Sunday, October 9, 2011

My iPad and I

I think it's beginning to become clearer that tablet computing will change education in ways we never imagined... and the picture became way clearer after Apple's iPad. Personally, in less than a year after we got our first iPad, it has enhanced many areas of my life.

After a few months of the first iPad, we realized that the iPad is highly personalized. Everything you play or touch stops at where you stop. The next person who uses it has to either start all over again or pick up from where it was left off. So it becomes highly disconcerting when someone uses an app that you had just used. It's like your space getting invaded and most of us can get quite irritated by that fact. And so, we got ourselves a second iPad, the iPad2.

The iPad has become many things to me. It became my library. I started packing all kinds of books into Stanza and iBook. I'd cut my reference books and scanned them so that I could carry them around. I downloaded books, magazines; all kinds of reading materials into it. Emailing articles to myself became a norm because the iPad is always there. Slowly my iPod Touch was relegated to be my book companion during gym time. The iPad enhanced my already wonderful reading experience after a year of fantastic reading time on my iPod Touch.

I'm now thinking iPhone because it would make it more convenient for me to learn Mandarin via the Pleco app. I used to think of the iPhone as quite unnecessary but now has now become a 'need' because it will aid greatly in helping me learn Mandarin. Its camera can auto focus, a feature which will make live OCR a more pleasant experience. The iPad became my teacher where Mandarin is concerned. But it's too big to hold over words to scan them. While it may not teach me the nuances of the language, it's probably the best teacher I have at the moment. No human teacher will be able to withstand the same repeated query that I give out. The 4s comes with a camera which with a f2.4 lens, which makes it an added pull.

The iPad has seeped into my work. It is quite clear to me that tablets will be integral to education. But I also think our MOE is slow to respond to this technology. Unlike other countries, we have not even yet started mulling over its applications. We should start working on digital textbooks and apps to aid teachers. There're very few if no education apps tailored to our local needs at the moment. So I adapt from whatever I can get my hands on. And teachers should be exposed to the educational possibilities offered by tablet computing. The iPad has become my most convenient and faithful personal assistant at work.. I also use it to keep records of work given and student data. My extensive library means I never run out of exercises or ideas. At home, I have a HP printer which makes printing on the go a breeze. I can be anywhere in the house to send a document for printing, as long as there is a wifi connection. Printing on the fly. But when there is none, I have my MIFI to fall back on.

There was one day I was teaching a poem and I had difficulty trying to describe the guango tree to my students. The iPad was very handy. Word definitions, extra information came in a jiffy. I could even show my class how the guango tree look like. A picture speaks a thousand words. It is also changing my mindset where learning is concerned. I am beginning to realize more too how learning will take on a more individualized form. The teachers will eventually be mentors. We should increasingly take on the role of managing and guiding the students in their learning. Our roles will be one that helps to connect the dots to a bigger picture. Going online during lessons enhances learning too, I believe. There is a greater need for dynamism and willingness to adapt on the teachers' end. Without that, we will be quite ineffective as agents of educational advancement.

In the days before the iPad, I had only the Besta Dictionary to rely on. And it costs just as much as an iPad. With the iPad, I get a more versatile 'Chinese teacher' and it meets my other 'needs' too. For me, the one most dramatic contribution of the iPad has been how enabling it has been in my learning of Mandarin. As for Pleco, I have nothing but praises for the people behind it. After purchasing it, I had some trouble getting it to work. It seemed that the ITunes servers had been under hackers' attack on the day I made my purchase. The Pleco support was fast and efficient. Within the day itself, my problem was resolved and each email I received was signed by Michael Love himself. Michael is the founder of the Pleco company. It's interesting also to read up how he hacked up a usable Chinese dictionary with a Palm IIIx in his early days. Other Half and I went through a couple of Palms. My first e-book was read on a Palm V. And it has evolved into the Pleco on the iPad I use today. It takes someone who has gone through the difficulties of learning Mandarin to come up with those features that Pleco has which reduces much of my pain of learning Mandarin. Only someone who has gone through the struggle understands.

Ebooks have transformed the way books are presented. Reading is a different experience for my girl. I've bought The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, The Magic of Reality, and they're awesome. I am in the midst of downloading Back In Time which is supposed to be a cool ebook too! Today these are novelty but sometime in the future they will all become the norm.

Magazines! Articles! Blogs! News aggregators aggregate them for me. You have CNN, Editions from AOL, Malaysian News App, Singapore News App... the list is quite, quite long. There are always more than I can read. Individualized learning, continual and lifelong learning... the iPad is totally capable in providing that sort of platform. The local newspapers feel rather boring after all these, I can tell you. So, you'll pardon me if I think teachers will be obsolete or utterly boring if we are not able to keep up with the tools and know how of how education will change in the coming years or even the possibilities that might open themselves up.

There are apps to make my tasks for many things easier... the Bloomberg app to monitor the markets. I even bought Bento just to try out. With Jib Jab, we had some fun personalizing books and teasing our little girl. Even Barrels had a go at this book. My girl has had countless hours of fun with the Talking apps. Sometimes it seems so crazy but I also realized that it gives them an outlet for fun which is good as a stress buster.

Even in between household chores, I could surf the Net. Or listen to a talk (podcast, sermons, talks) downloaded earlier or make quick references. Recipes abound in the Net. Multitasking has never been easier..... I am constantly learning about the existence of sites which can complement classroom teaching, the simple reason being the ease of use. I get to copy ideas from everywhere. I used to have to sit for hours in front of the computer to do that. These days, I do it on the go. I don't see any courses organized by the Education Department teaching us or at least giving us teachers an idea to do that. It's hard to imagine us moving forward with such lack of vision.

And games...they've never been more fun. There're opportunities for family interactions via the games. The iPod Touch (we have 3) become the racks, the iPad the board. You have Fragger HD, Asphalt 6 which are just entertaining enough. No need for joystick, just one tool, and super intuitive too. If that is not a one all tool we need most of the time, I don't know what is.

Twitter

I always found budget speeches boring to sit through. This year I multitasked... played some games, passed some comments, read some while following Budget 2012 on Twitter. I use MyPad, which enabled me to switch between Twitter and FaceBook in one single app. In one day, I followed 10 new people on Twitter - Parliamentarians and newspapers. I did not have to sit glued to the TV. And I got all the salient points. After the budget was over, I downloaded the Budget Speech into my iPad where I could read in detail the areas of interest. This morning my colleague wanted to confirm something in the budget. I whipped out the file I downloaded and showed it to her. Last week, I downloaded a Surat Siaran to read and when my clerk said she had no copy of it, I emailed it to her immediately from my iPad. Information at my finger tips.

In the days after the passing of Jobs, I've been watching his videos and my admiration for him has grown even more. Imagine this, he was already talking about the iCloud back in 1997 and even Siri way before that too! He's truly a remarkable man. People may not be able to open up the iPad to see what's under it that makes it run but little kids, senior citizens... they have all warmed up to this tablet. And that's the genius behind Jobs. He made all these possible, for us to own that little bit of luxury that is so simple to use. And he truly deserves to be compared alongside the greats in history like Einstein, Newton, Edison.... I started writing this post this morning on my 3 year old MacBook and end it here on my iPad on Blogsy.... in a couple of minutes, tomorrow dawns.

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