Friday, April 30, 2010

2 weeks of iPading in Germany

Below are my impressions after two weeks of iPading in Germany. The iPad is such a multifunctional device that I have really had a hard time capturing my insights in a somewhat short summary...

Expectations before I got the iPad
As an Advanced Learning Technologies Program Manager I love researching  new technologies. Like many others, I was somewhat uncertain about the potential application areas of the iPad and very excited about being part of the iPadLearningLab Team exploring the affordances of this new device for Learning.
  
First hands-on impressions
When I first held the iPad in my hands I was just totally impressed! It is smaller and thinner than I expected with a bright and colorful display. Simply a masterpiece of design and technology. The smooth and intuitive gesture based navigation is amazing. Surfing the web with the Safari browser is a very seamless experience. It almost eliminates the need for specific web apps as you find them on the iPhone unless you require notification options (e.g. FaceBook) or have to overcome content type restrictions (e.g. for Flash based content). Typing on the touch-based keyboard works surprisingly well  (and fast!) especially in the enlarged landscape mode.
Apple claims ten hours of battery life, which I expected to be based on non-CPU intensive applications. Turned out differently: I attended web casts, played games, watched movies and the battery status did just not go down. With a remaining 20% of battery life I watched a 2 hours movie. Amazing!
  
Reactions from others
Reaction from my German family, friends, co-workers and spectators around ranged from "Look and iPaaaad!!" to "What is that??" For a quick intro it turned out easier to refer to the device as a "big iPhone" rather than explaining the concept of a Tablet PC. eReaders are in the early adoption phase in Germany (almost no German books available) and many people cannot yet image reading a book on "that thing". iPhone users directly felt familiar with the iPad  navigation and I only had to explain the differences. People new to iPhones and the concepts of apps were most intrigued by the photo viewing and gaming options.
My school teacher friend was way more interested in driving the RealRacingHD car than discussing how the iPad could be used for her profession. This confirmed that the awareness level of mobile devices in an educational context in Germany is just at the beginning. It was fun to watch her "slowly" change her mind when I explained my ideas for educational use cases. An iPad with a camera option would actually be a real issue as smartphones and cameras are forbidden at school. This discussion confirmed my thoughts that Apple left the camera out on purpose to get into this market segment.

Shortcomings, critics, obstacles
All of this has been said before: We do require Flash support not only for access to current Learning content. You can very quickly navigate between apps but I also would love to see some basic multitasking features (e.g. have Skype running in the background). Pen based input would make a great addition and of course I also want the embedded camera! From an ergonomic perspective, I am hoping for some accessories that avoid strain. With regards to currently available apps, there is still much room for improvement in fully leveraging the device capabilities beyond simply migrating existing content. Nevertheless, with Apple's strong User Experience Guidelines there are already many best practices out there to be broadly leveraged in the future.

How does the iPad fit in going forward
Going forward, the iPad will likely replace my paper based newspapers and magazines as soon as they become available in an interactive format. Unfortunately, the only German newspaper currently available "Die Welt" is non-interactive plain boring PDF. I can see from Time Magazine's excellent implementation where things are heading but the publishing industry over here is also considering Tablet PCs like the WePad to be given away "for free" with your newspaper subscription. I also learned that while you can share a paper-based newspaper subscription at breakfast, you cannot really share an iPad!

The iPad has already become my main free time internet device. My MacBook replaced most of my desktop PC and my iPad replaced most of my MacBook usage. Moreover, it will be my main travel companion providing me with internet, email and media access on the road. I enjoyed watching movies on the iPad and will probably use services like Netflix going forward.  For me as a "Foodie", the iPad will become my main recipe viewer in the kitchen. Utility apps like the Zen Timer have already made their way in my daily life.

Work and learning implications
I was on vacation during my main trial phase and have just started integrating the iPad in my work environment. I definitely see myself attending many of these free educational webinars for Learning Professionals via the iPad especially after the business hours. The line between work and private life is definitely getting blurrier with these new technology options. My colleague made a good point recently by saying that this puts even more burden on the user to manage the work-life balance.
  
I very much agree with Nigel Paine's comment about this potentially being the best learning device I have ever used. My list of ideas on use cases for Learning keeps constantly growing. Each application I am investigating (no matter if it is a game, a magazine or a children drawing book) adds a new perspective to the potential affordances for Learning. These are very exciting times for Learning Professionals!

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