iPadding around

Last weekend I was able to spend 30 minutes with a brand-new Apple iPad. Unlike Stephen Fry and Charlie Brooker, I wasn’t asked to offer my opinion of it. Here, I shall be brief.

Frankly, I was impressed. I don’t have an iPhone or an iTouch, but I’ve been a Mac user for a long time. I was impressed because I thought I could see the iPad’s potential in higher education, both on campus and at a distance.

For example, the iPad I looked at had several formats of e-book on it. Probably all would be valuable to any learner willing and able to read onscreen. Some may well prove to be better than others for studying, but the iPad was carrying them all. Versatile.

Combine e-books with email, full and fast internet access, wordprocessing, spreadsheets, social networking and thousands (yes, thousands) of other applications, and an iPad could transform your life as a student. Multi-tasking should be easy.

BDRA will evaluate and exploit the iPad’s potential for e-learning, I’m sure. At the current prices, it won’t be in the hands of most of the university’s students for quite a while, if ever, therefore it won’t be a ‘standard vehicle’ for the university’s teaching. But it might offer great advantages, particularly if provided to distance learners on certain courses. Drawbacks? Yep, there are some, but I didn’t have it long enough to comment on those. Mobile phone? CD/DVD drive? Broadband essential?

The iPad is seductive, without doubt. Will it help teachers and learners to understand and cope with climate change, flood, famine and other great threats to our civilisation? Maybe.

David Hawkridge

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