So here I am, messing about with iA’s new Writer app. I’m writing this on the iPad version of the app but I rediscovered it after iA announced in the last few days that there’s now a version available via the Mac App Store. I prefer Scrivener on my MacBook Pro, but for shorter-form writing on the iPad it looks ideal.:-)
One thing that you can’t see in this text (but should be able to see in the attached screenshots) is the difference between Normal mode and ‘FocusMode’. The latter dims all but the most recently-entered text to focus on writing.
I think that, given the ability to work offline and sync with Dropbox, it could be a really useful tool to get down some thoughts on a topic. Indeed, when coupled with something that requires discipline like 750words.com, it could become an app that allows and encourages me to write in a whole new way!
Dan Meyer, an inspirational teacher I’ve mentioned plenty of times before, has as his mantra “less helpful”. You can see it on his blog and watch him explain what he means in this TEDx presentation (see especially his stuff on Clever Hans).
I’ve decided my mantra is going to be less shiny. Just as Dan helped his students (he’s currently pursuing a full-time PhD) by being less helpful and not spoon-feeding them, so I’m going to help everyone I meet by being, and by promoting the concept of being, less shiny. That’s not to say that things can’t be exquisitely well-designed (I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro) but function needs to enter the equation on an least an equal footing with form.
At this point I’d like to drop into the mix that I bought two (original, 16GB wifi) iPads today – one for my wife and son, and one for me. Together they cost the same as the wifi + 3G model I was tempted by a few months ago. They’re less shiny – and less expensive – than they were yesterday. Why? The announcement of the iPad 2.
It’s not always a question of “We can afford it, so…” As I explained when divesting in 2009, there’s a difference between recognising the appropriate use of technology and being the equivalent of a dog chasing shiny cars. The iPad’s actually useful now: you can edit Google Docs (the holy grail for me). There’s established workflows, gestures and norms that surround it. I’d say there’s definitely a case for using them in a considered and focused way within educational environments.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that we should always hold off buying new products straight away: we should just know what to do with them. As Agnes Kukulska-Hulme pointed out when I interviewed her for the JISC Mobile & Wireless Technologies Review I undertook last year, sometimes a device comes out (in her case, e-book readers) that almost exactly solves the problem you’ve defined.
So what does it mean to use educational technology appropriately? I refer you back to The perils of shiny shiny educational technology and the trusty SAMR model. Pin it to your wall.
Image CC BY Patrick Hoesly
There’s a website I check every morning after a quick scan of my emails and Twitter @’s and DMs. Yep, before I even find out if the world’s still there (via BBC News or, more likely, newsmap.jp on our touchscreen kitchen PC) I head over to Techmeme. If you haven’t seen it before, go and have a look now. We’ll wait for you. 😉
This morning I woke up to find an interesting juxtaposition of stories relating to the Apple iPad. Notwithstanding rumours of a 7-inch iPad in the works (hastily dismissed by John Gruber) the following couple of stories would make it seem like now is the time to get yourself an iPad:
What does this mean in practice? The ability to play almost any kind of media on the iPad, along with the long-awaited (potentially ‘killer app’) fully-fledged Google Docs.
But wait! What about the iPad naysayers? Those who say that it’s not neutral and that it’s only good for two things? My reply: no technology is neutral, nor is the language we use to describe things. There is no purely objective view/standpoint from which to judge anything. And as for the iPad only being good for two things? See above. 😉
A more salient point might be that this is v1 of the iPad. Although it marks almost a paradigm shift in computing, think of the original iPhone in comparison with what came after. Getting an iPad now, only for v2 with a ‘retina display’ and a front-facing camera to be launched after Christmas would be frustrating to say the least…