Playing with an iPad

iFuture - What's Next For Apple

I’m generally not a big gadget guy. I don’t have the desire to have the latest and shiniest, mostly because I am cheap and being on the gadget cutting edge costs more than I am willing to part with. I was late to the game with a smartphone, just got an ebook reader this Christmas, and bought a netbook around the same time the original iPad was released. So, this post might sound very 2010 for many of you.

I got an iPad. No, not an iPad 2, an iPad. Old skool. 5 of them landed in our department last week so we can test out the educational potential of the device. So, of course, I immediately downloaded Angry Birds, a cultural phenomenon I had not had the pleasure of experiencing until last Friday.

That out of the way, I spent some time on the weekend poking around the device. Much has been written and reviewed about the iPad so I won’t go into details here save for a couple of specific things I noticed about the device:

  • The screen orientation is crisp and fast. My Android phone takes a few seconds for the display to orient when I flip the phone. The iPad was instant.
  • The keyboard is more comfortable than I was expecting. I am a hunt and peck typist so it works for me. Others in our unit who are more classically oriented typists said they found the keyboard a bit more difficult.
  • The brushed aluminum finish felt slippery in my hands. I have an out of the box model, and can see where a cover or skin of some kind would make me feel more comfortable handling it and stop the “this thing is going to slip out of my fingers” feeling.
  • Setting up Gmail was painless. However, I couldn’t get it working with our corporate Exchange server, but that could have to do with our exchange server setup and not with the app or device.
  • The web experience is okay. I am not a big fan of Safari as a browser. It does the job, but the lack of ability for me to add-on extensions means that the browser is just that – a browser. I’m used to my browser being a tool and that possibility doesn’t seem to exist in Safari in the iPad. Other than that, the internal sites our unit is responsible actually worked pretty well, although my testing of Moodle consisted primarily of logging in and checking out content & navigation.
  • WiFi seemed iffy. I tried reading in bed one night. My bedroom is at the other end of the house from my wireless router, so the signal is fairly weak. But my laptop, Kindle and Android phone can all get a usable wireless signal while I am in bed. The iPad couldn’t. The signal was too weak for the device.

Okay, onto some more educational applications. I wanted to do was to see if there were any Moodle apps available, and there was – mTouch+ for $2.99, so I made the purchase and installed the app. It didn’t work – at all. I tap the app icon, it flashes briefly on the screen, then closes down. That’s it. I’ve posted in the developers forum, but so far haven’t heard back. I’ve also heard getting a refund on an app is difficult.

I had better luck with the next apps I installed – a 3d interactive Brain and an interactive periodic table. Both of these worked like a charm, and in a couple of minutes my daughter was rotating around a 3d model of the human brain.

Up next was the Kindle app. I have a Kindle and Kindle account, so wanted to give reading on the iPad a shot. The Kindle app installed & synced up nicely with my Kindle account, giving me access to the books I had already purchased on my Kindle. Excellent. The reading experience on the iPad was quite nice, but I did have some glare from my bedside lamp that was a tad annoying. But other than that, the short period of time I spent reading felt comfortable. And once I got t eh hang of the highlighting tool, I was able to highlight and annotate passages in my e-book, which I hope will synch back to my Kindle (haven’t tested that yet).

The WordPress app was installed next, which (at first blush anyway) seems identical to the Android app I have on my HTC. There is no WYSIWYG editor, so you are very limited in terms of formatting a posts, but it does the job. You can also moderate and respond to comments.

But the real highlight app in my first few days of using the iPad is Flipboard. First and foremost, Flipboard is a beautiful RSS reader that pulls content from my Google Reader account and gives me a nicely formatted reading experience. But in addition to being an RSS reader that can pull and compile feeds, Flipboard also connects to both my Facebook and Twitter feeds and aggregates the links being shared by my networks and presents those articles to me in a nice package. It’s like an iPad version of Twitter Times or, and I found that the way that Flipboard works, it was very easy for me to scan accross numerous links and articles and pick out the ones that were relevant to me. The visual presentation of Flipboard made it easier to discover relevant information from my network.

So far, my experimenting with an iPad has been pretty high level try a few things for a couple minutes and move on, but I can already see some places where this thing could fit into my life. For example, at work taking notes in a meeting the iPad is much less intrusive than having a laptop sitting open on the table, although trying to access our internal Sharepoint collaborative site was (not surprising) an exercise in frustration.

Any recommendations for education type apps that I should try out?

Photo: iFuture by YiyingLu. Used under Creative Commons license.


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out