Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Student comment

"As much as I struggle with the iPad sometimes, it has opened me up to a whole new way of doing things that I never would have even considered unless I was in your class. I really would be interested in seeing how it can be used in a class a year from now after more companies have developed applications and the textbook companies work out the little kinks. If it can do this much within a year of its launch, I can't even imagine what it will be doing then."

The iPad is intended to replace the laptop or iPhone. I think not.

I find it interesting that I often get asked, "so will the iPad replace laptops?"  I'm not really sure why some people think that the iPad was designed to replace laptops, or smart phones for that matter.  I personally don't think optimal performance can be achieved in a single device (let's call it a form-factor) for the vast array of computing functions we as a society need.  While I was driving home last night I was thinking about multi-functional devices and how in most cases a set of single-function devices almost always outperforms the multi-function device that is intended to replace it.  In most cases, something has to suffer in order to provide the additional functionality.  Sure, a riding lawn mower can mow the lawn and an attachment can be added to plow snow in the winter, but there are disadvantages to this multi-functional device as well such as size, cost, and mobility.  Any good carpenter will tell you that a single function device (what they call 'the right tool for the right job') is infinitely better than devices that try to do too much.  All this brings me back to the iPad.  Do we really want it to have the ability to make cell phone calls?  I can tell you that I definitely do not.  It adds unneccessary complexity and my smartphone is the correct form-factor for making calls.  Do I want the iPad to replace my laptop (even though it is a PC), no I don't.  The file structure, computing power, storage, screen size, etc. are the correct form-factor for doing research and writing papers and many other tasks that make up a big chunk of my life.  Do I think the iPad is convenient, fast, useful, highly-mobile, and incredibly efficient?  Absolutely!  Therefore, I ultimately think I'm going to be a three-form-factor person and I'm pretty comfortable with that. 

Ok, so here's the 'however'. However, even though I'm happy with 3 form-factors, what I see emerging is that my primary computing device (ex: PC or Mac) becomes in a sense my central computer - almost akin to the mainframe of old. This central computer allows my other form-factors to interact seamlessly with it. In addition to the central computer, I will also use 'cloud computing' in the form of storage and processing power through such services as Dropbox, Evernote,, and lots of other Software as a Service (Saas) applications, depending upon the function I need at that very moment. The interesting piece of this is that there would be overlapping features and functions between form-factors but it would be context specific, location specific, form-factor specific, and function specific and ease of use, usefulness, and convenience are likely to drive the decision on which device is used.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Samples of 1 ...and other rantings

Let me preface this by saying I realize I'm a culprit as well...but that's not going to stop me from getting this off my chest.  I completely understand why this happens, but as a researcher I think it is imperative to note that we should not base our long-term strategies on samples of one.  To clarify, we often hear that media reports should be 'fair and balanced.'  My experience with this iPad experiment has actually proven to me that what they call 'balance' is not an accurate portrayal of societal beliefs nor a proper indicator of trends.  Instead, what I see is that balance has come to mean that we find extreme viewpoints on each end of the spectrum and suggest that we have a balanced report of the phenomenon. 

This bothers me only because I frequently receive comments from my blog readers, from publishers, and from other faculty, who latch on to a specific (often extreme) quote from a student, take that as 'fact' if it supports their a priori belief, and use that as justification for excluding all opposing viewpoints. For example, a student at Reed College in a recent NPR report noted that the iPad was horrible for email.  I know in my class of 40 (admittedly a small sample) that the vast majority of students have specifically commented that email is one of the top rated functions (btw, I happen to agree that typing on the iPad is not optimal but now that I'm using a tyPad (and no, they are not paying me to endorse them) the iPad is my email device of choice).  So inevitably I get an email from someone that says something to the effect that students 'hate' using iPads - which simply isn't representative of what I'm seeing on the whole.  The opposite is true as well and equally as surprising.  When a positive report is picked up by the media, I end up getting lots of faculty and administrators asking me why we don't "require" our students to purchase iPads. 

