Apple iPad – Impact on academia

Rich is SDSU’s Chief Information Office (CIO)

I couldn’t wait to try the Apple iPad, I wanted to see if all of the pre-release hype was really true, or whether the device would simply be an oversized iPhone. Well, it definitely looks like an oversized iPhone when you first see it. That isn’t a bad observation, since it shares many of the same features except for camera and phone capabilities. We wanted to evaluate the tablet for both general use as well as effectiveness for other uses on campus.

The vast majority of existing iPhone applications work on the iPad, albeit without taking advantage of the unique characteristics of the new device. For these applications, Apple allows you to magnify the original iPhone applications two-fold so they expand to fit the screen, however the lower resolution of the iPhone programs can’t take true advantage of the iPad. Maximum benefit is obtained by using apps that are developed for the specific capabilities of the iPad, such as the larger screen and new keyboard.

I’ve never been a good note taker, and over the years have attempted to use various computing devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets) to find an effective method recording of various meetings. Laptops can be intrusive and heavy, tablets never did a good job of interpreting my handwriting, and smartphones are not that smart!

Notepad on the iPad

The iPad includes a rudimentary notepad application that is useful for recording essential tidbits of meeting information, and with their predictive text completion is actual very effective. As you type the iPad suggests words based upon an integral dictionary which is useful, especially when using the on screen keyboard which is effective but cramped. With a little practice you can even achieve a modified ‘touch typing’ technique!

For more advanced writing, and spreadsheets and presentations, the Apple iWork apps are the answer. Slightly scaled down from the versions available on the Macs, they are incredibly effective, offering Pages (word processing) Numbers (spreadsheets) and Keynote (presentations). Using Keynote I’m able to edit exiting presentations, which I’ve loaded through email or other methods, or create new presentations utilizing any one of a number of installed templates. If you want to share your presentations with others, you can easily connect the iPad to a projector (or any VGA-capable display) through an optional dongle that provides 1024×768 video output. Very cool for a device that weighs less than 1.5 lbs with several hours of battery life.

Keynote on the iPad

Keynote presentation software on the iPad

There are a growing list of education applications, ranging from chemistry to astrophysics. While some applications are free, the majority of more complex educational applications range in price from $0.99 to $9.99. With the addition of Apple’s iBooks offerings, and a growing list of titles, combining the applications with educational materials could provide a very useful tool especially as the content publishers go beyond simple electronic presentations of text to include rich media.

Other Applications and Uses

With thousands of applications available, it is difficult to test all of them! I’m actually writing this blog using the WordPress app siting in a coffee shop before flying back to San Diego. Using the integral 802.11 wireless (the next version will also support cellular wireless), I’m able to view virtually all of my online work on various sites, unless it contains Adobe Flash which Apple stubbornly refuses to support on the iPhone or the iPad.

Editing our SDSU Blog on the iPad

The video capabilities are very useful. In addition to the ability to download videos through Apple’s iTunes you have the same YouTube access as the iPhone, with the benefit of a substantially larger screen. With the advent of the new SDSU channel on UTube it provides a great portable platform to view our video content. It is a great platform for viewing some of the Aztec for Life videos!

YouTube on the iPad

Viewing Aztec for Life YouTube video

What it doesn’t do well

It isn’t a full featured computer, nor should it be, since technology is always a compromise. For extensive document editing, large scale numerical analysis, or file manipulations its larger brethren are better choices whether your choice is Windows or Mac OS. The storage of documents, photos, etc. is simple, perhaps even too simple. Transferring files (other than photos) between your iPad and laptop is limited, unless you either e-mail them, use (Apple’s new sharing site), MobileMe, or a third party application such as Sugar Sync, File Magnet etc. As I started to extend my writings and presentations I found this limitation to be awkward. As mentioned above, Apple not only does not support Adobe Flash, a common format used across the Web, but also legally prevents any applications from being sold in their App Store that does not use their development environment. As competitive hardware comes to the market, perhaps these limitations will be removed.

However, after carrying my luggable laptop with it’s requisite power supply to enable many hours of use, the iPad is extremely effective at what it does. A great example of the flexibility of the device occurred as I was writing this blog. I wanted to edit screenshots which just isn’t possible with the integral photos app. I knew there had to be a way,so I searched the Apple Store and found a free app Rotate Mojo that did the trick.

If you are interested in seeing the device in action stop by our Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) Help Desk in the Love Library and our staff can show it to you. Our own SDSU Bookstore is also selling the iPads, along with other computer hardware and software.


Filed under New Media, University News

3 responses to “Apple iPad – Impact on academia

  1. Sharon Penny

    Very informative article. Thanks Rich.

  2. Pingback: Apple Ipad Impact on Academia San Diego State University

  3. Michael Dinlair

    Do you have a section on charitable donations

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