iPad or Macbook

It’s no secret that I love Apple products. I know it’s easy to give lablels to people, and I probably have more ‘labels’ than most, but Apple Fanboy can be quite applied quite accurately to me. Maybe not the latest products, but I do have one of (nearly) everything that Apple sell.

But an article I read whilst on holiday gave me cause to think. Basically the article said that college (or University) students should consider purchasing an iPad instead of a Macbook (Air or Pro) for their studies made me think.

Within the article, one of the major arguments for using an iPad for study is the ‘distraction-free’ environment that is possible with the iPad… the fact that you can only have one application up and running at a time means that you’re not constantly checking those time drains on your productivity such as Facebook, Twitter et al.

So, as an experiment, I’m trying to write an assignment I need to complete for the Open University on my iPad.

I have the right tools. A bluetooth keyboard (with a separate iPad stand) mean that data entry isn’t a problem. Indeed, the last three blog postings have been made with this combination, and I’m writing this one using iPad, keyboard and the native WordPress application.

I’ve decided to use Evernote to hold the assignment questions, my course book that I expected to be the primary resource, and to draft my answers. As I use a referencing software which is PC/Mac exclusive I won’t be able to completely finish my assignment on iPad, but I should be able to get 90% done, shouldn’t I?

No.

Even only a few hundred words in, I’ve found some difficulties. Firstly, there’s no filing system easily available on the iPad. This is great for notes, for writing quite substantial articles etc. But I have to submit a file using an online system. I simply won’t be able to do this on the iPad… even if I’d written the article in Pages, I would be able to email myself the file, but I wouldn’t have a folder or desktop to then upload to the Open University.

The more troublesome issue is that I CAN ONLY SEE ONE DAMN THING AT A TIME! I’m all for a focus-free environment, I run Microsoft Word full screen on my Mac, and love all of that real-estate space. But I can flick (or swipe) to the web to get a paper, check a reference (or admittedly check Facebook), check a spelling, or have the PDF file for the questions there.

The days of mono-tasking, and especially for the new Generation ‘Y’ students that will be starting in our institutions in September, are over.

This isn’t putting the iPad down at all. It’s a great tool, and for a fortnight of travelling it did all that I needed for email checking, web surfing, note taking, photo editing, and all that I need on a day-to-day basis. But to suggest a student can use an iPad instead of a laptop for an assignment that needs references, research, or more than a straightforward text file, it will be a Mac, or PC, or laptop, or netbook, or ultrabook every time for me.

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