Thursday, April 21, 2011

First Impressions of the iPad

Recently I was lucky enough to get my hands on an iPad. As an owner of an (aging) iPod and other Mac products I wasn't completely unfamiliar with the platform, but I've heard a lot about tablets and specifically the iPad so I was pretty excited to try this one out.

The following are admittedly my first impressions, so take all with a grain of salt and feel free to contribute your impressions or set me straight as needed. :)


  • I'd heard the iPad was light, but it really is ultra-light. I was amazed at the difference between carrying a laptop and the iPad, and I'll admit to double-checking a few times to make sure it was in my bag.
  • The iPad's display is also really impressive. The picture is crisp and easy on the eyes. This is the way to read any content online.
  • The combination of the above coupled with the adequate volume and audio quality make the iPad an excellent device for media as well.
  • iTunes - Ugh- In my experience there are few programs that slow down computer performance like iTunes. I know I'm using a PC and the Mac-heads would look disapprovingly and suggest that is my problem. But I'm not the only person running iTunes on a PC, and it be nice if getting an iPad didn't mean subjecting myself to the iTunes ecosystem (more on this in a minute). I looked at some alternatives to iTunes (like Songbird), but for the updates and apps I bit the bullet and installed the bloated iTunes on my laptop. Oh, look another update for quicktime....(shaking my head).
  • Flash - Yeah, I know this one has been covered so I won't go on about it. I'm just saying it would still be nice.
  • Lastly, and most importantly I'm not sure I like being here in the iStore with my iApps on my iPad. This is a closed environment. Apple will tell me what is available in this world and will control their environment. This is a little troubling because as a fan of opensource software - somehow this seems like the opposite of that model.

    With most of my other devices I am allowed to choose (with some limits) what programs I want to install and what OS I'd like. This is a great time for finding free opensource applications or even webapps. I am reminded of a Lawrence Lessig talk called "Open" where he speaks to these points about the closed environment of Apple and whether that is a good thing. It's worth watching and considering.

For Education

The Chronicle recently ran an article on iPads for professors which gave a great deal of insight into how the contributing professors used the iPad. It was a good read but it lacked an "aha" moment. And while it's clear the iPad (and tablets) will make a huge impact on the future of textbooks, again I wonder if this is a more controlled "DMRish" environment. If so, how would it impact OERs?

Finally, for the K-12 environment, I've seen a lot of extremely positive postings on classes and schools that have gone with iPads. No disrespect to the postings and successes students and teachers are feeling. However, I wonder if these same classes and teachers wouldn't have experienced similar success with other technologies if they were given the needed time and training. Finally the technology isn't as important was how it can be used to learn. And really is there anything I can do on a $700 iPad that I can't do on a $300 netbook?

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