Being a tech geek, and having earned some disposable income, I bought an iPad. This has been cause for much discussion and anticipation around our house, not only from me, but from the little geeklings I am raising. My 11 year-old has actually been saying he is *sure* I will need the 3G model, in hopes the wifi-only model gets handed down to him, and this was before the thing was even in our hands.
Let me preface this by saying we have an equal number of PCs and Macs in the house. The kids both have iPods- essentially both have an iPod touch- one an iPod touch, and one an older, device only-no phone iPhone. They’ve given up their Nintendo DS and games for their iPods, in a transition that left one child, the younger, completely satisfied, and the older slightly grumpy. (I am, however, entirely pleased- no more expensive games they get tired of after a few days, or worse,lost or sent through the wash; more uses for the thing, and easier (and cheaper!) to give them iTunes cards as a reward than new games for Nintendo.) Given this background, we are technogeeks and have more than a glancing appreciation for the wonders of the App Store.
The iPhone has been great for me, and my husband bought one for himself a short time later. The phone’s AT&T connectivity has frequently been mediocre, but every other aspect- email, photos, video on the fly, applications, tools- that’s what makes the iPhone special. From our first iPhone, we’ve found that having a few fun games on the thing has kept kids happy while waiting in line, waiting for dinner, waiting for an appointment- you name it. My husband and I will hand over our phones to our kids, their cousins, or other kids at the table, and they have a great time while we get to talk like adults. This is not to say I don’t want the children to engage with us at the table, and all devices go off during the meal, but it does make everyone more patient while waiting, including me.
So the iPad entered our lives with this as the background.
The 11 year-old came with me to the store, excited by the very act of opening the box. While we would have to wait until we got home to sync the device (we decided to do that rather than do it at the store), nonetheless, John figured out how to take a screen shot in the first few minutes. Having the experience of the iPod Touch and iPhone already, they had all the training they needed for the iPad. It’s largely the same thing, with a much bigger and prettier screen.
This seems like something easy to dismiss as trivial, but it’s not. The iPad is not only pretty, it’s fast. It’s a perfect way to look something up on the web, on your lap, and less socially intrusive than a laptop, which seems to divide the user from the rest of the people in the room. You can check email, for the workaholics, without looking like a jerk. You can watch movies and they are gorgeous, like having a small TV with you at all times, and of course, it takes all the content we already have purchased for our other i-devices. (Hurray for that!)
My older son has a Kindle, being a bookaholic. He uses it, but not nearly as much as I think I anticipated. The iPad takes the ebook reading experience to the next level. The iBook app makes an ebook feel more like a real book, and even the Kindle app for the iPad is a vast improvement over the Kindle and its relatively clunky interface. We’ve also had 2 Kindle screens go bad on us so far, making me less than thrilled with Kindle’s workmanship or durability, but ever so glad with Amazon’s replacement policy.
I honestly think as more and more books, and hopefully textbooks become available for the iPad, this may become the replacement for a backpack full of books, which would be a godsend to parents, teachers and students everywhere, even if some chiropractors will weep as a result. Ebooks can be re-downloaded, never get lost or damaged, fit easily in your locker,and you can’t forget them at school. What a blessing that will be. I get all excited just thinking how much easier it will be choosing backpacks and crossing off bookcovers on that back-to-school school supply list. So long, bathing suit-like book covers! There’s also a few great flashcard apps that should be worthwhile to help kids study and memorize stuff that’s simply necessary for school.
There’s hardly a need to even discuss the beauty of the Marvel Comic Books app, and how the boy’s heart goes pitter pat for that alone.
The games for the iPad are fun and engaging for kids, and all the old iPod apps work as well, although some of them “upsize” strangely. (Old iPod applications can be made larger, or be played at original size in the center of the iPad screen. I’m eager to see what games come out, and I’m impressed by how many there are already for little kids, who I am sure will take to this device like a duck to water.
In our house, the iPad will become the de facto travel entertainment device. No more dragging the portable DVD player everywhere. The 10 hour battery life will blow all of those old players out of the water, and do away with carrying around plastic discs that are easily scratched for good. The ability to stream movies through Netflix is amazing as well. There will be no need for a separate gaming device, because the iPad takes care of that. They can draw and color. They can do homework through the Keynote (think powerpoint) app and the Pages (think Microsoft Word) app. They can listen to music. They can read. They can play games.
For parents, the Epicurious app can act as a cookbook, and there are “vooks” that have video added into the book, to even be a cookbook with a cooking show combined.
I love the iPad for myself. I love for what it might become for learning, including all the friction and hassles it will solve for us. I love the fact that I am free of carrying around plastic discs (Cd’s, DVD’s, or even cartridges) which eventually get damaged and ruined and have exchanged it for the hassle free storage of electrons. I care more about the content, and less and less on the physical form or package it comes in. And electronic content is cheaper, although we consume more of it, because it is cheap and it’s easy to give in to impulse purchases. For example, my brother had generously given me a $100 iTunes card for Christmas and my birthday. I spent almost all of it in buying new apps and content including books for the iPad already. The good news is I got everything I wanted in that budget.
The iPad is a great family device, and may be a glimpse of what’s in store for our children and education in the next few years. I’m certainly happy, and not eager to unload any of our Apple stock as a result of my experience with iPad. The only question that remains is when will we knuckle under and buy another one.
by Whitney Hoffman
Photo graciously provided by mathowie, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved