3 Things Higher Ed Can Learn from the iPad (for Better or Worse)

I’ve been thinking about this one ever since the big announcement came. Rather than give Apple the halo effect or the horn effect and hold it up as the model of what to do or what not to do, I thought these few lessons were a bit of both:

1. Do your homework. Pick your names with care.

After all the talk and high expectations about which one would take Twitter down, Apple or the State of the Union, it wasn’t just “Apple” or “Steve Jobs” or “Tablet” or even just “iPad” alone that trended. It was iTampon, and all the jokes that went along with it. (I guess in geekdom, even Apple gets tweckled.)

What’s the lesson higher ed can take away from this? While one could argue that the publicity from all the articles over the name iPad may not hurt, an academic institution—or someone acting on its behalf—may not be so lucky.  When we name a committee, come up with a clever acronym, create a URL for a website, decide on a hashtag, or what have you, we need to do our homework:

  • Make the name descriptive but short. This way it is easy to remember and easy to type, but won’t impact character limitations.
  • Do your homework. Doing a search may uncover meanings in other languages or subcultures—including from Urban Dictionary searches— that may affect your choice.   When selecting hashtags for events, try checking Addictomatic to make sure you’re not using the same tag as other existing events.
  • Proofread before publishing, especially URLs.  (True story: someone once misspelled a page that should have had “public” as part of its URL.  It wasn’t discovered until months later, but breaking a few bookmarks was much better than leaving the offensive misspelling of the word.)

2. Give us our WiFi.

 3 Things Higher Ed Can Learn from the iPad (for Better or Worse)

We move farther away from physical media, and local software.  To me the iPad isn’t the end-all-be-all, but it is a signpost that points out how little we need on a machine anymore.  While the iPad is not going to replace all forms of computing, it’s still a harbinger of future devices and future use cases depending heavily on 3rd party apps, cloud computing, and streaming content.

What’s the lesson higher ed can take away from this? With online enrollments increasing, higher education should take an active interest in the barriers to accessing online content.  People will be viewing content online, and that means that our copyright laws and our broadband need to keep pace with these changes.

3. Stop fitting square pegs into round holes.

We techies like to assume that every new release is for us. We want desperately to be the new adopters. We’ll justify anything shiny, fitting a square peg into a round hole, or as Kathy Sierra tweeted, “iPad lust 100% explained by science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein ‘Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.’” In all our criticisms, did it occur to us that this was not a device meant for us? Maybe not right away.

What’s the lesson higher ed can take away from this? It’s not the tool; it’s the goal. It’s not about what you like. It’s about who you are trying to serve. Instead of thinking about why we would or wouldn’t want a piece of technology, we need to ask our customers what their needs are, and then figure out what technology serves this goal.

Image Credit: Apple Wallpaper by davidgsteadman

20 Responses to “3 Things Higher Ed Can Learn from the iPad (for Better or Worse)”

  1. Says:

    Like this post a lot. I winced when I heard the moniker of Apple’s latest toy; it’ll pass, but not without a lot of snickering. It’s like naming a newborn: once you come up with a name YOU like, try to rip it to shreds like all the kids on the playground will do. You may well save yourself some grief in the end. And as you’ve pointed out, higher ed doesn’t need to take those kinds of hits.

  2. Says:

    You make excellent points. Most of the pundits commenting on the iPad are, indeed, power users in some other life who fail to consider just who would consider the iPad a boon.

  3. Says:

    Hi Nikki,

    Thanks for this informative post. So many people are commenting on iPad but actually they dont know how to use it. I like your post very much. Keep sharing.


  4. Says:

    Hi Nikki,

    Great post and thanks for the info, even though I do love the Apple launches every year, this has confused me a little - it’s a great product but I just don’t see it being used in every day terms (for office or school work for example), in my eyes it’s just going to be one of those must have toys or having the accolade to say “I own an iPad”. On a side note, here in the UK, the name (iPad) is being linked to womens products!!??

  5. Says:

    Blogging on the iPad would be interesting.

    I take that back about the iPad. It would be AMAZING to blog on the iPad.
    The iPad Accessories keyboard would be nice. But I think I can go without it. We’ll write up a iPad Review, so beside to check out for that.

  6. Says:

    I must be the only person that didn’t even vagualy get the iTampon thing. Although all the points you made were well made (especially the Wifi issue) I still think that there are many applications for the iPad, and indeed, I don’t think Apple have marketed it to those professionals (medics who read hundreds of books/journals and don’t want to lug them around etc) who would use them and haven’t been targetted at all.

  7. Says:

    I can not wait until the apple ipad is otherwise engaged in the uk, i’ve seen a few online reviews from Us customers also it looks brilliant. I’ve seen several incredible components ^ around the corner also! ipad PWNS!

  8. Says:

    After a week with the iPad, I’m suddenly wondering if any other company is as committed to invention as Apple. Has any other company constantly demonstrated a restiveness to stray from the safe and proven, and in reality invent things? I find that the iPad is the best computer in my household and office menagerie. It’s not a replacement for my notebook, mind you. It feels more as if the iPad is filling a gap that’s existed for quite some time.

  9. Says:

    No company can generate so much excitement around a product launch as Apple. Apple is so successful at producing new products that get people excited

  10. Says:

    Thanks for the great article. The first Apple computer gave rise to the Windows interface and now iPad is definitely going to revolutionize the way we use computers. We have to just wait and see.

  11. Says:

    I totally disagree with almost all the junk written online about the iPad. Personally, I think the device looks inferior to Amazon’s Kindle and even the iPod Touch is better. So, it is good to see that online shops index Shops ranked the best sites to buy an ipad. I do most of my shopping online today and I think the Kindle is cheaper and has better readability. Personally, I think
    a good book is better than either iPad or Kindle, but I think in today’s apple-obsessed world I am in
    the minority.

  12. Says:

    Many blogs have stopped using trackbacks because dealing with spam became too burdensome.A Trackback is one of three types of Linkbacks,…

  13. Says:

    I think the hype of the iPad is similar to them of the iPhone. The functionality is brilliant because you can use the apps of the iPhone. I would like it to play the Race Games on it!

  14. Says:

    beautiful advice and sharing,I will buy one fantastic apple for me .thanks,Joe

  15. Says:

    I really like this article you wrote, I surely will be back to check your blog out again. Thnx for sharing…

  16. Says:

    this is a great article…. and i like how the iphone and ipad are both insync with their apps. it would have been pointless if they were’nt.

  17. Says:

    Apple does alot of market testing and research before they develop and name a product. They don’t drop the ball when it comes to flagship devices either. If I can recall the name “iPad” represents being thin and light as a “paper pad” that you write on would be would be. The fact that we all discuss whether the it was a good call or not is just free marketing for Apple.

  18. Says:

    Thanks for the great article. The first Apple computer gave rise to the Windows interface and now iPad is definitely going to revolutionize the way we use computers. We have to just wait and see.

  19. Says:

    I think all students can benefit from an iPad or kindle type device if only to bring down the costs of expensive textbooks.

  20. Says:

    Good to hear that there are more teachers joining in the initiative of teaching a fun platforming that is rewarding and can build and get results for students in a short span of time - if they dedicate themselves and come up with unique app ideas. That said, there is still a shortage of well structured courses and one-on-one help that many of the aspiring noobs seek. This is one training institute that is changing that, with their start-to-finish iPhone/Android Application Development Online Course. Head over to https://www.edumobile.org/242-5.html to get more information (they have a weekly remote learning system setup).