Yesterday, Apple released the iPad, "A Magical and Revolutionary Product at an Unbelievable Price." It was an instant hit, selling an estimated 600,000 - 700,000 in the first day.
As a true Apple fan, I spent a few hours playing with the iPad, on the day of its release, wondering what it could mean for the future of presentations in the classroom. Let me tell you that I am very excited.
Some people have criticized it as nothing more than a large iPod Touch. Frankly, they're not far off, and that is precisely why I am so excited. The iPhone/iPod Touch interface is very intuitive and natural to use. Because there is no mouse – you just use your finger – the learning curve is flattened out.
So why not just use an iPod Touch? There are two things that make the iPad different. First, it has more power. The iPad is more responsive and capable of running programs that require a lot of processing power. Second, the iPad has a 9" screen, and it is beautiful. It really becomes a window to another world.
Ok, so it's a fancy new gadget. So what? I'm glad you asked, because there's no point in getting excited over something new unless it has real, practical value. While I believe the iPad will make a huge impact in the education system, it probably don't have to go out and grab one just yet. Start saving your pennies, finish this semester, and put together a proposal for your school's IT department to convince them to get you one for the next school year. In the meantime, here are some things to start thinking about.
The iPad will be the perfect student companion. While the on-screen keyboard will take getting used to, third party products can turn the iPad into a very useable digital notebook. Combine the Pogo Sketch Stylus with an app such as Mental Note and a student can type, draw, sketch, or write their notes on the iPad while recording audio from the lecture.
Apple provides a free app called iBookstore for the iPad which allows you to search and download electronic books much like on Amazon's Kindle. However, instead of grayscale text, you get beautifully formatted, multimedia enhanced, full color books. Major textbook publishers have already announced plans to release their titles on the iPad. No more 20 pound backpacks for 80 pound 6th graders!
With it's iPod app for music and video, as well as the built in YouTube app, the iPad could be the single device to organize all of the multimedia content a teacher could want. Record a podcast for the kids to listen to at the beginning of class, download the most recent NOVA Science video podcast, watch a chemistry experiment blow up on YouTube, or play classical music during free reading time. Have a full screen seating chart with pictures and tap on each student that is absent. At a starting price of $499, it wouldn't be surprising to see iPads replace the full desktop in each classroom. And at 1.5 lbs, most teachers wouldn't hesitate to bring work home with them.
While I comment on all aspects of education, this site is really about creating great presentations in the classroom, and the iPad will be a fabulous tool in that regard. Beyond the multimedia options I have already mentioned, Apple has released a version of Keynote designed specifically for the iPad. In addition, you can purchase a VGA connector to use the iPad with a projector. The device will change to a presenter display and show the presentation on the screen. While Microsoft has no plans to create a version of Office for the iPad, Keynote will open PowerPoint documents that have been e-mailed to the device.
New to the touch version of Keynote are on screen presenter tools. With a simple swipe from the left of the screen you can pull up all of the slides in the presentation and jump forward or back. Watch the first minute of this video of a hands-on demo to see it in action.
(Update: As you can see in the video, the demo shows an on screen drawing feature which allows you to annotate your slides much like on a white board or as sports commentators do. This feature is not functional on release versions of the iPad.)
Creating presentations on the iPad is a breeze and a delight. You can move objects just by touching them and add smooth transitions with ease. Typing isn't too difficult, but that doesn't matter because you use very little text anyway. Photos can be imported from your iPhoto library or saved to the device via e-mail.
To learn more about iPad, visit Apple's website and watch these Guided Tours.