Sunday, September 19, 2010

iPads - Just for CEOs?

Cross posting from Nigel Paine's Blog. Hope that is more convenient and avoids having to leave this blog.

Bob Sutton's blog Work Matters offers a few observations on the iPad. He is not impressed, but acknowledges that CEOs -as a group- seem to love them. And what that boils down to is the long battery life and the big screen to do email and web browse. He concludes that these people spend a lot of time in meetings (wanting to get on with other things) and on planes wanting to work. The iPad fits the bill. He, on the other hand, has minimal use for an iPad apart form the occasional web browse, or newspaper read, and his iPad sits unloved by his bed side for most of the time.

If I want to put my finger on what is going on here and why I love my iPad to bits, I think that the answer is one word: Apps. An iPad sans Apps is a email, web browse okay machine. Add the Apps, and you transform it into a living, breathing add-on to your life whatever that may be.

An example please! If Bob had downloaded iBrainstorm (for free), he could have taken his iPad to one of his 'Good Boss, Bad Boss' workshops and logged on all the other iPads in the room (75% of participants by his reckoning) and shared some great brain storm ideas. As he spoke, any ideas from anywhere in the room could have been captured for everyone, that would have suggested more ideas and suddenly Bob has a communication riot on his hands rather than an orderly procession.

My beloved Pages word processing app is brilliant for capturing the moment, and then emailing it to my self to be improved or filed somewhere else. Clicky Sticky stickers App has kept countless children amused whilst the adults can talk or do what they do. And it is more creative than plonking the child in front of the TV. Plus the kid can be where you are, not in the next room getting up to no good.

I now plan anything I am going to write on 'Notes' and that sits next to my laptop when I actually begin to write. I don't have to keep flipping screens on the laptop or trying to decipher appallingly scribbled notes from my notebook. And flicking through the daily amazing photo from Guardian 'Eyewitness' App is interesting and a comment on the world. I could go on and on but each App adds a little piece more of value to my iPad and many of the best ones are suggestions from other iPad users. If my iPad stayed by my bedside I would never have the conversations and the insights to move on.

Can we blame Apple for the confusions of the App store? Not sure. It could be better and if 'genius' worked in the same way as it does for music, I could be fed new suggestions. The chances, however, of stumbling on something totally new, on my own from the App store are remote. And that has to be a limitation on that critical first mover opportunity.

So here are some suggestions Apple:

Have a pre-organised bundle of maybe ten to fifteen Apps for kids, or games or travel or business productivity and let the user download all fifteen for free. After a week the user has to confirm a purchase or the Apps will remove themselves. So you can test out and then bail out.

Secondly allow users to assemble 'playlists' of favourite Apps and others can see them, test them and decide whether to buy them.

Offer users the opportunity to sign up to App of the day. Could be themed, ie travel App, or kids App etc. If they kept them to reasonably priced Apps it could be a low risk decision to try it out and see what the fuss is all about.

Finally publish a few case studies of real users and what their most useful Apps are with links to down load them.

So a bit more proactivity on Apple's part could transform the usage of the many people who have splashed out and can't quite see what all the fuss is about.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ten iPad Conclusions

I wouldn't let you take it away from me. It is now integral to my wireless life.

It is about creating as well as consuming but creation has to be simple.

It offers a better web experience (Flash excepted) than either my Mac or iPhone (and it is faster than both)

Key apps have a way to go like the Mail app and the Calendar App. They aren't yet good enough.

The soft keyboard is terrific and you get used to it really quickly.

You need a cover: the Apple cover with the built- in stand does help but don't try to remove the cover quickly. You simply cannot.

Kids love the interface and 'get it' immediately.

It had hidden charms, you find out about things it can do you did not realise by chatting to the profusion of iPad users.

32 gig is a minimum. I would already have spooled out of 16 gig. Add photos and music and docs and ...and...and it soon eats up space.

It is 'instant' and immediate. For breath and depth I still need the data on my Mac and the rage of applications. Therefore it is not a substitute but I use the laptop differently and the iPhone differently as a result of having the iPad.

If anyone asked me if it is worth getting or 'should I wait for the one with the camera' I reply go now, there is plenty that will enthral you and when you want to move on, give it to the kids!

Most things I don't need to secure but some things I do, but the iPad has one level of security: on or off and this does not reflect the multiplicity of usage including handing it to others to use. Protect my calendar, my docs and my email and the rest you can have access to. Elliott Masie and I totally agree on that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spontaneous Learning and the iPad

With the summer night sky above and a family reunion on a hill outside Asheville, North Carolina, I found myself in one of my favorite professorial modes, facilitating self-directed learning. My pedagogical toolkit included an iPad and the application “Sky Walk.”

I’ve often observed how the right social contexts can foster effective collaborative learning. So, with several groups of family members standing in my brother-in-law’s driveway, I pointed the iPad at the sky. After the initial gasps, hands eagerly grasped the iPad and voices articulated the names of stars, planets, and constellations. “Sky Walk” quickly answered questions about the location of the star, its intensity, and history and elicited satisfactory grunts of approval.

I’m not the first to observe that the iPad’s strength lies in its mobility. As long as we could catch the wireless modem’s signal, we could follow the arc of the solar system and establish a new love of that first love affair with the stars. The iPad clearly surpassed both the old printed star charts that needed flashlights and my brother-in-law’s telescope that he has been trying to program for months so that it would tell him which stars were in the eyepiece.

As I stood there, I wondered whether I could establish my own purposeful learning situations where students would grasp the technology and take the learning in directions consistent with my goals and with their interests. I wondered whether in a concert hall, patrons could quickly pull up information on composers, compositions, musicians, instruments, etc. without forgetting to enjoy the music and the performance.

But more on that in a future post.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quickly building iPad Learning Apps with the iWebkit

iWebkit is a free framework for the creation of iPhone and iPad compatible websites or web Apps. It can be used to create "Productivity Applications" as described in my post on "iPad Learning Application Styles". 

HTML experience is beneficial but not required because the included UserGuide provides an elementary overview on the key features. Nevertheless, web development skills are definitely needed when you want to leverage the framework to create iPad friendly front-ends to your web applications.

The iWebkit is in any case an easy way to get started with iPad Application development compared to Apple's SDK and object oriented programming with Objective-C. You also do not need to go through  through Apple's application approval process as you directly install the package on your web server. This also makes the maintenance process very simple and fast.  

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My 88 years old Granny loves the iPad !

I visited my 88 years Granny this weekend and was very curious about her reactions to my iPad. She is the innovative kind of Granny who is always open to new things and so it was not much of a surprise that she really loved it!

Initially, she was a little hesitant to touch the screen - probably because she expected things to be a more complicated. It took less than a minute to demonstrate the gesture based navigation and there she was browsing through my iPad picture library...

We later looked at some of her photo albums and I took pictures of the old photographs, which we transferred to the iPad via Camera Connection Kit. Isn't it amazing to see her playing the piano in 1938 versus 2010???

Saturday, June 5, 2010

HTML5 and the opportunities of not having Flash

Apple published a collection of demos as a showcase for the support of HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript on their mobile devices and new Macs. All of these demos work very well and fast with the Safari browsers on my iPad and Macbook.

I have been thinking a lot about the lack of Flash support and the impact on the Learning field in recent weeks. Let me be provocative by saying that there is a part of me that has started to see this restriction as an opportunity:

We would by now have probably done a "mass conversion" of millions of existing Flash based eLearning courses without paying much attention to the new device capabilities being offered. Instead, we are now somewhat forced to reconsider our options because our existing standards and tools cannot be applied.

The demos above are not groundbreaking and do not leverage the device capabilities either but like every new iPad app I come across they did provide me with a different perspective and new ideas for potential learning applications.

It does take an effort and the learning curve is steep but as fundamental is the impact on Learning we could have by coming up with a totally new set of Mobile Learning standards and applications. Don't you think so? ;-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How the iPad has changed my printing habits

I am "Generation Print". I print everything!

Printing documents enables me to read them away from my desk. For my job I print countless research papers to read them in an environment that fosters my creativity where I cannot be interrupted by daily routine. Another key reason for printing documents is to annotate them with a pen (highlight, add comments, sketch ideas, add questions).

