Earlier this week I finally succumbed to the hype and bought an iPad. In typical fashion I justified it by telling myself that as someone engaged with ICT in schools I needed to keep up with the latest trends; in reality, I just wanted a new cool gadget to play with. Surprisingly, given the cost (£599 for the 32gb model with 3G + data contract), I had remarkably little resistance from my wife.
I'd like to tell you that it has revolutionised my approach to technology, in fact it has changed my life not one jot. There are things are really don't like about it: the lack of camera being the glaring one. Some of the apps that I love on my iPhone are failing to wow me on the iPad. In particular, I'm very disappointed with the iPad version of Tweetdeck. It's true,my favourite app (Reeder) is even better on the iPad than on the phone, but the lack of camera means that I'll still be relying on the phone for Evernote which I use all the time for photo memos. So I'm at a point where I'm thinking that the iPad isn't going to cut it as a device for improving my productivity and I'll be sticking with my iPhone, thanks very much. I'm also still picking up my very oldskool bedtime book made of paper (though this is an area I am going to explore further). Then I gave it to the kids...
Watching Luke, 2 1/2, using it like it was as simple to engage with as his teddybear was simply jawdropping. I quickly downloaded Redfish (the app version of the simply brilliant Flash website Poisson Rouge). True it cost £5.99, but the transfer from pc to iPad has been achieved elegantly and seamlessly. Luke loves it and will happily play with it for as long as he is allowed. The best bit is that he just wanders over.picks it up, switches it on, slides to his games page and off he goes. No intervention from me whatsoever. The rest of the kids (6, 13, 14) are equally engaged by the device and are brilliant at sharing, watching and helping each other with it. It's already at the stage where we're thinking that is one iPad enough?
This rapidly transformed my view of the iPad from being one for cool poseurs to slip out of their manbags (or handbags) at creative meetings to the perfect tool for early years settings. I'm thinking of reading/mark making areas with lots of comfy beanbags and seats with a few iPads for the children to pick up. At £399 for the basic wifi only model (why would you need 3G in early years?) it's not completely unaffordable, and would, I'm sure, radically increase independent use of ICT by children (watching Luke record his own voice using the Talking Tomcat app is quite hilarious).
Further up the school, the size of the screen makes it a far more elegant and accessible tool to use in the classroom for blogging, web searching and so on than the iPod touch. It also makes a great platform for all the games apps for numeracy, strategy and word games, and the screen is big enough for 2 to share.
I would be keen to hear from anyone using the iPad in an early years (kindergarten) setting, as well as receiving suggestions for the best educational apps.
Lastly, when I tweeted about this earlier it was suggested to me by Theo Kuechel that the iPad might be just as good at the opposite end of life to the little ones in nursery - seems somehow appropriate.