My iPad Thoughts (e-Napkin)
[UPDATE: Steven Johnson makes a similar point about the iPad's support for user-created content in yesterday's post on TIME — "During the iPad keynote, four of the most impressive (and in-depth) demos were content-creation apps: Brushes and the iWork trio"]
The iPad Hype
I helped slow the web last week by hitting refresh on a number of live blogs during the unveiling of the iPad. The hype and expectations had been almost overwhelming, and pretty much anything that Jobs could have unveiled would have caused some to bemoan the lack of *something*. Here's my take: it's a nice balance of a device designed for the consumption of media/information and one designed for production.
Most critics have focused on it's "closed" state, calling it a boon for the media producers. What they're missing is that it's going to produce media producers. Though it doesn't have a camera, it's got a lot of better tools for thinking.
What it is
It's a napkin. It's a note pad. A sketchpad. A journal. A browser, a dictionary, a game console, an email machine, an address book, an eBook, an mp3 player, an audio-recorder, an alarm clock, a calendar, and a whole bunch of other things. But I want to focus on the first three I mentioned.
I think visually, and still carry a notebook and pen with me to write in. In order to understand things, I often need to draw in order to understand things or develop ideas more fully. I've tried to move my thought processes to a laptop, and applications like Apple's Keynote and OmniGraffle have helped me that attempt, but nothing has come close to replacing the direct connection between my brain and the thinking that occurs between my pencil and paper. I've tried using the Wacom tablet to bridge that gap, but it too requires too big of a jump between the invisible marks I pretend to make on the tablet and the disempenciled marks that appear on screen.
The base-level, low-end iPad could be the electronic Napkin that bridges that gap. As is, with apps like Brushes and Keynote, I envision it solving many of the troubles I've been having in moving my cognitive process to computers.
What it will become
It will evolve.
It will probably get a camera and GPS, and may get bloated with an SD slot and USB port and a thousand other things that people are demanding. I secretly hate Flash and hope that Apple can force people off that bad habit. I'd like to see Apple team up with Pixar to create an easy animation app, but I've been dreaming of that since Toy Story.
How it may affect teaching and learning
Like paper. How do we use paper in education? (reading books and magazines and newspapers and each other's papers and writings, note-taking, tests and quizzes, sketching and drawing and creative writing, recording grades and attendance and other administrative duties).
All these things, except in the physical space of of one notebook. It can replace the Trapper-Keeper, textbooks, notebooks, and whiteboard.
And because it's also an almost-mobile [see below] wifi-enabled computer, it can be used for 90% (or more) of what education currently uses computers for (web research, social, videos, record-keeping, writing process, simulations and games, Smartboard, etc.).
And because it's portable and fairly sturdy it *may* replace the clipboard on field trips. It's relatively inexpensive, when compared to fieldwork computers and instruments.
When I was a kid, my father made me one of those 101 Electronics kits, except mine was cooler because my dad made it. I could hook up a battery to a resistor and flashlight bulb and electric motor, and switch and dimmer, etc. This can be done on the iPad (times 1,000).
Remember the gear toys that you can assemble however you want, and then turn one and see how the others turn? Easy on an iPad.
Arguments that the iPad won't allow tinkering are narrowly construed into a "Since it doesn't let me hack and ruin the OS with ResEdit, it doesn't count as tinkering" -style argument. These folks are not respecting the power of simulation. Imagine what Logo, Star Logo, or Boxer could be with a touch interface?
Need to hack? I can envision a Commodore 64 App emulated on it for them to completely reprogram, and when they outgrow it, they can open the Mac 512 App. Wanna create your first virus? There could be a Windows 95 App for that. And when they crash, they don't take down the rest of the contents in your Trapper Keeper 2000.
This will be big for education (k-90). It's about time.