Different strokes for different folks

Last year, I was walking behind two students who happen to be passing underneath a large banner that proclaimed the University of Leicester as University of the Year, 2008/9. The brief conversation was thus:

Student A: “Yes, we were University of the Year.”

Student B: “What, for the whole year?”

I’ve absolutely no idea whether Student B was being funny, ironic or genuine, but the comment stuck with me. It made me laugh.

Yesterday, as I was filming a workshop hosted by  CAIPE (Centre for the Advancement of Interprofessional Education) at which TIGER was present, I noticed a participant using an iPad placed firmly in a keyboard dock.

ipad in a keyboard

iPad in a keyboard dock

I asked her after the meeting why she used the keyboard and whether it was because it helped her type faster.

She said it did, but her main reason – as with the comment of the student above –  made me do a mental double-take. It was that using a keyboard prevented her iPad screen from becoming ‘dirty and smudged with fingerprints’.

I find this fascinating, as for me this is equivalent to strapping a team of horses to the front of a car because it prevents the exhaust pipe from getting sooty.

However, for this person, the system clearly works. So perhaps for her the touch screen capabilities of the iPad are not the most important features, as they clearly are for me.  Perhaps the lightness, portability and quick launch features of the device are more important.

I think my preconceptions were challenged in both cases, which is never a bad thing, and particularly so when it comes to technology.

Simon Kear

Keeper of the Media Zoo

Picture courtesy of colecamp

Leave a comment


  1. dear Simon
    I t made me laugh that you felt you had to explain ” the action of the girl ”

    ” perhaps the lightness, portability and quick launch feautores oıf the device are more important ”
    You thought I ( we ) was stupid not to understand what you say . So you wanted to say ” once more what it is “

  2. bdra

     /  March 11, 2011

    Hi Muvaffak

    I’m not absolutely clear about your comment, but perhaps I do need to clarify a bit.

    I think the point I was trying to make was that the participant was using the Apple iPad as a laptop or netbook, when it is fundamentally a different technology, especially in terms of its ergonomic interface. And by doing so, missed out on a great deal of what makes the tablet device unique (whether Apple or Google).

    Replacing third-party input devices such as keyboards and mice with fingers changes the user’s relationship with a device, and is one step closer to the gesture-based interfaces that are on the horizon (and currently embodied in the XBox Kinect).

    I wouldn’t criticise a tablet user that preferred an external keyboard, especially if it makes that user more comfortable with the device. But I’ve no idea why this participant didn’t just use a netbook as a netbook, so it is a guess about whether it was the other iPad benefits – lightness, etc. – that drew her. They may not be the reason at all.

    Hope this helps


  3. Thanks Simon
    That girl made me laugh too .

  4. Ale

     /  March 11, 2011

    A physical keyboard, to me, defeats the purpose of the iPad. If the keyboard matters, I’d rather use a laptop. The beauty, portability and practicality of a self-contained device is, in my view, spoiled by the addition of peripherals, especially if you have a rough equivalent of the peripheral you want built into the device. I do not own an iPad, by the way…


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