Greetings from Caroline Chisholm College!
The new (albeit temporary) additions to our beloved Technology Family here at the college have been doing the rounds of teachers and students with the customary "oohs!" and "aaahhs!" for a few days now. So I figured it was probably time to weigh in with a post or two on my own first impressions.
It's been really pleasing to read of teachers that have explored some of the conventional (and not-so-conventional) apps out there. It's particularly good to think laterally about the potential for app development and I'd certainly be interested to investigate potential apps (has someone already done a post on this?) I think now is the time to put a bit of consumer pressure on Apple to approve the Apps that we need. Of course, hinging app development on the approval of one company is always a dicey game and the real potential lies, in my view, with open source (jail-breaking, anyone?)
In any case, I thought I'd chime in with some comments about usability on standard HTML 5 websites and the touch keyboard interface. It's unfortunately in these two particular areas that I'm currently quite disappointed. Take the keyboard - standard symbols like apostrophes, question marks and so on are rather difficult to access via shift keys and having to switch between alphabetical and numeric can also be a royal pain. As someone who likes to type a lot, I found typing beyond the conventional quick brown fox that jumps over the lazy dog to be quite a chore, even after 2-3 hours of practice.
My second gripe comes with trying to type text into standard text areas - think the window for this blog post, a comments box on an article page or indeed Google Docs. In all three cases when I went to tap in the box to type text I was met with a blank white space that refused to yield a cursor. I kinda thought it would be cool to post this entry on the iPad but alas - I had to return to my trusty laptop with its clickety-clackety set of coffee-stained keys.
Am I missing something? I think that Apple are definitely riding on the App market coming to the fore and, in time, of course this will happen. But I have to say that there is a real limitation with locking down the user experience into the fixed parameters of a given application. In my view, Apple really need to get the HTML experience working properly and seamlessly to really empower users to use the device for new and exciting purposes.
As an English teacher who loves writing, I won't be rushing to recommend using the iPads with the touch keyboard interface alone. The idea of a bluetooth keyboard is another thing altogether though - and I recently bought one for our school to play around with. It'll be interesting to see if my favourite Web 2.0 sites work well - or at all - with it.