My short answer to all of this is simply: "we are still experimenting."  I don't think the software (Apps) are where they need to be and I don't think the publishers have figured out the right model of delivery and ownership yet.  Does this mean we should stop trying?  No way!  Does this mean 'an eReader for every student'?  Not yet.  But just because a publisher takes away the rights to an eBook after 6 months doesn't mean we should abondon everything we are doing and stick to textbooks (I get this comment at least a few times a week).  Let's listen to the 'crowd' and focus less on the extremes and see where this all heads.  To successfully accomplish this, we need to continue to run pilots across a wide variety of classes and student populations and let the vendors continue to innovate...and let the chips fall where they may.  And by the way, kudos to Reed College!...and how the heck did you get Apple to give you the iPads???  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Apps and 1st-releases

I have a theory that Apple either doesn't require approval of updates to existing Apps or that the process is much quicker than an initial approval of a new app. I say that because I have seen many 1st-release apps that are incredibly raw and/or feature light. Case in point is VitalSource Bookshelf which was just recently released. The reader for the iPad is actually quite pleasant and easy to work with but it is almost totally lacking in features. It allows zooming and has a table of contents, but I'm pretty sure that's it. After using several other Apps for reading, it is becoming apparent that it must be difficult to incorporate features like highlighting, annotating (incl writing in the margins), and searching. I am not sure of the reason but I speculate it relates to digital rights, multiple publisher formats, and probably some technical issues. So I'm guessing that VitalSource will follow up rather quickly with an improved app, but I can unequivocally state after working with 40 student experimenters for the past 4 weeks that 'ereaders' without features are simply not terribly useful as a studying device. I can say that downloading the ebook and having it resident on the iPad instead of having to be connected to wifi is wonderful (VitalSource offers this), but it would be great if we could get closer to an App that does most of these things (mentioned above) as a minimum. In the past 4 weeks the App developers have made a lot of progress...but there is still a little way to go.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here are some open-ended student comments to the question....

What benefits do you see from using iPad?

Not having to carry around a textbook, better communication amongst the team, shared information

It's very convenient to carry around plus it makes you look tech savy

I think staying up to date on the most current technology is extremely important in this fast paced world.

If more classes adopted the ability to use this i probably wouldn't be carrying a backpack at all.

It is obviously helping avoid unnecessary paper waste, but it also opens up a lot of possible collaboration that didn't exist with the normal textbook set up. That is assuming that the software continues to progress at a rapid pace.

Instant information at your fingertips.

I am more organized and my backpack is certainly lighter since I dont need to carry my laptop and cord everywhere. I also LOVE the long battery life.

I carry it in my backpack instead of a heavy backpack and it is easy and fast to surf the net.

I have a PC so using the iPad has helped me get used to Macs more.

Results from 2nd Survey, post 2

How would you rate your skill level of using the iPad?

What percentage of the READING you do for ____ is done using the iPad?

During a typical day, how much time would you spend using the iPad for...

To what extent do you agree/disagree with the following?

How frequently do you bring the iPad to class with you?

How frequently do you print the readings assigned for the PM course, i.e. chapters/articles?

Results from 2nd survey

This survey was given 2 weeks after the students were provided the iPads.  I've had some questions about a couple of the constructs (measures) I am using and wanted to offer a little additional explanation. 

Performance Expectancy is similar to Perceived Usefulness of the iPad
Effort Expectancy represents Perceived Ease of Use of the iPad

So what does all this mean?  The short answer is that it is probably too early to tell.  The longer answer is that things look encouraging.  In IT research it is not uncommon to see a dip in positive feelings a couple weeks after deploying a technology after the 'novelty wears off'.  We are not seeing much of that here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interesting student comment

I walked into class the other day with a student who said, "I love it that my book bag is so light now."  I said something to the effect that our paperback textbook wasn't that heavy, it couldn't have made that much of a difference. 

She said, "No, it isn't the book - although the iPad is lighter - I don't bring my heavy laptop to campus anymore." 

I was not expecting the iPad to replace or substitute for laptops in any meaningful way prior to beginning this pilot study.  I also just received the results for the 2nd survey, which was given after 2 weeks of using the iPads, and I noticed at least 5-10 comments related to the iPad substituting for a laptop.  This was not a question we asked in the survey so it was surprising that so many students provided this unprompted comment in an open text field.  I will post results of the 2nd survey over the next few days. 

Reports from the field

As I've noted on a few occasions, my job as the professor of this course is to teach Project Management skills and methodologies.  I am not teaching them how to use an iPad other than occasionally showing them a specific way to do something if I get a question.  So far the students have been finding their own PM-related 'uses' for the iPad including using some Gantt chart (e.g. SG Project) and Mind Mapping (iThoughtsHD) apps.  I also have mentioned in prior posts that all student teams (4 or 5 students) are assigned a 'real world' project.  The projects this semester range from redesigning the layout of an ND student website to crafting a social media strategy for a travel agency to conducting a feasibility study for the Center for the Homeless.  I am often in touch with the project sponsors during the semester and I received some interesting feedback (summarized below) that I wanted to share. 

"I just wanted to let you know that all of your students showed up to our first meeting with their iPads.  One student used a paper pad to take notes while looking at [the website to be redesigned] on the iPad.  Two others took notes on their iPads as we spoke and emailed them out to everyone at the end of the meeting.  The others took some notes (and checked email) while in the meeting and I noticed one was asking questions that he had written on his iPad."

I think it is too early to say there are productivity gains/efficiencies but it seems apparent that the students removed at least one step by eliminating the transcription step from paper to electronic.  Incidentally, the first small assignment was to submit the minutes from the first meeting.  My assumption is that this was a very easy task for this team - hopefully they spent a little collaborative time on content, and then some on reformatting and clean up, and submitted it to me electronically (which some teams did through Dropbox and others emailed). 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Some results from the pre-test survey (before iPads were issued)

I have not checked for statistically significant differences between the three types of academic majors but with my small sample size I would not expect to see much. I think its safe to say that "intentions to use" the iPads were very high and all other indicators suggest favorable views of the iPads. It will be interesting to see how these values change in survey 2.

[ITM]=IT Management major (n=18 students)
[C]=Management Consulting major (n=15)
[E]=Management Entrepreneurship major (n=7)

PE - Performance expectancy is defined as the degree to which an individual believes that using the system will help him or her to attain gains in performance.

EE - Effort expectancy is defined as the degree of "ease" associated with the use of the system.

SI - Social influence is defined as the degree to which an individual perceives that important others believe he or she should use the new system.

FC - Facilitating conditions are defined as the degree to which an individual believes that an organizational and technical infrastructure exists to support use of the system.

BI - Behavioral intention is simply whether or not the subject intends to use the iPad in the future.

More student comments...

(Student V)  I agree about the typing. I use one or two fingers on my right hand and then three or four on my left. I think that if it were a little bigger and less cramped it might be easier to use, but it's surprisingly easy, I agree. 

I love the calendar layout on it. It has all the feel of a physical paper calendar that you can lift and flip through, but none of the clutter. And it's on your iPad as well as your computer and phone. Halfway through writing this I've switched to using the iPad from my computer and i actually think that I'm typing faster than I do normally on the computer, although less accurately. Maybe with time. The built in auto correct features also really help.  
I agree that we need to think of this in a different way, but it's also important that as a transitional function it can do things in ways that we're used to. For example, as paperless as it is, it would be phenomenal to be able to print things from the iPad-- there are times when you just need a paper copy, or it's not practical to carry the iPad around (for example if I need to print a coupon for something).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nice accessories

I've been using the Pogo Sketch stylus for the entire time I've had the iPad. I like the sketch very much but I accidentally purchased a different Pogo stylus (I didn't realize there were two) and the non-Sketch version is just too short for me so I cant hold it like a pencil. I also dont like it that it doesn't have a clip on it to hook it to a notebook or iPad case. I very much like the Sketch though. My only concern/question is how long the little sponge head will last. So far mine is going strong but I keep waiting for it to pop off (or one of my kids to bite it off).

