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.