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Jean-Marie’s Great iPad Adventure: Getting Started, or “How do you turn this on?”

Jean-Marie Taylor

“Educators” that I interact with – even those that I work with regularly – tend to see me as a “tech person”; ironically, “tech people” tend to see me as an “educator.” I see myself as an educator that is generally very comfortable and confident with instructional technology – but certainly NOT a “tech person!” Technology, for me, is just a tool for solving problems; I’m not a “technology for the sake of technology” kind of girl, but can certainly appreciate and enjoy the benefits of it.

So a couple of weeks ago when I got my iPad 2, I began my most recent technology adventure.

Let me start by saying that though my iPad looks like a technology that I know (a mini-laptop), in fact, it’s rather alien to me. To begin with, it’s running an operating system that I’m not at all familiar with (I am definitely Windows-based), and though I have a “Smart phone,” the only “apps” I use on my phone are email (which I haven’t quite mastered yet and it’s been more than half a year) and a couple of games that I installed primarily to keep my children busy, if necessary. Honestly, I don’t even have a texting plan . . . and suffer from a condition known, I’m told, as “fat thumbs.” (Do not Google, “fat thumbs.” The results are NOT pretty.)

It started me thinking . . . How DO we go about learning a completely new technology?

I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know that my go-to strategy is to just turn it on and start pushing buttons! Seems reasonable, right? I mean, it’s always worked for me before, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work now.

So, that’s what I did. I opened up the box (which contained no instructions whatsoever) and pushed the big button on the front of the screen of the iPad. I pushed it again. And I pushed it again. And I waited. And I pushed it again. And nothing ever did happen. I assumed that it just needed to be charged.

Those of you that have iPads are laughing pretty hysterically because you know what I didn’t – that big button on the front is not the power button. So I went to my friend, and wonderful colleague, Kate, to ask for advice. (Thank you, Kate, for not laughing at me and for showing me where the power button is without judging me.) THAT was when I learned that you have to plug your iPad into your computer and get all of the necessary updates, etc. from iTunes BEFORE you can do anything with it . . . . (I also discovered that needed to install iTunes on my computer and create an iTunes account.)

Three things I’ve loved about my iPad right away: (1) unlike my kids, I can take it anywhere! (2) It is FAST – so much faster than my laptop that I find myself frequently using it for quick internet tasks. (3) The viewing resolution is sharp. Video, graphics, and text are crisp. (This is becoming my preferred device for many activities.)

I’m pretty sure that you don’t want or need a play-by-play of my first two weeks, but I will say that it has been interesting and less than mishap-free. For example, at my first attempt at taking notes during a staff meeting (using Evernote), I learned that my keyboard made noise each time I typed a letter. I also discovered during that same meeting that I couldn’t figure out how to get back to my email Inbox. You may be wondering how these are connected. Well, at the same time that I was trying to figure out how to turn off the sound on my keyboard, a colleague in the meeting was sending me email telling me to turn off the sound because it was really annoying! (We got it sorted out right after the meeting and had a good chuckle over it.)

I’m feeling better now that I’m getting pretty proficient at getting my WiFi connection established quickly, and am starting to spend time looking more in depth into productivity and educational “apps” and uses. (This past week I was assured that there is some basis for the expression, “There’s an app for that!” when I ran across several “Royal Wedding” apps . . . .)

I will wrap up this post by sharing that I DID wrap up this week with a rather successful foray: On Wednesday, I attended, virtually, the Going Mobile in Higher Ed: International Online Conference 2011 on my iPad. I downloaded the needed Adobe Connect Mobile app, connected to the conference/presentation, and was able to participate in the chat without any difficulty whatsoever.

The IOC conference was a very good one: The presenters were very knowledgeable, and willing to admit that mobile technologies and applications change quickly, and that as such, they also sometimes struggle with keeping up.

The wrap-up session for this virtual conference included a couple of questions for participants that I would like to ask you now:

  1. How or where do you learn about new apps?
  2. What are your favorite apps? (Why?)

For those of you who are experienced mobile technology users, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to offer suggestions for apps that you find useful. For those that are like me, still getting your feet wet, I hope you will check back to see what your colleagues have shared, and look for future posts that included information about apps that we’ve explored that we think you will find helpful.


Dear Jean Marie,
I have had my iPad for about a month now and I live it! I appreciated your entry! I need to stop by and chat about your using it for distance/conferences!

Hi Cyndee! Would love to chat with you about it! Used it today to virtually attend our staff meeting (via Skype Mobile) and was impressed with how easy it was. Discovered that I could run the audio in the background and use other apps (such as Mail) without losing any of the quality of the audio. I can certainly see the applications for working with students at a distance!

A few months back I ran across an article on some really cool ways folks are using iPad applications for autistic individuals:

For many, the picture-to-speech applications are opening up a whole world of communication that was previously inaccessible to parents and their children and it's a lot less cumbersome and expensive than other assistive devices that use the same sort of augmentative communications.

It's a personal favorite of mine given how expensive therapies are and how inadequate insurance coverage can be.

Hi Jean-Marie Taylor,

My thoughts go out to you. But why not try to teach yourself Dreamweaver? Such fun . . . NOT!! No matter how much digital instruction you get(and I have video tutorial after video tutorials)it's never enough to leave you feeling truly confident. Give me AutoCAD any day over this dog of a prog.

I forgot to mention I'm a teacher too. I actually teach Autocad. But you know what? I still don't own a smartphone or an Ipad or even a video player (only joking about the video player) through paranoia and future shock. But cheer up, it can't go on forever (oops)