Thursday, February 3, 2011

iPad - Marvel or Menace?

This class we talked about the iPad, and went through a number of
"apps" that are available for it. This sort of walkthrough was interesting, but I always find that I learn much more from actually diving into the technology hands-on. It would have been very informative to be able to pass the iPad around the class while we talked about it.

My impression is that the iPad is attempting to replace conventional computing with a series of simple push-button applications and a virtual keyboard. I don't know if this is a reasonable substitute to a full-power computer, because I haven't used one, but I imagine that the proprietary nature of Apple's line of iProducts will prevent it from becoming a widespread and revolutionary tool, able to adapt to its user's needs immediately, and run software designed by anyone.

But the competitors are coming, and there is clearly a demand for the technology, whether it is because of Apple’s well-tuned sense of novelty or because people actually have a need for it. The concept is from smart-phone technology, of course, but the device is larger, and costs much more.

Similar devices that are more specialized, such as the Kindle, are less in demand because of Apple branding and because of the increasing need in computer technology for efficiency and convenience.

The way the iPad has come onto the scene feels very much to me like it is an attempt to produce the big-screen TV effect for a smart phone (sans phone). It is attempting to replace the netbook as an efficient internet surfing device. Unfortunately in learning more about the iPad I discovered that you can’t multitask on it. As a Mac user who is used to running six programs at once, word-processing as I scan emails and check my calendar, I find this flaw to be unacceptable and deal breaking. I no longer am interested in owning one.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Smart Boards

Hello, future. The smart board is surely a glimpse at what is in store for us in the next thirty years of teaching. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t catch on, but the fact that some people got this piece of machinery together means that we are moving in this direction. The mouse will be nearly obsolete in 10 years, I predict, because we will all be swiping and dragging our hands, wrists and toes all over our computer screens (if they are even still called computers). Yes, it won’t be long before we have more sophisticated systems in place in our schools than even Jean-Luc Picard (of Star Trek) could have imagined.

Of course, all burgeoning technologies have their drawbacks, challenges, and mistakes. I think it is a mistake, for example, to have a pen tray. I hope that feature is entirely removed soon. There are proprietary pieces to be lost, without which the board loses some functionality (the ability to select pen color at will) and potential for damage (what if the wrong marker makes it into the tray?). Also the fact that the board we saw in class today is dependent on a video projector makes it difficult to use with extreme accuracy, whereas a board which could be backlit would be much more efficient, self-contained and accurate.

It does seem to have great potential for lesson planning, digital object manipulation, and interactive computing, especially the software portion of the package. I can also see the advantage of having a document reader when using a smart board. Being able to draw on real paper documents with the smart board pen would be a useful way to highlight information in a handout, and as long as the classroom was set up to support multiple projection sources, it shouldn’t be a huge problem to do so. Much less time is spent on making transparencies, etc. You can also zoom with a document reader.

I was interested to learn more about how Smart boards are used in classrooms, so here is a video I found on YouTube.