I'm sure you've all been anxiously awaiting my promised iPad review (she said, tongue in cheek). This will not be so much a review--there are thousands of those out therenas any quick Google search will show--as my ideas for possible classroom applications.
My initial gut response after reading about the iPad was pretty negative. Of course, I hadn't actually seen one at that point, let alone used it--but when did that ever stop me from having an opinion?! It's time to eat crow.
I love my iPad (though not as much as I love my MacBook Pro); moreover, with certain caveats, I do think it could be a useful classroom tool.
First let's address the elephant in the room: The iPad is only a media consumption device.
That's true in a sense, but I think it ignores that there are legitimate times when that's what we ask students to do. Research projects spring to mind here. Not only do iPads excel here, imminent software upgrades and additional apps allow students to become the truly active readers we want them to be.
The Apple eReader is a dream--I even enjoy reading on it, and I'm a luddite when it comes to ebooks. Its biggest drawback was the inability to annotate, but Apple is adding sticky-note capability with the new software update this month.
You can also use it, and online material, with the iPad version of Evernote, my go-to source for organizing digital reading. Students can copy and paste content for notes, organize them, then share them with others. Add Instapaper, and teacher or students can easily share (or save for later reading) online articles or websites. You can either link to the original, or click on the text option, which removes distracting hyperlinks and graphics. (If you're interested, here's the RSS feed to my Instapaper page.)
This month's issue of Wired magazine, the first publication truly designed to take advantage of the iPad, rocked my world. If textbooks could start creating content like this, they may have a future.
With these abilities, and with students' preference for digital media, it's easy to envision schools issuing iPads instead of textbooks. Indeed, a school in Florida has already given its students Kindles to replace textbooks. Most makers of eBook reader also make an app for the iPad. It's annoying to use different readers, but at least it gives you wide access.
Right now it can be time consuming using all these apps, as the iPad only allows one app to be open at a time. That will change with the new upgrade, however, and it should be easy to switch back and forth between the apps without having to shut them down.
So much for consuming. What about producing?
Options here are limited, but not non-existant. I've used the Pages app, which is Apple's version of MS Word. (Personally, I like it even better; it does all the basics, and makes it easier to be creative and visually appealing.) Pages worked well, though it would be painful to try to create or edit a 10 page research paper on it. It would be fine for shorter assignments, however.
I haven't used Keynote yet (Apple's Power Point), but our Ed Tech director did, and it has a HUGE flaw: not only won't it work with video, you don't realize the video won't play until you're actually running through the presentation, even if the file is stored on the iPad. What were you thinking, Apple?
As far as editing images, there are apps for that (I use Photogene), and the video editing capabilities for the new iPhone suggest that will be available for the iPad eventually as well, however basic. Animoto makes an iPhone app, which is usable on the iPad. With a $29 camera connection kit, students can upload stills or video to add to presentations.
I've also posted already about one possible use in the library (or classroom) as a learning center.
While the iPad obviously lacks the full power of a laptop computer, it is definitely more than a book reader. I find it especially impressive considering this is the first iteration of the device--future developments should add improved functionality.
Depending on your point of view, its current inability to print is either a drawback or visionary. iWork apps allow you to upload documents to iWork.com, or you can sync the iPad with your computer and print from there. Of course, it could also be an incentive to go completely paperless.
Overall grade? With the software improvements next week, I give the iPad a solid B.