I've also been using a tyPad case/keyoard combo. I, for one, am not proficient with the screen typing keyboard on the iPad and I felt I was underutilizing the iPad because of this. Since I got the tyPad I've completely abandoned the touch screen typing. It takes some getting used to transition from typing on a keyboard and touchiing buttons on the screen rather than clicking a mouse, but I'm getting more proficient. If the designers could just figure out a better place for the single and double quotation key, I'd be thrilled. I'm finding with certain accessories, the iPad is pushing the boundary of business computing. I would have loved one of these devices back in my travelling days.

Tech support and other issues

There was some concern about the potential for added burden on the IT depts on campus relative to supporting the iPad pilot. We were also not sure how to handle breakage, loss, and other major technical issues (other than ordering some spares). Thus far we have not encountered any of these and I have not received any 'helpdesk' questions nor has the Office of IT. I have about 15 IT Managemeent students in this class (the rest are MGT Consulting and Entrepreneurship) so these students are probably more technical on average than the student body. When I run the statistics I'll have to run comparisons across Majors to see if there are any differences.

Finally, a few have asked how we distributed the iPads. We sent emails to the students beforre class began and scheduled a 'pick up' time range for the students. When the student arrived at our Academic Technology office, they presented aa student ID, signed a contract detailing intended uses, sat down with an IT person who loaded a predetermined template on the iPad, had the student sign in to their ND email account, and provided some basic instructions. It worked very well and the entire process took about 8-10 minutes per student.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

iPad and the clinical setting

Just a couple quick thoughts on this while it is in my head. If anyone has taken a look at my bio, they would see that the vast majority of my research examines the use and value of IT in a clinical (medical) setting. I've spent lots of hours observing clinicians, conducting focus groups, doing surveys, and simply talking with those in the medical community about electronic medical records, e-prescribing, personal health records and other patient management technologies. I have witnessed the transition from paper records to desktops in strategic locations, to laptops in the crook of the docs arm, to tablets, back to laptops, and sometimes back to paper (although not that often) but the thing that has me thinking is this device I'm typing on right now (the iPad). Its lightweight, it doesn't get hot, it is instantly on or off, and i think there are advantages to it being touch screen. At this point it probably only works as an ASP-based (i.e. cloud) model since it doesn't have great onboard storage capabilities, but I'm not sure that isn't the right model anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if you start seeing these gadgets in doctors hands really soon.

Cloud computing and the iPad

A reporter the other day asked me how much storage our iPads had. While I know they are 16GB, it didn't occur to me until after the interview how little it mattered. The reason is that so much of what we are doing with the iPads is cloud-based. By that I mean we are basically storing most of our data on other people's computers and very little data resides on the iPad itself. I can access data from DropBox (stored most graciously for free by and I can access network drives at ND by connecting wirelessly to my personal drive. Now that I think about it, I'm basically using the iPad as my own thin client "dummy terminal" (mainframes here we come ...again). HOWEVER, it was quickly pointed out to me by my students that the 16GB is a limitation when you have 3,000 songs in your iTunes account. See how nice it is to have the younger generation always available to offer a new viewpoint.

No key tapping

Two or three students commented in the survey that they love it that they don't have to listen to all the key tapping in class anymore. I'm a little surprised by those comments because not very many students have use a laptop in my class in the past.

Student feedback

We launched the second survey to the students yesterday. I will be posting some results from the first 'pre-launch' survey over the next few days. For anyone that is interested, I'm drawing heavily from Venkatesh et al 2003 UTAUT model of technology adoption and use. Venki was one of my profs in grad school and UTAUT is highly applicable to the work we are doing.

