Now I have an iPad? What to do next?

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So you’ve received a shiny, new iPad, set up email and calendar, used the browser to check some basketball or hockey scores, watched a Netflix movie and installed Facebook. All of that functionality exists on your laptop, so why use the iPad? It seems like duplicated effort. Here are some reasons, and recommendations for getting started small so you are not overwhelmed by the 200,000 apps out there.

Reasons for using the iPad

  •  Mobility – You walk ten miles with your laptop; i’ll walk with my iPad. Let’s see who’s more tired at the end of the trip. Imagine an iPad eliminating the need for a backpack, or at minimum, reducing the weight by 50%.
  •  Spontaneity – “Okay, let’s go to the computers.” Ten minutes later, every student in the classroom is logged in (some forgot his/her password), and has found the web page you asked them to locate. Can you afford to sacrifice ten minutes of class time? With the iPad, this process occurs in 30 seconds. Would 30 seconds deter you from using an iPad in class?
  •  Size – Smaller than a breadbox, bigger than a smart phone; a great size for note-taking and reading.
  •  Multi-purpose – With a little creativity, you can satisfy most of your needs with the iPad (some apps are still in development – remember Woody Allen’s Sleeper).

Getting started

Very simple: Read, read, read with your iPad. Books, newspapers, magazines, web pages, journals. Start taking notes using the built-in Notes app or ask your friends for note-taking app recommendations if you want to use a stylus (purchase at Walmart for under $10). Begin with shopping lists, to do’s, and  meeting notes. Finally, start using Dropbox so you can share documents between your laptop and the iPad. These steps will help to unleash the passion — the commitment comes when you add a few other functions.

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eBooks Meet Better Learning

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After reading Craig Mod’s June 2011 article, “Post Artifact Books and Publishing,” I was reminded of my study of history. The reason we can draw conclusions and see trends in the past is because of our distance from the events. In the midst of the eBook “paradigm change,” it is difficult to do the same because we lack that distance. Still, true visionaries such as Craig Mod help us to piece together what may be happening to eBooks. Mod argues that when we stop thinking of books as artifacts, physical and static works that are read in that singular context, we will understand the digital and connected book. Certainly there is a place for books as artifacts. There is little reason for my two favorite novels, A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, to be digital and connected. They stand on their own as great works of literature. Alternatively, a science, math, or history text is really an ongoing conversation about what is true and what is not. The answers and applications change over time.

Last spring, I made the radical assertion that the Learning Management System (Blackboard in our case) should not contain the book (a direction Blackboard is pursuing aggressively), but the book should contain the learning management tools. My students have long told me that the book is their fundamental unit of learning. If we had to strip education of almost everything concrete, students would still prefer to have the book instead of a classroom and technology. The book represents both their anchor and compass. If we listen to our students, we will reverse engineer the teaching and learning tools we currently use, and make the book our platform for delivering content and learning. To make this proposal real rather than a vision for the future, I will develop  a prototype to test in my fall thematic world history course. To illustrate what i am talking about, peruse this preliminary and limited prototype I developed for American Diplomacy using The Learning Mag, a tool developed by Will Delamater at eReadia.

Using the eBook as the learning and content delivery tool, students will enjoy a completely dynamic learning platform in the form of their familiar book. That’s what Craig Mod was suggesting: eBooks are not analog books turned into digital form so they can be read on eReaders, tablets, and laptops. eBooks are dynamic, collaborative, ongoing discussions of knowledge that can be delivered using all of the rich media tools we are currently using in the learning management system. In short, they are one way to meet the needs of our students while still maintaining the high standards of our teachers.

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