The iPad in education

Wordpress on iPod - edit postIn an earlier post I discussed how Apple’s software development efforts seem very focused on consumption of media.

I’m interested in learning which incorporates producing information (not just consuming it) and which makes effective use of Web 2.0 tools to publish, not just to read. Given the iPad currently appears to have pretty much the same features as an oversized iPod Touch, the software limitations are likely to parallel those of the iPod. These include:

  • The only multitasking available seems to be that music can be played in the background while you use other apps. So moving content from one app to another is clumsy. Given the size of the iPod, this is not such a big deal. But if I purchased the much bigger iPad, I’d expect it to be more suitable for productive work such as editing web-based content.
  • Many web-based systems use WYSIWYG editors for creating and editing content. These are not available using the current iPod OS, so editing is restricted to plain text – unless you can use markup. This affects all kinds of web-based systems used in education: Moodle, PBWorks, Blackboard, Mediawiki, etc. In a wiki you can use wiki markup to get around this, otherwise you’ll need to use HTML. Either way, this will be seen as a big step backward by many educators and learners!

There are many apps which allow the user to access content as consumer but few apps which allow authoring. One that I really like is the WordPress blogging app which allows me to create and edit posts and pages and manage comments. Like WordPress, it’s simple, straightforward and effective. But notice from the screenshot above (on an iPod Touch) that the editor shows only source code (HTML). Now I work in that mode most of the time anyway, but I know many of the teachers I work with would see the loss of the WYSIWYG editor as a return to the dark ages!

Since the iPad is not yet available, my comments are merely predictions based on the current technology. I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect the first iPads will not solve these problems. My advice to teachers: if you are using Web 2.0 tools or an LMS such as Moodle, you may not find a shiny new iPad is a suitable platform for creating and editing content. Unless of course you are prepared to learn some markup!

8 thoughts on “The iPad in education

  1. Justin

    I think the iPad could be a great tool in education, but I stress, could. To me, it is just an oversized iTouch. It is missing a lot of features that would make it a great eLearning tool. From my understanding, you cannot store regular files to it. With all the restrictions Apple has on it, I would rather carry a laptop which is similar in size and more functional. My biggest concern is the incompatibility of FLASH. Many eLearning courses require FLASH, without it, how can the learner view the content. Maybe HTML5 will take care of this problem, or Apple will launch a player that supports these files. The potential is there, but until then, it’s just an oversized iTouch to me.

  2. Paul Left Post author

    Justin, I agree – it’s currently an oversized iPod Touch. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops and whether Apple will drop some of the annoying restrictions – this alone could make it a much more useful tool for teachers and learners.

    Thanks for the comment…


  3. Heathrow office property

    Flash is an interesting one. From a flash programmers point of view there is a big issue to solve.

    A lot of flash programming is based on having a mouse pointer that you drag around the screen. But using your finger there is no pointer. No pointer gets moved around. So a lot of flash would just not work without work arounds.

    I hope that the Apps on the ipad will start to grow in wysiwyg editing now there will be space for a proper toolbar etc unlike the iphone.

    Multi-tasking isn’t an issue for me as it encourages humans to try multi-tasking which we inherently can’t do.

    Better cut and paste support would be great.

  4. Pingback: The iPad a tool for working teachers |

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