Post-PC Devices: A Summary of Early iPad Technology Adoption in Tertiary Environments

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 2010 Apple released its much anticipated tablet computing device into the market. The nature of the device and its utility was much debated prior to and immediately after its launch. Opinions were divided as to whether the device indeed represented a "new category" of computing device or whether this was yet another example of Apple's now legendary hype. One year on and into its second variation (iPad 2) doubts as to whether consumers would vote with their wallets are few and far between. To date the total number of iPads sold worldwide is over 20 million units sold with an average 1000 device activations per month in the United States (Etherington, 2011). While the sales figures are impressive, the most significant aspect of the iPad phenomenon is the extent to which corporate environments have adopted what essentially began life as a consumer media-consumption device. Pundits are now referring to these devices as post-PC devices (PPDs), a recognition that this type of device perhaps does indeed deserve its own category, possessing significant differences over and above existing desk-bound or mobile technologies such as smart-phones and laptops (Melhuish & Falloon, 2010). While many within the education sector have talked in general terms of the potential of PPDs, the nascent nature of the devices presents some difficulties in determining exactly how they can be used in the tertiary sector (Brand & Kinash, 2010). The first aim of this paper is to present a typology of PPD capabilities underpinned by the e-learning, mobile and ubiquitous learning literatures. In summary a six-point typology is presented around the capability of PPD's in tertiary education contexts including: course materials; enrolment and administration; content generation; research and material yielding; collaboration and engagement; and productivity enhancement. The second aim of the paper is to gain insight into the various ways in which PPDs are being used in the university sector, with a survey of universities identified as using the iPad 12-18 months after its release. The paper concludes with a number of observations and considerations for future research and practice.

m-learning, ubiquitous computing and the iPad

While the origins of e-learning date as far back as the 60's, the nature of technology facilitated learning has experienced exponential rates of change even in the last decade. Unsurprisingly this has been mirrored by a transition in the literature from discussions of e-learning, to m-learning (mobile-learning) and now more recently, the idea of ubiquitous learning. Sharples & Rochelle (2010) discuss the emergence of a "third phase" of mobile learning where learning becomes embedded in everyday life, citing augmented reality as an example where mobile devices offer sophisticated learning opportunities. The existing literature in the ubiquitous and m-learning literatures note several advantages available to tertiary education stakeholders flowing on from the use of mobile technologies (see Table 1 for a summary). Melhuish & Falloon (2010) for example outline five capabilities offered by mobile devices including portability; affordable and ubiquitous access to content; situated "just-in-time" learning opportunities; connection and convergence to other devices, networks and technologies; and finally, individualized and personalized experiences. Taking a slightly more sophisticated approach Park (2011) presents a "mobility hierarchy" arguing that mobile technologies offer capability in four increasingly sophisticated areas; enhancing productivity; allowing flexible physical access; enabling the capturing and integrating of data; and facilitating communication & collaboration. Park (2011) then overlays a continuum of collaboration (from individual to group activities) suggesting that a key advantage of m-learning is its ability to allow students a mechanism to transition between both individual and collaborative learning spaces with ease. …

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