Academic uses for the iPad?

As I disclosed a few weeks ago, I have become the proud owner of an Apple iPad. In fact, I have become the proud owner of the top of the range model, 3G and a hard disk the size of Nevada and goodness knows what. So what have I been using it for?

Two things stand out so far. By downloading the iPad version of Apple’s Keynote program (their version of Powerpoint), I have been able to use the iPad to run slide shows on projectors, thereby causing great curiosity and (I hope) envy amongst onlookers. Actually, it does this really neatly, and given the small size of the device compared with a laptop I find it is easy to use it at meetings away from the office where I am giving a presentation. Keynote reads your MS Powerpoint documents, so you can use files you have created on the MS Office platform.

Secondly, I have been using it to download and read books. As readers of this blog know, I am also the owner of the Amazon Kindle, and to my delight I was able to set up an Amazon Kindle app on the iPad and then download all my Kindle books purchased on to it. You can then use the iPad like a Kindle, though you can turn pages by touching the screen (which you cannot do on a Kindle). Apple also has its own iBooks app for the iPad, with its own bookstore, and this is slightly more user friendly still than the Kindle program; but the Apple store for now has a somewhat smaller selection of books than Amazon. Actually, I have found the iPad (and the Kindle before it) particularly useful for reading academic work, not least because I can load so many books at once and take them with me while travelling without all the bulk.

So will the iPad have a major impact on academics? Some think that, on the whole, it won’t. Professor Alex Golub of the University of Hawaii recently suggested that the iPad was smart and usable, but did not really have a USP for academics. There is no special academic task, he suggested, for which the iPad is an obvious help. In some ways, of course, we could say this about the computer. It has revolutionised the academy (and everything else), and everybody has one, but its key attributes and uses are not specifically connected with higher education. I suspect that the iPad (and any other competing device that is successfully launched) will in the not-too-distant future take the place of at least some computers, maybe even quite a lot of them. The iPad is, I believe, in its essence a device that allows you to search for information and process it, and to contain and offer up books and papers.

I would suggest that the iPad is coming your way.

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8 Comments on “Academic uses for the iPad?”

  1. sm Says:

    Use #2 occurred to me, but I would use it in the office, or in a seminar. Load up a bunch of relevant stuff, and have it available while writing or leading a discussion!

    And don’t forget the free books at Google Books or Plenty of old but good stuff.

  2. Vincent Says:

    Are you sure you can use the thing outside the country. For it will very costly if you can only put in one sim*. And if the blasted thing has to ring back to Ireland every time you connect to the www.
    For that’s what they seem to be saying in the bumph.

  3. Les Posen Says:

    @Vincent: Hopefully, as wifi becomes ubiquitous, the need to locate 3G services will reduce. Otherwise, you obtain a local micro-SIM for the duration of your stay in foreign countries. It ought not be a deal breaker.

    • Vincent Says:

      Yes, that’s what I thought, at first. But what Apple are saying is one sim* per pad. And so the sim* maybe OK in each area, but who is to say that Apple hasn’t restricted the pad to one sim*. It wouldn’t be the first time such has happened.
      But why make a point about it, if there is no point to be made.

  4. Simon Woodworth Says:

    It did occur to me that it would be rather handy for dealing with the rather large pile of journal papers I’ve collected in the last few years in the course of my PhD thesis. Reading them on my laptop isn’t much fun and printing them all does not do the rainforests much good. Apparently there are some good PDF annotation tools for the iPad. That could be the killer app for me.

    • lesposen Says:

      @Simon Please investigate Papers for the iPad and the Mac

      @Vincent As far as I know, there is no lockin re SIMs for the iPad. Unlike iPhones we telcos do lock in, at least outside the US there is no lockin as other countries support multiple telcos.

      • Simon Woodworth Says:

        @Les I have a MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard. The built-in Preview utility allows you to open PDFs, annotate them and save the PDF again with the annotations added. Because my bibliographies are in BibTex format, I have just started to use BibDesk (free download) which allows me to manage my bibliography and link to the annotated PDFs. It all seems very easy. There are a number of PDF annotators for the iPad but as yet no equivalent of BibDesk. I actually don’t have an iPad yet but expect to get one later this summer.

  5. I think Apple’s Education Event last week was showing us the USP for the iPad. Its not going to change college campuses immediately, but the next 2 to 5 years will be interesting. I see huge potential in the new tools for customizing course contents and to engage students in peer learning. More about these thoughts here:

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