True confessions of an ex-Silicon Valley brat: I am a sucker for “tech toys.” When Apple came out with its iPhone 3G in 2008… I was one of the poor, unfortunate souls who stood in line for 7-hours to get a new phone. Yes, I know, it’s crazy, but being a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, where I come from… technology is king. Most of the men in my family are engineers, including my dad, who passed on his love for technology to me. And standing in line for the latest and greatest in cool tech gadgets? Relatively speaking, it’s normal back in NorCal.
(Dad, if you’re reading this, I love you, but you created quite the monster, that said… thanks! :))
Fast forward to January 27, 2010… nearly a decade since Apple launched the iPod, Steve Jobs introduces the world to the iPad, a state of the art tablet computer that many technology experts say will blow the competition out of the water.
An overstatement? In my opinion, yes, I think it could be, although the iPad does have some practical utility for students.
As the education reporter at KTAB, one issue I follow closely is technology integration in Texas classrooms. Over the past year, several districts across the Big Country, like Coleman and Brownwood ISD, have been getting grants to supply each of their high school students and staff with laptops. On February 2, Jim Ned CISD will issue each high school student with their own iPod Touch, but they’re not the only ones with iTouch technology in their classroom.
Earlier this week I went to Albany ISD to speak with teachers about how they integrated iTouches into their classrooms. Teachers have had their iTouches for about a semester, but we still haven’t seen any issued to the students, so I had to ask district officials if the students would be getting their iTouches any time soon… and they told me they wanted to wait and see what Apple would dream up next. Low and behold, two days later, the iPad makes its debut!
When I took a look at the iPad’s features, I’m not going lie, I immediately felt a little iPhone envy… because the tablet is iPod Touch meets laptop meets Amazon Kindle. When we’re talking classrooms, I’d say this combination is pretty close to the trifecta. Here’s why:
- iPod Touch: want a free full text version of the US Constitution and summary of Roe v. Wade for your history class? There’s an app for that… same goes for stocks in economics, translators for your foreign language class, and formulas for your math and science classes.
- Laptop: towards the tail end of my undergrad years, I’d take all my notes on my laptop because I got sick of re-typing my study guides! And occasionally… when the laptop ran out of batteries… I take notes on my iPhone… sure it worked, but I hated squinting at the 3-inch screen. The 10-inch screen tablet and larger keyboard is much more student friendly.
- Amazon Kindle: okay, when I saw the iBook feature on the iPad this was when I really turned green… because for Christmas, I got the Amazon Kindle, and LOVED it. If Apple can accommodate required reading in English classes and sell textbooks to college students via iBook… then this product is killer.
Now, after I explained how this tablet computer could just be the Holy Grail of all computer tablets, let’s take a look at what’s missing, and what I don’t like about the latest Mac-to-Attack the markets:
- No Multitasking: This is probably going to be the part that annoys many people… you can’t open all those different windows like you do on your laptop… it’s still like your iPhone or iPod touch… no, sorry, you can’t have Facebook and PacMan Lite open at once. Just one!
- No USB Connection: How am I supposed to print my notes? *Grumbles*
- No Camera: Say goodbye to webcam conversations via iChat, AIM, and Skype, you’ll still need your laptops for that… although… this is good news for teachers!
- 4:3 not 16:9: You can watch your movies… but you’re still going to get those two black bars if you’re going HD… Still getting the “old school” computer monitor resolution!
- No Flash: Sure, Steve Jobs says the iPad is a great way to browse the web, but… you’re still not getting the full web experience…
Pros and Cons aside, am I going to stand in line for 7-hours to get the iPad when it comes out this spring? No, I think I’ll wait for the next iPhone… but I’ll say this much… I still remember what it’s like to be the student who shelled out at least $200 on textbooks each semester in college, and got scoliosis from carrying too many heavy books in my bag as a middle/high school student. If teachers and district officials are trying to find a more cost-efficient way to bring the technology element into their classrooms… this computer… minus the more distracting features of laptops, like cameras and chat programs, may be the way to go.
As for the “recreational users?” that’s up to you, for now… I’ll say it’s an item that certainly fits the Style File, but in this case… I’ll pass. How about you? Or should I say... how you like them Apples?
Priscilla Luong developed much Texas pride over the past year and a half, but she still has her California love. She believes Silicon Valley brat rule number one is never buy any first generation tech gadget… engineers won’t have the kinks out until the 2nd or 3rd generation model. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, e-mail isn’t old school… yet.