Monday, December 13, 2010

iPad as Teaching Tool after two months - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

So, I've had an iPad in my hands for two months now. I use it daily both for serious and not so serious stuff. It has replaced my laptop for almost all of my at home net surfing and such and is the device I never set down while at work. So, what's the good, the bad, and the ugly?

The Good:
  • Wireless Display - I've been using AirSketch for this and it works pretty well. I've just learned that AirDisplay may fill the bill and may in fact work better than a VNC solution (more on this in the future). In the past I've used a bluetooth Wacom tablet for this, but I'd underestimated the value of being able to see what I'm writing actually on my tablet.
  • Portable Data Gathering - When I first got my iPad I used Google Forms for data collection. I've switched over entirely to Numbers. When I'm not using my iPad as a presentation tool I carry it around and collect data on my students' apparent mastery of concepts. I still haven't found my perfect tool, but Numbers is the closest so far.
  • Personal Learning Network - I now consume almost all my news on my iPad. For Twitter I use Flipboard and the official Twitter client. For RSS I use MobileRSSFree and Pulse. I've also leaned a lot of useless trivia by doing crosswords in the USA Today app. The PBS, NPR, and TED apps also give me something to do when noting else is happening.
  • File Access - I'd been using DropBox for this, but I just started playing with ZumoCast. ZumoCast is primarily designed to stream audio and video from a computer to the cloud, but you can also share folders full of documents. These documents can be downloaded and then opened in other apps as well. All my important teaching docs are now shared and I can have them on my iPad when I need them without having to take up lots of space when I don't.
  • It's Fast - It's pretty snappy. Everything works pretty well. I've had programs crash, but it doesn't take down the whole system. This may be part of the justification of the Bad and the Ugly below.
The Bad:
  • Still no Flash or JAVA - There is lots of good stuff out there that I just can't access. Yes, I know most video sites are now working around this, but I'm talking about some really good simulations that I'd love to be able to use.
  • No File System - Well, no real accessible file system. I could be wrong, but it seems that if I want to use the same document in different applications that each application has its own copy of that document.
The Ugly:
  • Google Apps - There's still no way to edit a Google Site from an iPad. You can easily add or remove text from a Google Doc with their mobile editor, but to do any real work you need to use the Desktop editor. While you can do this on an iPad the experience is not great. There are some third party apps that can edit Google Docs, but I haven't tried any yet.
  • Printing - So if I happen to have one of half a dozen printers then I can print? Really?
  • Projector Support - Why can't all apps share their screen with the projector attachment? Seems like this should be in the operating system rather than in individual applications. If you plan on projecting you should read app descriptions carefully to see if they support it or not.
  • The App Store - Both good and bad. There are some great apps there. However, I'd love to see what people would do if Apple loosened up their policies some.

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