While the 1st survey was focused on intentions and general feelings about the iPad and eReading, the second is more focused on actual use behavior and feelings about the iPad after having spent a couple weeks with it.

I just skimmed some of the responses from both surveys and the takeaway from survey 1 is that the students are really excited about getting the iPads and almost everyone thinks they will use the iPads very frequently for reading the eTextbook and pdfs. I bring this up because no one really mentioned anything about the 'other' uses for the iPad. In the 2nd survey, nearly everyone commented that they are using the iPads for lots of other things like checking email, surfing the web, and 'staying connected'. Without formally analyzing the data, it appears that some students are 'getting used' to reading the eText, some like it that the always have the ebook with them, and others are struggling - primarily because the highlighting and annotating are still quite cumbersome. Finally, a few simply don't like reading a screen. The recent update by CourseSmart was an improvement but it's still not there yet.

Why the iPad isn't just a big iPod Touch

A lot of people say that ...and I also viewed it that way...for about the first 20 minutes. The thing I'm realizing is that the larger screen opens up way more opportunities for 'computing' than does the small screen. More later on this...

Friday, September 3, 2010

A new way of thinking about computing...

The note below by Student D is extremely insightful.  "D" has a point that the iPad is creating new ways of computing and the linkage between applications is something we became accustomed to by doing things like copying a graph from excel and placing it in word, but there is something unique about the experience with the iPad.  In some ways it challenges our conventional thinking but in others it brings clarity.  I wish I could explain this in a more direct way but I think it will become more salient to me as the semester progresses.  

From the mouths of my students...

(Student D) Taking some notes and writing high in the sky during a quick trip to NYC. I find that typing on the iPad is best achieved with the right hand in a slightly less than conventional position, slightly cocked to the left with the pinky raised and the first three fingers doing the majority of the typing.

Although that is a bit personal to be everyone's cup of tea, it is worth trying - keeping the hands a bit more elevated and not resting on the keypad in general is a great start.  After writing a couple of lengthy emails I am finding the typing much easier. 

On another note we need to think of the iPad in a different context then what we might be most familiar with.  We do not have a desktop, there is no copying files there and dropping them in an email or wherever, we have to work within the constraints that are presented by apps intertwined like a web.  I can type this note in 'Notes' and export this or send it to an email account.  What else do we think we should be able to do, possible tie this into 'Dropbox'? I think so.  Or perhaps a repository app that acts as a desktop able to pull a picture or attachment from any location and tie back into any other, think of that as a crossroads for the web of apps and the attachments as a highway.  These are some simple concepts to keep in mind.  The iPad is made up of thousands of apps that constitute functionality, cross functionality is where we find true productivity, remove the barriers, link the information, and we have a powerful tool.
Sent from my iPad

Apple and ND study

Want to clear one thing up since some in the blogosphere have suggested that Apple is providing financial support for our study.  This is not the case.  The Univ of Notre Dame and several departments across campus collectively purchased all of the iPads and iPad cases (thank you ND!).  I am posting our findings here on the blog for all to see, including anyone at Apple that would like to read it.    

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nice update from CourseSmart (eTextbook) for iPad

CourseSmart (eTextbook) for iPad now has highlighting, annotating and sharing now. Well done! Box is neat idea but wasn't clear to pinch/zoom to change the size and location of the highlighting.  Love the sharing idea but would be great if it allowed a 'social network' aspect that showed 'friends' highlights/notes/questions.  Keep up the updates!

Starting to get some good student feedback

From student G: In ways I feel like an old dog. I am so tempted to print out the HBR article and use my highlighter because I've been taking notes like this my entire life! I know that using the iPad has so many more benefits than typical note taking but my old habits are harder to lose than I expected.

Here is an interesting one that shows how students are using the iPads and sharing technical information:

From student V: I figured out a way to Sync multiple Google Calendars into the iPad calendars application while talking with [student D]. Short version instructions: Sync the calendars either through a CALDAV server or through an exchange server, then go to to select the additional calendars. (for more detailed information, email me.