Blog Archive: 2010

iPad2

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Rumor and inference have it that Apple will release the next generation iPad next spring. The new device is expected to have two cameras (front and back), and may be able to work with multiple carriers, rather than just AT&T. These seem like obvious enhancements, which makes me wonder if the press has thought this up, or if Apple is really not worried about the competition.

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Kno news is good news

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Kno has announced the specs, price, and availability dates for its slate computers designed for the academic market. According to the Kno web site, the one- and two-screen devices will be available in the US on December 20th. The one screen device with 16GB ram will cost $599 for students, and the two screen device will cost $899. 32GB versions will be $699 and $999, respectively. These devices feature both a touch screen and a stylus, and come with some pre-loaded applications, including a textbook reader that handles annotations, a notebook, and a web browser. There are provisions for third-party developers to deploy other apps, which will be written in Javascript: “We’re powered by the WebKit browser engine, so if you can build a website, you can build a Kno app.”

It’s interesting to consider how this device, designed for a specific vertical, stacks up against its obvious competitor, the iPad.

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There is no Ink in Inkling

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Inkling is an iPad textbook app through which textbooks books can be purchased, read, and annotated. It has a pleasant user interface, and (as of this writing) a small collection of what look like high school or intro college level textbooks on a range of topics. This content seems to have been either developed, or heavily adapted, for the iPad app. This makes for a smooth reading experience, loosely anchored on the book metaphor. In addition to reading per se, the app offers some standard navigation and annotation features, but these are works in progress.

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Twitter for iPad

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I played a bit with the Twitter for iPad app (announced recently on the Twitter blog), and found it a pleasant experience for casual use, but not particularly well-suited for more intensive use that involves multi-tasking. The slide-over pane organization is elegant and more usable than TweetDeck for iPad’s browser. It works particularly well for reading web pages in portrait mode: pages can be zoomed to hide the ads and show just the main column in a reasonably-sized font.

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App as silo

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A little while ago I wrote about the lack of details in reports of iPad/eBook use for education; I am happy to point to an article that gets it right. Joel Mathis surveyed some recent efforts by universities to use the iPad to replace some more traditional educational materials. He reported on some specific apps that one university was considering using (although the textbook app by ScrollMotion appears to be in development, as I wasn’t able to find any details on this app other than the Februrary 2010 announcements. According to another article, the tool would integrate multimedia textbooks with note-taking and other features. Does that mean that the notes would be attached to the textbook app, or could they be exported and integrated with notes on other materials?

This is a specific instance of a more general pattern of data use on the iPad: with each app holding on to its own data, it’s difficult to see how to manage notes and annotations across several applications that are required for one’s studies or work.

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Comments and annotations

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While traveling I have been doing more work on my iPad, some of which I had previously done on paper or on my laptop. I’ve been reading and reviewing conference papers, making UI design sketches, and writing longer chunks of text such as this blog. The experience has been informative, but not altogether positive.

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Tablets for learning

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I recently found an interesting collection of student literature review/position papers from Umeå University related to a range of CS and HCI issues, including mobile technology, ubiquitous computing, table-top displays, etc. Among them was a paper by Alan Larsson that examined the role that slate-like tablet computers can play in education. It examined requirements for such devices both from the instructor’s and from the students’ perspective, analyzed them on several dimensions, and then compared three devices — an iPad, a (perhaps soon to be released) Android tablet, and an older-generation tablet computer — for their fit to the various tasks.

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Deus XLibris

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For about 20 years the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been entertaining science fiction fans with funny commentaries of bad movies. The concept is strangely simple: mad scientists (at various times: Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl) have launched a man (Joel Hodgeson and later Michael J. Nelson) into space and are forcing him to watch the worst movies ever made. To keep his sanity, the unfortunate spaceman and his robot friends (at various times: Beaulieu, Weinstein, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett and Jim Mallon) make fun of these movies. The original show was canceled about 10 years ago but most of the people involved are still riffing on cheesy movies – “the worst they can find”.

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In the Not Too Distant Future…

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Star Trek: the Next Generation featured the widespread use of small touchscreen devices known as PADDs. These were often depicted as being used in place of laptops or other portable computers. Even when aboard the Enterprise, characters were shown clicking or swiping at the little devices. The PADD was an evolution of an earlier prop that was used in the first iteration of Star Trek way back in the 1960’s. As is often the case, life has begun to imitate art.

Astronaut Leroy Chiao, who has flown into space four times and was the Commander of Expedition 10 on the International Space Station, wants to take PADDs into space for real. Continue Reading

More details please!

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According to a story in Palo Alto Online, the Stanford Medical school will be rolling out iPads to its incoming class. Apparently, the devices will be used to hold electronic versions of medical textbooks. The article quotes Dr. Prober, an associate dean with the Stanford medical school. It’s interesting to note that this program doesn’t appear to be based on any real insight into how medical students learn; instead, the standard enumeration of putative advantages of multimedia are trotted out, including “virtual cadavers for dissection labs.” Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear from the article whether the iPads will do anything but display textbooks (no specific app for doing that is mentioned, however).

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