The iPad – a real device for learning?

The iPad. At last: a bit of learning technology kit that won’t get in the way of learning. Finally, a device that will actually enhance learning, and in my particular interest, online learning at home.

The iPad – just slip it out from under the pile of newspapers, or brush off the toast crumbs, and switch it on. Get learning. Don’t worry about opening files, switching windows, updating virus checkers, hunting directories, or any of the other myriad of confusing things that make using a PC such a trial. Switch it on, and get on with it.
It does only one thing at a time, and it looks so simple to use – no distractions. When learning, however you are doing it, the medium should be transparent. If you have a desktop computer, by the time you have settled in, switched on, opened your browser, checked your email, readied your wordprocesser, switched on your speakers, rearranged the mousemat, found the coaster for your coffee mug, you’ve probably forgotten what you were planning to do, or found that programme on BBC iplayer that you wanted to watch instead.
A laptop is only marginally better, if it’s asleep and ready for action.
But the ipad, now that looks as if it’ll be ready for you as soon as the desire to learn grabs you. Open the browser – you’re in. It’s a grand little web browser, by all accounts, so there should be no problem gathering your information from wherever your tutor sends you. Your virtual learning environment will work just as well as from a laptop or PC.
Textbooks on the ipad should sparkle: academic publishers should be drooling over the possibilities – and learners should be able to get their hands on truly interactive text books at last.
But the ipad is more than just a passive conumer aid. Apple’s own wordprocessor, Pages, will be available on the ipad. Pages is a smashing word processor: it’s powerful but very straightforward to use. On the ipad, with its touch interface it should be a breeze to edit text and move pictures around with a finger. Keynote makes powerpoint look like a clunky old three-wheeled rusty scooter of a program, so you’ll be able to create some terrific presentations. And goodness knows what else will come out of the community of educational app developers.
But overall, what impresses me is that you will be able to pick it up and just get on with it. And just as importantly, switch it off at anytime.
That’s my impression: I can’t wait to get my hands on one and find out for real. Remember, this is only version 1, but the main point of this device is that it is intended for people who want to do something, not play with a computer. Learning is one of those things.
– Noel Chidwick

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