There has been, and continues to be, much speculation about what role Apple's iPad could play in education. Almost 6 months after the iPad's release, ambivalence about the iPad's place in higher education reigns. The device appears best suited to media consumption situations and not media/document creation scenarios. Despite hopes for the tablet to act as a collaborative learning tool, it does not work well as an in-class teaching tool due to the inability to project the screen from within most apps. Given the uncertainty surrounding the iPad as a teaching/learning tool, what plans does Yale currently have for incorporating it in the university's Educational Technology toolbox?
Barbara Rockenbach kicked-off the session with a welcome and announcement of the new Fall 2010 TwTT series. [Please find the schedule here.] She then introduced the speakers - Scott Matheson, Web Manager for the Yale University Library, and Ken Panko, Manager of the Instructional Technology Group.
Scott Matheson revealed the Library's plan to use the iPad as an interactive service kiosk as a part of their digital signage campaign. To render the device secure, the Library had a customized lockable case constructed. The case will be bolted to a podium so that library visitors may use it as an interactive touch screen to learn more about the collections. The kiosk has been designed to stand in the nave at Sterling Memorial Library. It will list staff, have an array of collections maps, and provide links to various catalogs. The iPad will connect to Library web pages via a wireless connection. A small charger may be stored in the case to power the iPad. Speakers may also be attached for audio, though at this time, such audio would be unwelcome in the nave of the Library. The iPad is currently using a template system that limits the options available to any user. The template can be altered by "pushing out" a new one to the folder structure for the iPad files. Scott also mentioned that an iPad is currently in use as a video display tool in the corridor in Sterling as part of an East Asian exhibit.
Ken Panko opened his segment of the session by lamenting the fact that not everyone had an iPad to experiment with during the presentation. He then posed a question to the crowd: "Why do we think we are here today? What is it about iPads that garners such curiosity?" Someone in the crowd commented that the iPad represents a fundamental change - in terms of mobility and media consumption. It's small with a long battery life and thus, eminently portable. It easily and attractively packages a wide variety of media - newspapers, music, images, and movies. Ken reiterated that the iPad is the first truly mobile computer. Of course, any tablet fits this bill, but right now the iPad has the largest market share. It truly is superb for media consumption, but it currently is not a good device for an instructor to take into a classroom. It's too expensive. Apple should follow Kindle's lead and push the price point for the iPad way down. There are many other reasons why the iPad is not ideally suited to higher education teaching and learning scenarios than just the price point. At present you can not use the VGA-out cable to mirror your display or project from it. You can only project from a few applications or from a few functions within those applications (ex.: slideshow mode in Photos or in Keynote).
It is great for e-editions of some textbooks. This is a very promising feature as it is far easier to carry one iPad than 3-4 large textbooks. The catch is there are currently very few iPad versions of textbooks available. This will of course change in time, but who knows how long it will take for that market to grow? The other downside is that in e-textbooks, you cannot write in the margins. You can annotate and highlight, but is that function sufficient? There is currently no system available for selling back e-texts as there is for actual textbooks. That, coupled with the higher than one would expect pricepoint for e-textbooks makes them a less economical option. Scroll Motion, an iPad app developer, created the Iceberg Reader that allows one access to e-textbooks with a high resolution graphics-rich experience.
The course management apps developed for learners are more promising for higher education. Blackboard's CMS app for the iPad is impressive. Itallows you to manage your courses from within your iPad. iStudiez Pro similarly allows students to organize and manage their academic life on their iPads. There are several note-taking apps available as well, but unfortunately, the electrostatic keyboard on the iPad is rather unfriendly. If you want to really explore taking notes with your iPad, you need to carry around an external bluetooth keyboard.
Remote desktop apps: