This week in our Online Learning and Technology program we presented a seminar on tablet computing. The challenge activity for the week was to leave your desktop or laptop alone and try to rely only on the tablet for your day to day work use. As I was not a tablet owner, I was lucky enough to borrow an iPad from a friend for the week’s seminar. I learned right away that the iPads do not have a “switch user” option; hence working on someone’s iPad like it was your own offered up a list of barriers to overcome. My week started out very ambitiously with full intentions of using the iPad for everything from posting to Google+ to writing my weekly blog. I encountered many triumphs and tribulations this week as I learned firsthand the creative possibilities and limitations of tablet computing.
First off, I was excited to just “play” with the iPad, which I did the all day Saturday. Getting used to the interface and finding out what was what. My first reaction was how much longer it took to do simple tasks involved with my coursework. Typing using the touch screen (I noticed increased misspellings and disappearing acts), accessing Google Drive to add comments and points to course checklist (apparently possible, but not worth my time find and install a solution), and figuring out how to compose comments and save before posting (I gave up and typed straight in Google+) were all time-consuming tasks. I finally switched to my laptop for all work I wanted saved. The most enjoyable time spent doing coursework on the iPad was when I was surfing the net for educational apps, reading Google+ posts with the ability to scroll through and individually read on the full iPad screen, and testing out newly downloaded apps of interest. My tribulations with the iPad were all issues with using it in place of my laptop. I now fully understand what Graham Brown-Martin meant in his article “Game Changer: Is it iPad?”, when explaining the “paradigm shift in mobile computing” (2010). Graham said it all when he stated “the clue is what our desktops and laptops are and were designed to do and what the iPad isn’t and hasn’t been designed to do” (2010). If I want the iPad to be a useful substitution for my laptop, I would have to go against what it was designed to do and enhance its workability by adding apps and accessories. Maybe a better route (and less expensive) might be to just embrace all the best of what an iPad was designed to do and rejoice in the triumphs I encountered with the iPad this week.
The first moment involving the iPad that felt like a triumph came about Saturday night. An evening out with friends turned into a memorable event thanks to the iPad and the use of Face Time. Friends who were here on a teacher exchange for a year had recently returned home to Australia. We invited them to dinner via iPads. We laughed and shared stories as if they were with us in the flesh. I am envisioning Face Time visits with guest artists, photographers and potters for future classes. Somehow the small tablet was large enough to feel like an intimate visit and small and portable enough to fit into any setting.
My best moments using the iPad this week were at my high school. The art students were preparing for their art gallery walk this week. With iPad in hand, I cruised the art room and took pictures and managed art conferences with each student. I now have a documented account and a record of their creative process as they assemble and build their mixed media art. One student asked about how a composition could work if they added more elements. I opened up then newly downloaded Paper app and was able to quickly draw in colour images to fit their artwork. The student in turn can draw and brainstorm with me. An email from a parent checking in on her daughter staying late after school was emailed a reply on the iPad and sent with a picture attached. An instant connection to parents was made informing them progress on their student’s work. Using the Photo editing Aviary app, I start to create a virtual art gallery show online and share in Google+ for those parents not able to attend a day event. I quickly create a mini art show to send a sneak peak to all staff to encourage attendance and highlight the art at the event. Later in the week, during the actual art gallery walk, I easily carry the iPad and photograph all the artwork at the show. The iPad also enabled me to quickly make notes and record the artwork with each student for evaluating their work at a later time. What could have been a series of time consuming tasks was effortlessly accomplished in the moment as I am teaching. The iPad is a portable and unobtrusive tool that allows me to multi-task documenting and recording student achievements.
I look back on my iPad week and marvel at the triumphs and tribulations I encountered with its personal and professional use. My iPad use was only a week long and I am completely convinced I need one. Would I put a whole lot of energy trying to transform my future iPad into working like a laptop? Probably not. What I am looking forward to is exploring all that an iPad was designed to do and investigate how that will best serve both my own and my students’ educational and creative needs.
Brown-Martin, Graham (May 2010). Game Changer: Is it iPad? Retrieved from http://www.handheldlearning.co.uk/content/view/64/1/