So the iPad 3 has hit the shelves, with something of a fanfare, but what’s actually new? What new opportunities will it give us in the fields of learning and development? What does this device do that the first and second generation didn’t?
Well, the answer is, not a lot. Because the iPad, whilst still a market defining piece of technology, has landed in a fairly mature state from day one. The fundamental thing that the original iPad bought in 2010 was seamless mobile computing. One click on and one click off, intuitive touch control and instant access to the web at your fingertips. At a quarter of the weight of some laptops.
Since then, the main developments have been with the Operating System, primarily around iCloud, giving us better integration, access to documents and our music collections from anywhere. In terms of hardware improvements, the move from 1, to 2 and now three have given new innovations (a camera… a bigger and better camera… better batteries), but essentially there is no lifestyle/functional improvement of the same magnitude as before. In other words, the shift from no iPad to an iPad 1 was much much bigger than that shift from 2 to 3.
And this is natural, because, essentially, the iPad is just a platform. The real experiences will be delivered through what we do with it, through the Apps that are developed and the supporting online community spaces. Whilst the device itself can give us access to these, it can’t deliver the experience.
So where do we stand with App development and content?
Well, in terms of ‘publications’, the world is a rich and diverse place. iTunes U, the university/self study site is populated with a vast and eclectic range of materials already, and the new iTextbooks are a joy to read. Podcasts and eBooks abound. There are a wide range of informative and innovative Apps as well, ones that allow us to explore poems, explore history, explore astronomy and science in great depth, using geolocation and maps, even augmented reality. There is a great deal of innovation going on in the commercial and even academic spaces.
But i think it’s fair to say that the ‘social’ side of learning is not yet catered for. Whilst we have a wide range of ‘informational’ materials, the community spaces that can surround them, still primarily a web based function, are not yet widespread. Indeed, LinkedIn, very much a traditional website, seems to be one of the most active ‘professional’ spaces, hosting a wide range of community spaces. This is a classic example of communities emerging, or populating, fertile ground. LinkedIn may not be an idea technology, but it works, it works cross platform and it’s both available and free, which counts for a lot. It’s also a ‘trusted’ name, which also helps.
So the iPad 3 has landed, with better video, a better camera, better battery life and so on. And this is all great. It will doubtless be a top quality piece of kit, but improvements to what can be done within the learning and development space will be driven more by innovation around the creation of community spaces, of communities of practice, more than higher definition video.
It’s an exciting time, but as ever, the technology itself will not deliver the experience, that will come down to how successfully we can nurture and develop the community.