Tag Archives: iPad




by Richard White

So… yeah. I bought an iPad.

I pre-ordered, and got in line at 6am to hang out with some other really nice people, including Carlos, the youth minister to gang-bangers, and Abraham Peters, who graciously took a picture of all of us standing in line, and the German guy from London, who happened to find himself in the States at the right time and managed to buy a reservation from some guy on Craigslist.

I bought two iPads, actually: one for myself, because I’m an Ed Tech guy, and I have a feeling this is going to be a Very Big Deal. And one for my Dad, because this thing is so made for him.

Picture my Dad, hunched over in the cold, drafty office, reading the online New York Times every morning on an ancient computer screen. Eventually he gets up, rubs his lower back, and heads off into the kitchen where he’ll make some breakfast, sit down at the table, and settle in to read the local newsrag, a pitiful thing that barely qualifies as journalism.

The iPad was made for my Dad. Now, he’s eating his eggs and reading the New York Times online on the blazing bright LED screen, flipping through articles, and emailing me the ones that he especially likes. It’s business as usual… only infinitely better.

We sat on the couch and watched an episode of “Glee” together—he’d never seen it before, and absolutely loved it. We set up Netflix streaming for him. We looked at the books in the online bookstore. At the rate we were going, I’ll be surprised if he ever gets on the computer again, unless it’s to sync his most recent photos to the iPad. Then he’ll unplug, them pack up the little tablet, and take it to my Mom to give her a slide show on the thing.

As for me and my iPad? I’m not as much of a convert. You can read the excellent comments of David Pogue, or John Gruber, or Andy Ihnatko, or this excellent article at Ars Technica, and they say more or less what I say: it’s fast. It’s beautiful. It represents, for many people, the future of computing, where our devices are powerful, and simple, and seamlessly integrated into our lives to the point that we have a hard time remembering what life was like without them. I don’t doubt that that’s going to happen. In fact, I hope it happens—I have a little money invested in Apple, and my son is starting college next year.

But as of this writing, it doesn’t seem to be my thing. It’s a great machine for consuming content, there’s no denying; YouTube never looked so good. But for content creators like myself, or anyone who needs a little more control over their computer—anyone who wants to drive a stickshift—the iPad’s automatic transmission is probably going to be a frustrating experience.

  • Want to read a PDF document? You’ll have to email it to yourself, or use a third-party app to get it onto the iPhone’s hermetically-sealed file system.
  • Want to edit a Word document? You’ll have to buy the $9.99 neutered version of iWork’s Pages, open up the document in that, edit it, then “Save As…” a Word document, plug in your iPad to your main computer, use iTunes to Export a copy of the document, and then fix any fonts, formatting, or layout that got changed in the process.
  • Want to backup your files? Well, you sort of back them up every time you sync, although you can’t actually restore an individual file. You can make a copy of a file from the iPad (for a limited number of applications) by exporting, but you’ll have to go through and do that on a file by file basis. There’s no facility for backing up the entire machine and restoring individual files.

I don’t want to complain too loudly; any device manufacturer on the planet would KILL to have a product like this in their stable. And I totally get that this is going to be a hit.

Facebook’s a hit, too, though. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something that fits my lifestyle, or my workflow.

The typing I do, the websites that I design, the video editing I do, the podcasts I record, the DVDs I rip, the music I record and mix, the presentations I deliver, the programming I do… none of those exist in the world of the iPad in any meaningful way.

And yet…

It’s a very import development, technologically, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

It’s an exciting time to be a technologist.

“Give it away, give it away, give it away now!”

“Give it away, give it away, give it away now!”


Richard White

We’re talking about wireless access today, with thanks to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for pleading our case so succinctly. Wireless access at high schools needs to be freely, openly available. Here’s why.

1. Schools exist to help students learn, and learn how to learn.

… and increasingly, that learning requires—or at the very least makes use of—the Internet. From videos of science demonstrations to textbook websites, from email to social networking, from “just surfing” to last-minute instructions during a teacher absence, our students are growing up in an increasingly sophisticated world that asks them to be technologically savvy, and requires them to be able to manage multiple short- and long-term tasks. Even if you, Hansel, still keep your appointments in a Day Planner, spilling a little trail of paper-based reminders behind you wherever you go, that’s not how the rest of the world works now. Students do work—homework, reports, research—on laptops, and some students bring those machines to school in order to get additional work done. Then need to be connected to the Internet!

Why, as educators, would we stand in the way of that?

2. A closed network is futile.

Students who are unable to access the Internet via a computer may easily do so through a cellphone, and increasingly via dataphones such as the iPhone, the “Google phone” (HTC Nexus One), and the like. We’re not protecting them from Facebook, or instant messaging, or Twitter, or porn. We’re just making it harder for them to do the things that they do need to do.

The Zona Rosa Café, not far from my house, refuses to offer a wireless signal for its patrons. The owner states that he doesn’t want “that kind of café”—he wants one that’s more interactive, more social. He’s free to run his business as he wishes, of course, but you can guess what his clients, many of them students, do: they sit there typing away on their non-networked computers, or surfing the Internet anyway on their phones.

As educators with a progressive stance on the use of appropriate technology in a learning environment, why would we cripple our students with less-than-complete access? What does it say to our students when they can get a better Internet connection on their own cellphone than they can through an over-filtered school laptop?

We’re not protecting them from anything. We’re just making it inconvenient, and making ourselves look silly in the process.

3. The iPad is coming.

In the humble opinion of many of my fellow, tech-crazed, educators, we’re about to witness a revolution. Apple’s new iPad—available within a couple of months—promises to do to the the plastic, gray-scale Kindle what the iMac did to the PC, what the iPod did to the MP3 player, and what the iPhone did to the cellphone industry. It’s going to leverage people’s familiarity with the power, convenience, and now-familiar multi-touch interface of the iPhone so that the iPad becomes the most successful media player on the planet. Publishers are lining up to deliver iPad customized content, including newspapers (hoping desperately for something, anything that will save their failing industry), and publishers of textbooks (overpriced, and increasingly just downloaded illegally via Bittorrent by cash-poor but tech-savvy college students). Educational materials are a natural for the iPad, and at least one teacher I know of has both a) received a grant to purchase three of them for his classroom, and b) begun the process of developing his own educational materials, to be delivered on the iPad.

Although some models of the iPad are going to have 3G capability, the lower-priced versions (hello, Education Market) are going to have network access only via wireless Internet. Students who want to take advantage of these devices are going to need access to networks, and schools should have a responsibility to provide it, unfettered and unfiltered. (One of my colleagues, using a filtered laptop to search for the lyrics to an old Bob Dylan song, had his search refused by overly-protective software; the text “It Ain’t Me, Babe” contained a dangerous, porn-related keyword.)

So there you have it.

The tech guys at my school work harder than anybody I know to configure the network, deliver computers, assist teachers, and foster the use of technology at my school. They are knowledgeable (not surprising), social (for IT guys!), friendly (really!), and never fail to come through, whether it’s diagnosing a network problem in the middle of class or answering their work phone even when out sick for the day. But I’ve come to believe that they’ve got better things to do than spend their day re-doing proxies and managing MAC address whitelists.

Will there be problems with opening up the network? Absolutely. Students will have to learn how to behave responsibly on the network at school, and sysadmins will need to keep an eye on use (and potential misuse) of the network, as they always do. But opening up the network puts the responsibility for using it wisely squarely on the shoulders of the students—where it should be—rather than on overly twitchy content filters.

Most importantly, though, it gives students the freedom and the power to become more active participants in their own learning.

And that’s what school is all about.