While attending a recent conference I observed numerous attendees hunched over their iPads doing whatever ET folks (educational technology) do between sessions. It reminded me of a conference several years ago, when I observed many of my colleagues at that time, texting away on their cell phones between sessions. It occurred to me at the time these mostly older adults were adopting a form of communication that would likely continue to grow and change the way people communicate.
According to Pew Research Centerthe growth of tablet ownership is happening at an extremely fast pace. I began using an iPad a couple of months ago and had to learn some new ways of doing things.Many of us are in the habit of carrying our files on portable flash drives. The iPad does not come with a USB port, so plugging in my flash drive and managing files as I would on the computer is not an option. Instead many users access their documents and other media online. At the OETC conference, I presented using my iPad, but my slides were stored online.
To help with this, I installed the Dropbox app which allows me to share files from my computer (I install it both at work and at home) just by saving the file to the dropbox folder. I can then open the file on the iPad or other device where I have dropbox installed. The advantage over the thumb drive is having access to the most current version of the file and not carrying around a bunch of flash drives.
This is really not so new – Windows Briefcase was available several years ago (think Windows 95) but at the time people didn’t have access to the Internet via mobile technology pretty much everywhere they went. Now most people are much more likely to have access wherever they go – an example of a technology that has met its time.
In the event I need access to a file but am unsure whether there is Internet access, I can “favorite” a dropbox file ahead of time and a copy is stored on the iPad when I open it on my iPad in a networked environment. This enables the document to be accessed offline in the future. I discovered the need for this when trying to access files during a board meeting but could not log into the wireless network.
I still prefer to author documents and create media on my desktop computer, but I have found the iPad is better for reading news, journals, and blogs, and doing quick searches for information. Tablets allow us to do some things better, but it means changing the way we interact with media and potentially with one another.