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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not a PC...

I've read other iPad bloggers' posts with interest and a little envy, because so many of us are doing such wonderful things with our iPads.  When I grow up, I want to be a power-user too!  But as I'm still in my iPad infancy, my first blog will be a confession of the hard realities I've had to come to terms with as a new user.  The primary one is this: the iPad is not a PC.  It does all sorts of wonderful things that the PC cannot do--but it also can't do many of the things that a PC can.  And making that mental transition has been part of my challenge.

I had initially hoped to use the iPad to perform some of the routine tasks that I use a PC for in class, but with the increased flexibility the iPad.  Essentially, I wanted a less bulky, more portable PC on which to run the programs, tools, and documents that I'd already been using on regular computers.  I wanted to be able to fill in teaching charts that I've long used in MS Word on the fly with fresh data from my students in class, to work on articles and other projects wherever I happened to be, and I had big plans for the video camera.  Assuming I would need one, I went to the apple store to get a keyboard for the iPad and asked the salesman for advice.  The first thing he said, as we talked about options, was that it sounded like what I really wanted was a regular computer, and he warned me that no matter how I dressed it up, the iPad is not a computer.  (I left with a good protective cover for the iPad, but that was it.)

To confirm his warning, I later learned (greatly embarrrassed that I didn't already know!) that most of the programs I've been working in and hoping to use with my new tool don't actually work with the iPad.  I know there are apps I could use that would do the same things I've been doing on my PC, but that requires me to take all the work I've done in other programs and translate them to the new apps, and somehow coordinate them back and forth--a hurdle that just wasn't worth taking on.  I had hoped to use its camera feature to take videos of my students doing skills-based exercises in my negotiation class (which I normally do with formal video cameras and computers that can take a lot of work to set up), but then we discovered that it really doesn't hold enough video at a time to make it a viable replacement for our usual set-up.

So, I have continued to use the classroom PC for many of the tasks on which I'd hoped to use the iPad.  I have had great fun playing with the iPad and trying out the many touch-based apps that don't work on my PC--and I'm hopeful that I'll find new uses for them in my teaching and scholarship!  But so far, it has not taken over any of the computing-based tasks that I'd hoped it would.  I've told all of my students about the iPad and enlisted them in thinking of ideas for its use, and I've offered it to them for any project they can think of in which it could help them.  Hopefully, now that I've gotten my embarassingly slow start off my chest, future blogs will be able to showcase some more successful and creative uses!

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