My iPad Thoughts (e-Napkin)

John Martin's picture

[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.

No votes yet


Graeme Teague's picture

I-pad and back pain

The problem with the ipad is now everyone uses it sitting in bed, with their heads down and hence putting a lot of strain on their upper backs. It is not heavy but a lot heavier than a book, so prolonged use may be an issue. So make sure you have breaks when reading, otherwise you may end up needing to seek help from the likes of myself or others.

But isn't it a great toy, really love it!

naperville chiropractic's picture

For me, I don't see the big

For me, I don't see the big deal with iPad's.  Why not just have a laptop?  For a bit more money, you have a LOT more functionality.


I think this about gets the point across.  :)

Anonymous's picture

ebooks for ipad

for me it is more an ebook reader. I think ipad will combat face to face with amazon kindle. But the problem is Apple set the price of ebooks for ipad higher than amazon ebooks.

Chicago Chiropractor's picture

It's a great tool for any industry

I use it the ipad to keep up to date with the latest news in the Chiropractic industry. My daughter also uses it and she's 6

Amy's picture

I think that....

It will become the ereader of choice for most students (due to the fact that you don't need to haul around heavy books) particularly Law, Medicine and History students. I know that I have a bad back already.

Although I know it will evolve and get better, I think it's still pretty good now. I'm not a techy, I've just ordered one because I think that it's a brilliant piece of innovation.

I certainly hope that UK Universities start making them part of the technology, as it could save so much in medical bills for back pain in the long run. You laugh! It's true!

Amy from free iPad

iPad site's picture

Great thoughts on iPad

Great thoughts on the iPad really. I like in particular the thinking on how iPad may affect teaching and learning. On the 'green' aspect of things, we are confident that more earth resources used to manufacture the iPad: ores, water, energy, other chem, etc. will be covered far more and sustainably by all the trees and transportation costs that it will be saved. And this is not to mention the productivity boost to learning process.

John Thomson's picture

No substitute

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.

What a novel idea, that I think has been lost on many who are skeptical of the iPad's closed architecture!  I still think the argument that the owner of a device should be able to freely tinker with it's guts has some merit.  The barriers to learning what makes the iPad tick may hinder the would-be inventor of the iPad x1000 -- she would never know how to make her own better iPad without paying an annual $90 fee to Apple.

I'm sure the iPad will be an excellent device for learning.  It's just (in some respects) not quite in the same league as the Apple ][e.

John Martin's picture

gut tinkering

The owner of the iPad can freely with its guts. It's just that the guts have become a bit more complex.

A similar shift occurred between the time when I was able to crawl under the hood of our '66 Ford Galaxie 500 and tinker with the carburator, and what I can do with today's VW Passat. I'm still welcome to crawl in there, if I get past the protective "do not mess" cover, and am willing to face the computers within — but do I want to? Hardware and software in virtually *all* of its forms (pencil sharpeners to blenders to supercomputers to iPads) have become less friendly to tinkering, but they're all still tinkerable.

As to being open and friendly to software tinkering and development, consider the iPhone as its model. The Apple II had thousands of Apps in its 20 year life. The iPhone has, what ~100,000 (not counting the tinkerings that didn't make it into the App store) in the first few years? Sure, there are constraints, and they're different than Apple Basic's were, but then we're talking about a device that's a horse of a different color than the Apple II. If people want it to look like the Apple II, they shouldn't expect anything more than the capabilities of an Apple II.

So tinker away! :-)

Brian McNurlen's picture


I completely agree, John.  I've been posting to my Windows friends that the iPad is an input device, and many of them that were OneNote lovers will appreciate what Apple will bring to the table.  There's an article somewhere about Apple's patent for a pen-based app, I'm guessing to be used with the iPad.  I'd much prefer to carry an iPad to meetings rather than a laptop.