My main problem with this approach (apart from not being "green") is that I have to keep all of these printed copies with my personal annotations until the topic is not any longer of importance. Some are well structured in binders but the majority remains cluttered piles of paper in a "dark" corner of my home office.

Everything has completely changed since I received the iPad about four weeks ago: The iPad has replaced my printer for all of the situations highlighted above. Instead of printing documents, I now carry the electronic copies with me on the iPad. The key enablers for this fundamental change in my print habits are the iPad Productivity Apps "GoodReader" and "iAnnotate":

Thursday, May 20, 2010

3 Weeks Later - Nigel Paine iPad Reflections

Having used it for almost three weeks, I am clearly a leading iPad expert :) Ten conclusions from the use so far:

1. It is a great machine and I am still learning what it can do and this is a better area to focus on than what it can't do.

2. My most useful and innovative App so far is pretty prosaic! I know that I shouldn't be so boring but my favourite App has to be Pages. So well designed specifically for the iPad and so flexible. It is wonderful.

3. You get used to the on-screen key board fast. I have typed about 30 pages so far and am more and more confident using it. So do not rush out and buy a compatible bluetooth key board until you have exhausted your enthusiasm for the virtual one.

4. Delete apps that don't work well on the iPad so that your iPhone and iPad diverge sharply. They are not the same at all and there is no need to take everything over from one device to the other.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

iPAD as a Sleep Disrupter?

Sleep Disruption from iPad Reading Light? Several articles have appeared in the last 2 weeks about possible sleep disruption from the backlight impact of reading on an iPad right before going to sleep. I actually noticed that after reading for an hour, which usually makes me quite ready for sleep, I was wide awake. Yet, reading from the Kindle, which is NOT backlit, did not have that effect on me. Here is a quote and link with some views on the topic:

“Light-emitting devices, including cell phones and the iPad, tell the brain to stay alert. Because users hold those devices so close to their face, staring directly into the light, the effect is amplified compared with, say, a TV across the room or a bedside lamp, said Frisca Yan-Go, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center in Santa Monica.” More at

I will tell you one risk - when I drop off to sleep and drop my paperback, there is no risk of damage. But, a dropped iPad is a different matter.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

iPAD as Skype Phone

While the iPAD does not have telephone capability, we just tested using it as a Skype based phone - calling from the airport in Antigua, via their free wireless, to the home of good friends in Saratoga Springs.

I used the speaker/microphone as well as the Apple headset - both worked great.  Now, we just have to figure a workaround for the absence of a video camera for video-chat.

Defining iPad Learning Application Styles

After having explored the iPad for a couple of weeks, it is time to dive into the actual development of Mobile Learning solutions! Let us start off with some generic foundations on the design of iPad applications: Apple's Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) defines three application styles, which I have summarized below. These application styles help us to clarify some of our design decisions and to see how different approaches can be suitable for different types of information and functionality. Please note that application styles do not dictate the implemention method (native, web based or hybrid).

1. Productivity Applications

People use Productivity Applications to accomplish tasks, which are based on the organization and manipulation of detailed information. Mail is a good example of a productivity application. Productivity Applications often organize user data hierarchically. In this way, people can find information by making progressively more specific choices until they arrive at the desired level of detail.

In our learning world I could think of administrative LMS interfaces being implemented as Productivity Applications. Moreover, the hierarchical organization of data could be beneficial for structuring complex knowledge based Performance Support Systems.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Beach Reading on the iPAD

I am heading to the beach for a week of vacation (and birthday celebration).  Normally, I'd pack 3 or 4 paperbacks and perhaps find one in the lounge of a resort.  This year, it is iBooks on my iPAD.

I've downloaded several books (mystery and non-fiction) for the iPAD, as well as 2 that I can access from my Kindle App on the iPAD.  Tested reading in bright sunlight and hope I don't get any send in my new gizmo.

It will be interesting to see how it works - in terms of my engagement in the vacation reading process (which I love as an escape).  Do I get as lost in the pages if the pages are backlit images?  Hmmmmm