My first month as an iPaddler

Why would anyone get an iPad for work?  They just allow high-tech doodling, rudely doing things other than focus on the meeting you’re in.

The tide turned for me when a colleague from e-learning gave a presentation to a regional forum, “My Favourite 10 Apps.”  As someone who proudly has only 4 purchased apps on his phone (or used to), I would once have shuddered. But Nitin was talking about work: “Here’s what I use that makes my working life easier and better than when I carried spiral-bound notebooks everywhere (until surprisingly recently, for a learning technologist).” So having ummed and ahhed for a while I placed the order, resolving to jump in with both feet, waist deep. What have I learned in the month since then?

Lesson 1. iPads aren’t designed for corporate environments, and vice versa. My University doesn’t officially support Apple products but iPads are so much easier to use than other tablets that most people are getting them, including the Executive Committee. But the infrastructure and knowledge are building slowly. Note-taking and document reading apps are essential but it’s taken weeks to home in on the ones other people are using here, chosen among hundreds on the app store. Unlike MS Office, there’s no default suite of software that is the best choice for the corporate all-rounder, so you need to be ready to learn on your own. And then tutor your HR Director who has been issued with an iPad for Executive papers, but doesn’t know where to start. I suggested that perhaps giving devices to so many senior managers might have been accompanied by a training plan, to which a Dean replied: “There is; it’s called “ask Kevin.”  Kevin is the DVC and a bit of an expert iPaddler, apparently.

Lesson 2. Taking notes is no problem. I’ve utterly abandoned my spiral-bound notebooks for most meetings, and as Nitin promised, being forced to type makes the notes more precise and concise, you spend more time thinking and listening. My touch-screen typing has speeded up considerably, but I might still get a folding keyboard case. I’m obviously not as visual as I thought I was, as I haven’t really tried the scribbling apps, but I daresay that’ll come, although probably with a stylus rather than a finger end. And my notes are synced to the cloud, ready to be sifted, sorted, filed and cut-and-pasted into other documents back at base.

Lesson 3. There’s a whole new community out there. I’ve been to several conferences and the iPaddlers lean across and ask what you’re using, and show you their favourites. It’s a terrific ice-breaker in a hall of strangers. “You simply must use iThoughts, it’s brilliant, look…” And just when you thought you’d found an app that does what you want, along comes one that does it better. (Much like strangers……)

Lesson 4. Tablets aren’t laptops. (Well du-uh.)  My best analogy is that so far for me it’s a supercharged document folder, with papers, notepad, pens, diary etc., all in one place and – here’s the neat bit – you can reach into it and fetch the things you’ve forgotten to carry across campus that day. But you won’t be creating any amazingly formatted word documents. Nor will you be taking something on a data stick or plugging it into a projector to show that powerpoint or video. You can, however, connect to people and things across the world, which my trusty Change Academy folder doesn’t do so well.

Lesson 5. Fingers are icky. The iPad 3 that I’ve got has an astonishingly clear high-definition screen, really amazing. But boy does it show the greasy finger marks. Or maybe it’s just me.

Lesson 6. Nobody looks good on Facetime.

Lesson 7. Change Academy document folders are really handy for carrying iPads around.

So I think I’m converted, and don’t really see the point of fighting it. What’s the key advantage, the real deal-breaker? So far it’s the steadily diminishing piles of paper that accumulate in my room and, when I come to sort and file, mostly get recycled because I know there’s an electronic version somewhere. For 400 quid you’d expect something more profound, but the longest journey starts with the first gesture-sensitive interface, as they will one day say.

And finally, Steve Jobs, I hear, willed that his ashes be scattered on his iPad, his iPhone and his iMac. He wanted to be left to his own devices.

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