Discussion #3 – iPad: Content authoring vs. media consumption

Q: Do you think that the ipad lacks ‘information production’ – the word processing capability that we are used to on PCs?

Rob Abel’s article includes several interesting insights and information regarding the growing use of the iPad device in education.  It is unfortunate that despite IMF’s K-20 range Abel article only seems to be discussing tertiary examples and data.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the iPad is certainly having an effect in education but, as it is at the beginning stages, it is difficult to predict where it will go.  iPads will evolve; apps will evolve.  Think about the first school-based computers and the first applications, CD-ROMs, early dial-up Internet access in schools, Web 1.0 and 2.0, and so on… These changes continue and so will changes with the iPad and iPad apps.

With that context in mind, I would like to address the purported lack of ‘information production’ apps such as word processing, or, perhaps these are better defined as PC-like authoring apps.

First, let me take a quick inventory.  I have my iPad in front of me right now.  I create content on my iPad 2 all the time:

  • Evernote – I take notes during meetings using this app.  It syncs to all my devices.  The app is updated regularly with new features.
  • Camera – I take pictures all the time, especially during meetings or conferences, of documents and other things that I add to Evernote.  I take pictures of my family, too.  I can record video, too!
  • Keynote – I create presentations.  I use one of the built in themes, double-tap to edit, add content, and I am done.  It does tables, charts and shapes.  And I can add media, too.
  • iMovie – Wow. Video, photos and music – I can access them all, tap and drag into my movie timeline.
  • Pages – includes pre-made themes.  I add photos and content and I am done quickly.  No, I probably won’t use Pages for my thesis or to lay out the school yearbook, but all my day-to-day stuff, yes!
  • GarageBand – whoever designed this app is to blame for my many periods of procrastination.  This iPad app is even better than the iMac version, in my opinion.  You can create songs from scratch that sound professional and they are fun to make.
  • Popplet – this is my app for planning events or lessons.  It is really a concept mapping tool but it has so many uses.  It’s main advantage – simplicity.
  • VoiceThread – this new app is great especially since flash does not run on the iPad yet.  Now I can create VTs on my iPad as well as the web interface.
iPad - Pages

Pages app for iPad

Part of the content authoring vs. media consumption confusion arises from the assumption that the iPad is comparable hardware to a PC.  There is a fair amount of functional overlap which, I think, contributes to some of this confusion.  I think it is unlikely that the PC will disappear any time soon.  I do think that households with multiple PCs are going to disappear.  I think we are heading towards a model of one PC per household, and one PC per classroom; the model will also include multiple mobile devices used as the day-to-day device.

Anyway, I think the question of the authoring capabilities of the iPad vs. a PC is a very short-sited discussion.  Getting down to the nitty-gritty of it all, it comes down to the combination of apps plus the design intention of the device in question. iPads are mobile devices and the apps will match that intention.  PCs are desktop devices. iPads were never designed to replace PCs.  Nevertheless, I am constantly surprised as the powerful authoring apps that are becoming available.

It also comes down to time. Currently, iPads probably are used mostly as information and media consumption devices. But there is a growing need and now a growing developer response of authoring apps options.  But don’t look for apps that match the PC apps.  I am not saying this as a cop out.  I am saying that because the iPad and the PC are different devices.

Here are a few relevant discussions I have read and found useful:

You don’t need Adobe Photoshop to sharpen an image. You don’t need Microsoft Word to take notes at a meeting or make a shopping list.  And you don’t need  AutoCAD to sketch out landscaping plans for a backyard.  Most day-to-day tasks can be accomplished with a light weight iPad app.  Was it Steve Jobs who said this?  …something to the effect of: PCs will eventually become the workhorse device, only used for very large and/or complex projects.

Posted in: Week 09: iPad Apps