An iPad love story . . .

August 29, 2011


In April, 2010 my niece was married in New York City.  On the morning before the wedding, Tory and Nan (my wife and daughter) banished me so that they could go shopping.  Red Alert!  Cancel the Credit Cards!!

Returning to our hotel two hours later, predictably laden with shopping bags, Nan announced that they had “bought” me a present.  With glee that I struggled to hide, I opened the shopping bag to find a brand new iPad.  Within minutes I had registered an iTunes account and my iPad was up and running.

While I have been using the iPad from the beginning as an electronic reader (more about that below), in most other respects, the way I use the iPad has evolved quite dramatically since the first few days.  Initially, the magic of the tablet computer seized the imagination.  An early app purchase was “RealRacing HD.”  You drive the race car using the iPad as steering wheel, accelerator, and brake.  Hands at ten and two (just as we were taught in drivers ed), you tilt the pad forward to accelerate and then back to slow.  Turns quickly become spins when you twist the “wheel” too quickly.  Hours flew by – wasted, to be sure – as I sought to progress through different levels.

Another early game favorite was, unsurprisingly, Angry Birds.  Addictive stuff these birds as you learn to launch them against the protected pigs.  Perhaps a little more intellectual activity here – what launch angle serves best what purpose and why?  But, well, that’s a stretch.  Angry Birds was another waste of time.

Perhaps not completely.  My early experience with games illustrated convincingly that this new tablet computer had “changed” everything.  Hours with these games proved that the device was portable, reliable, energy efficient (long battery life) and quite flexible.  It wasn’t just that the games were fun.  They were more fun – more engaging and more interesting – because they worked so well on this new platform.

In my iPads game folder now, the two most popular applications are Crosswords and Scrabble.  “Crosswords” downloads a range of crosswords published in newspapers from around the world each day.  I start with the New York Times (at least on Monday and Tuesday) and then take on one or two others almost every evening.  Scrabble on the iPad is a far better game than on the traditional board – not only is set-up easier, but so is practice as you can “play” against the wickedly talented computer at any moment.  I don’t think I waste time completing crosswords or playing Scrabble – I spend time on these games.  That’s one big evolution.

When I first received the iPad, I spent a lot of time browsing in Apple’s App Store – what new applications seemed most interesting and worthwhile?  I also spent lots of time experimenting with different applications – both free and purchased.  This time helped me to become more familiar with the new device, but it didn’t make me more productive and I don’t think it demonstrated that I was using the device well.

Today, I browse the app store only when I hear about a new application that is particularly recommended.  I’ve taken the evolutionary step so that my iPad use is no longer just about “fun.”  The thing has become indispensable.

I haven’t bought a newspaper in over a year, but I read the morning news each day much more thoroughly than I have since college.  I begin each morning by downloading the most recent updates of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and I do a pretty good job of looking through both publications as I have breakfast.  Interestingly, for those who worry about the iPad stunting personal contact, Tory reads the news on her iPad right alongside me.  Because we don’t have bulky papers inhibiting our view and space, we end up talking about the news more completely than we did before.

More often than not, the iPad is the only thing that accompanies my coffee cup and me back and forth to school every morning.  When I arrive each day, I set up the iPad on my desk and open “iJournaler” as I start up my desktop computer.  I record notes from voice mail messages in iJournaler just as I do notes from different meetings each day.  I haven’t shelved my old notebook completely, but it is more a security blanket now than anything else.  I have recorded one note in the old notebook since mid-June.

A crucial app in making my iPad an efficient part of my school-life has been “Quickoffice.”  This application permits downloads of Google docs so that I can easily edit them on my iPad.  No more printed agendas for our meetings at school – everything is saved on Tower’s secure Google Docs platform and I pluck relevant materials from that into Quickoffice.

Also gone are the traditional “to do” lists.  In their place, I employ an application called iThoughts HD.  A mind-mapping tool built for the iPad, this application allows me to visually organize my thoughts, ideas, and information and to keep track of my progress in completing various tasks.  I update the next work-week each Sunday.

Finally – for this initial post at least – my iPad is now my book.  I love reading on the iPad – especially history.  Earlier this summer, I read Empire of a Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynn, a history of the rise and fall of the Comanche Indians.  Every dozen pages, I would flick back and forth between the book and the Map application on the iPad so that I could get a sense of the locations of different events in the SouthWest part of North America.  I had the same experience while reading The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson’s masterful history of the great migration of African Americans from the South to urban areas in the North and West during the twentieth century.  Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy by John Julius Norwich became a wholly different experience when backed up by quick visits (from the comfort of my favorite reading chair) to the website of the Vatican to view the portrait of a particular pope of to better understand the layout of St. Peter’s.  The last book read on my iPad, somewhat ironically for those who worry that iPads and similar devices will change the way our brains work and remember things, was Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

The point of all this is to say that I love my iPad.  Tory and our kids call it my new child.  It goes with me everywhere.  I think that Tower’s students are going to love their iPads, too.  And I am confident that, more quickly than did I, they will begin to use their iPads as valuable tools to enhance their learning.

What applications have you found to be particularly useful or productive?

About Tower School, Marblehead MA 01945

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One Comment on “An iPad love story . . .”

  1. Benjamin Barr Says:

    There are more than a few apps that I absolutely love. “Flipboard” is a fantastic app for viewing news, social media, and all your various interests. “Upad” is the best app I’ve found for taking handwritten notes. “Shared Paper” is an AMAZING app that (I think) has the potential for revolutionizing how students take notes in class and how they share information. “Scrabble” is great, too. These are just a few. There are SO MANY more great ones.


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