Posts Tagged ‘iPad’

Microsoft Wedge Mobile KeyboardIn my reflections last spring on a semester of electronic grading I noted that, “At the end of each assignment I typically used the iPad’s on-screen keyboard to type some longer comments, the speed of which would have been greatly increased with the purchase of a Bluetooth keyboard.” A new academic year has brought new assignments and I did not want to spend another semester fumbling with the iPad’s on-screen keyboard, so I went online to search for a Bluetooth keyboard. I settled on the Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard, largely because it was cheap (about $30).

Opening the box, I was surprised at Microsoft’s advances in presentation. Apple seems to have had a positive influence in packaging design. Although the specs don’t specifically mention that it works with iPads, I was able to pair it just fine and haven’t had any problems with operation. They keyboard itself is fairly small and thin, probably too small to comfortably type on for a long period of time but still infinitely better than an on-screen keyboard for a paragraph or so of comments at the end of an essay. The design also resembles Apple’s older iPhones and current iPads, with its metal sides and chamfered edges (it would match my iPad even better if the front of my iPad were black). Most of the keyboard is roughly the same thickness as an iPhone. The only awkward part is the bump:

SideAs you can see, the back of the keyboard has a significant bump, which holds the two AAA batteries that power it and helps it stand at a nice angle. This makes storage more difficult but I’ve found that I can place it on top of my iPad with the bump overlapping the edge to sit relatively flat in my bag.

In terms of functionality, the only downside is that there is no dedicated power button, so turning the keyboard on and off (which I do frequently since I only use it to write comments at the end of papers, not throughout) requires holding down the function and escape keys for several seconds. Otherwise, the keyboard works well for what I require of it.

CoverOther than the bump, the only other issue is that the keyboard’s cover is a bit of a pain to line up. The cover is made of a thick rubbery substance, with tabs that lock over the keyboard ends. If Apple had designed it it probably would have been held on by magnets, making it easier to align and quicker to put on and remove. The cover does have a useful feature: it can be folded and the tabs can be used to hold up a tablet:

Cover StandI have an iPad cover and don’t need to stand it up to type a few sentences anyway, but this could be convenient for those who don’t have a separate tablet stand. I’ve never actually bent my cover like this because there is actually quite a bit of resistance but it is a nice option to have as long as the bending mechanism can stand up to heavy use.

Overall, I think that this is $30 well spent, as the number of mistakes I make while typing has been greatly reduced compared to last semester and it is easy to use the keyboard only when needed. Now all I need is for my students to actually read the comments that I write!

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On April 3, 1973, a Motorola engineer made the world’s first cell phone call. On April 3, 2010, Apple’s original iPad was released. What do these dates have in common? Snark! Slate discusses early reactions to the cell phone, which included this optimistic appraisal from 1973: “Carry it to the beach, the supermarket, the yacht, the fox hunt, the golf course, the hideaway where you went to get away from it all.” In 1983, Globe and Mail reported that cellular technology could eventually replace regular phones. “Indeed,” they stated, “one of the offshoots may be that eventually each person will have a “personal telephone number,” which could remain the same for life.” (They failed, I guess, to anticipate a world in which nobody actually knows anybody else’s phone number.) Some were skeptical, though, including the engineer who made the first cell phone call, who said that “Even if you project it beyond our lifetimes, it won’t be cheap enough.”

Regarding the iPad, there were also doubters, some of which are cataloged here. My favorite of these was, “Apple iPad – failure, joke or fiasco? Pick one” Linen DeFiller, MillionFace.com, 27 January 2010. Of course, since 1973, cell phones have become ubiquitous and since 2010 Apple has sold more than 100 million iPads.

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A few years ago when a larger, textbook-sized version of the Kindle was released I called it “the beginning of the end for textbooks.” While the Kindle DX still exists, it is not currently advertised as a part of the “Kindle Family” on the Amazon homepage. Bigger, it seems, is not necessarily more popular. Two years ago, Apple unveiled the iPad, which also had potential for supplanting textbooks through its color screen and Apple’s media connections. Last week, Apple took its biggest step yet in that direction, revealing an updated version of its iBooks software (conveniently named “iBooks 2”) that is designed to make it easier to create textbook content for iPads. This extends beyond large companies to individuals who want to format course materials by embedding things like media and PDFs.

Given complaints about the (ever-increasing) costs of textbooks, the idea that digitized textbooks could be cheaper for students is promising. Of course, digitized textbooks give publishers more control over their product by reducing or eliminating students’ ability to resell their books at the end of the semester. Digitized textbooks, whether through an iPad, a Kindle, or a Nook, also increase the up-front costs for students to varying degrees. This may not be an issue for college students, who spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks in a given semester, but cost is a serious barrier to the adoption of digitized textbooks at the K-12 levels (and is even more problematic when damage and replacement costs are considered). I’m also in agreement with Kieran at Crooked Timber that we likely do not need videos and other crap clogging up our educational materials (as in Al Gore’s iPad “book”).

Two years after its announcement, I still don’t have an iPad. I’m actually much more interested in the ability to read and annotate PDF versions of journal articles than I am in the ability to create media-rich readings for my students. Nevertheless, I still think that my prediction from the iPad’s reveal could come true. At the time, I wrote, “In 2015 I’ll probably look back at this post from my own iPad while my students complete the course readings and take class notes on their own iPads and laugh at how foolish I was.” If prices can come down and devices like these can achieve ubiquity among students, last week’s Apple announcement may become the middle of the end for traditional textbooks.

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Happy iPad day

No, I am not buying one, but I do think that it has a future.  Incidentally, the fact that it is iPad day also makes it Phil Dunphy’s birthday.  Happy birthday, Phil.

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Every time I write “2010” on something I feel like the future has arrived.  Maybe I just don’t remember the way I felt ten years go, but I don’t remember any of the previous “new” decades* I’ve witnessed feeling like the future.  At any rate, we are now so far into the current century that the events of Back to the Future Part II are only five years away.  I rewatched Marty McFly’s adventures in the Hill Valley of 2015 over break and although we don’t have hoverboards, flying cars, or Mr. Fusions, there were a surprising number of things that will either be possible or outdated in five years (check back in five years for the final tally).

Perhaps the strangest thing about the future as depicted from the late 1980s is the lack of computers.  For example, there is talk of dust-resistant paper but nothing about e-books.  I’ve talked about e-book readers (and their competition) in the past, and I hope to see the day that textbooks are digitized.  Today, Apple unveiled what they surely hope will carry students further down that road, the iPad (no, not that iPad).  It seems somewhat pointless to criticize an Apple product (after all, the reveal was preceded by more hype than money can buy and Apple paid no money at all for it) but the hype may have worked against the iPad, resulting in a collective “a big iPod Touch?  That’s it?”  In 2015 I’ll probably look back at this post from my own iPad while my students complete the course readings and take class notes on their own iPads and laugh at how foolish I was.  For now, though, the future doesn’t seem quite as cool as I had hoped.

*Memoirs of a SLACer does not care that there was no year zero.

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