Oh lookie here…pretty stuff.”

My main thought after that is that it’s about a year too soon to be able to really say what the iPad can do for the classroom because the applications that we’ll all be most likely to find useful are still being developed. This thing only come out in April, and no one knew what it would look like until it arrived.

That said, maybe I have a thought or three…30 seconds worth of them if I’m lucky.

1. Instant access. The web has developed into an instant access machine, and the iPad only highlights the desire we’ve all developed to acquire our information and entertainment via the microwave method as opposed to the slow cooker method. I can get books, movies, music, audio books, and games all in an instant just by touching a spot on the screen. That’s addictive, and it is, I think, the way our students will expect their courses to be delivered–not just with Burger King’s “have it your way” offer, but we drive by their houses and don’t keep them waiting while we fumble around rolling our windows down.

2. Device synchronization. It’s not about the iPad instead of a laptop or the iPad instead of a smart phone. It’s about the iPad in addition to those other devices. It’s not about figuring out how we can do the same things differently on a different device. It’s about figuring how we can do new things on a different device. It’s also about figuring how to make what we’re already doing workable in a cross platform world. Already, I have had to figure out how to sync my work when I do some of it at home, some of it in the office, and some of it in the library. Now I’ll be figuring out how to do some of it, not just from another computer, but from another type of computer altogether.

3. Mobile access. Yes, this is just a reiteration of #1 and #2. Devices like iPads and smart phones mean that we need to make anything we deliver electronically to students accessible through mobile technologies. That doesn’t mean we’re replacing the lab computers for these pocket gadgets. It just means that the students are going to want to have full access to their course materials whether they are in the school lab, on their home laptops, or standing in line at Walmart, holding an iPhone. It’s a fast food nation.

4. Use the tools, Luke. Use the tools. No one teacher has to invent new ways to deliver content to the iPad, nor do they have to wait for textbook companies to sell them products made for iPad. Plenty of free online tools have already figured this out. WordPress, the software that powers this blog, for example, is very mobile friendly, and the site Scribd is my favorite new place to post class content because it offers easy document publishing as well as multiple download formats.

So there’s my 30 seconds on the iPad. More later if I think up another few seconds worth of stuff to say.