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Thoughts on the iPad 2

March 23, 2011

I purchased the new iPad 2 and have been evaluating it as a platform for learning. To be clear…when I refer to it as a platform for learning… I mean…is this something I could consistently use as a medium to further my knowledge on a given subject? I did not own the original iPad so this is my first tablet device. Don’t worry; this is not another iPad 2 review. I’m sure you have read any number of the dozens out there already.  If you haven’t the general consensus is…thinner, lighter and faster. This post is more of my high-level impression of the iPad as it pertains to learning and the impact it can have for you.

My iPhone is great for accessing information or staying up-to-date through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social applications. An address, phone number or recipe for Kung Pao Chicken is right at my fingertips, but I don’t think of my phone as a resource I use to “learn”. At least I haven’t yet. For example, how many of us remember (learn) more than a handful of phone numbers when that information can be accessed instantly on our phone? With the iPad, I still have access to all of my information, but I can set it down more than two feet away from my face and not deal with so much scrolling or my fat fingers getting in the way. This allows me to focus on learning, not on the device.

If I had to boil everything I like about the iPad down into one word, it would have to be accessibility.  Maybe in part this is due to the tactile interface; maybe in part to the closed environment that ensures (at least 99% of the time) everything just works. But mostly, I would have to say there are two very basic features that have me sold on the iPad 2 and make it so accessible. First, the extra screen real estate provided over a mobile phone such as the iPhone or Blackberry is a big plus for me. I feel I can gain access to more information, or get my information out more seamlessly because I have more content and more options on screen at once. No matter how marvelous a resource or app is…if I have to drill down through a dozen menus or constantly scroll around due to small screen size, I’m probably not going to use it. The second feature that took me more by surprise is the sheer portability of the iPad.  Yes, I knew the iPad is considered a mobile device, but to this point mobility to me meant working within the constraints of my phone’s screen or dragging out the power cables for my laptop (Heaven forbid I have to rely on the battery for more than an hour), booting up, getting logged in, waiting for virus scan… you know the drill. With the iPad I’m productive within seconds. Again, accessibility is key.

This accessibility extends to the basic tablet design itself. It is easily used while sitting on the couch or passed around the conference room table for those brainstorming sessions allowing everyone to instantly contribute, update or reject ideas, bypassing the whiteboard and streamlining development processes. This basic attribute seems…well…just so basic, but goes a long way in improving collaboration and productivity.

From a hardware standpoint, the iPad 2 now includes cameras that allow for still shots and video. This opens up more possibilities for video chat, training sessions and recordings over the previous iPad. Video comes through crisp and the improved speaker provides better audio than I initially expected. The camera also includes the new HDMI adapter. This means you are no longer restricted to the iPad screen alone. You can now share anything on your iPad to a much larger screen.

We all know the iPad isn’t going to replace your desktop computer or laptop, but you can count me in as a fan of the iPad in general and as a learning platform. The ease of mobility means I am more likely to pull out the iPad at the kitchen table while helping my children with their homework; catch up on the latest social learning news or watch a previously recorded training session. The increase in screen size also means I’m not only going to consume information, but I will be more likely to contribute using the iPad’s expanded user interface and controls than I would on a smart phone alone.

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