Posts filed under ‘video games’

i-pad, u-pad, we-pad….or do Wii?

My ten bobs worth about the i-pad. Yes, Graham, getting sucked in…to the debate at least.

So, I find myself getting sucked in to the debate about the i-pad. This is unusual for me because, to be honest I have certainly been on the fringes of what Stephen Fry in his review of the i-pad calls the ‘nay sayers and sceptics’ in respect of the i-phone and i-pod touch et al.

In my defence, though, I have never said that the development of the Apple mobile device armoury is not extremely well conceived, beautifully designed, and skilfully executed, or that Apple have not led where others have followed.

But, neither do I believe that the sun shines from Steve Jobs posterior. There is something about the evangelism surrounding all things Apple that disturbs me. Perhaps it’s the blinding light shining from you know where that restricts our peripheral vision preventing us from properly seeing the full picture.

Where it comes to the i-pad, and indeed i-phone, i-pod touch etc. context is important, I think. At least it is in the world I occupy which professionally and personally revolves around education, specifically primary and secondary education. Even more specifically a large slice of my life is taken up with the exciting opportunities offered to education through digital technology which, as Lord Putnam said at the recent Learning Technologies show at Olympia, has changed the way people interact, engage and make sense of the world’.

The i-pad, in all it’s glory (and I do not doubt its gloriousness) will open up all sorts of exciting opportunities to do some remarkable things in some schools and educational institutions around the globe. But, fantastic as that is, this effort will be restricted to a minority for three very good reasons that have nothing to do with design or functionality. These reasons are that the i-pad is too expensive, too nickable, and too fragile.

Stephen Fry in his review of the i-pad refers to the ‘shockingly low price’ of $499 (£310) for the basic model. Shockingly low for someone of his means, for sure, affordable for someone of my means, completely out of the question for the hundreds of  thousands on a low income. Will the ‘Home access’ scheme (which already restricts provision of access to broadband to one year only)  be extended to the provision of this device, even the basic model. I suspect not. In any case the ‘Home access’ scheme doesn’t by any means reach all the people who need it.

Where the ‘Home access’ scheme is meant to narrow the digital divide, the aggressive pricing policy of Apple (when did you last see a discounted i-phone or i-pod touch), I’m afraid, only serves to widen it. This does play into Apples hands, of course, because their enormous 15.9 billion revenue is made mainly from the haves and the perception that their beautiful products are made for the beautiful people who, of course, can afford them.

I know that Steve Jobs has made a point of saying that he wants to keep the price low, but there is low and there is low.

In a tweet today Graham Brown-Martin (of Handheld Learning fame) said ‘as I walk thru the Elephant & Castle favela I wonder if I’d really whip out an #iPad to read the news…’ Now extend that thought to all the pupils in all the schools.

We recently had a burglary at our offices. Someone had got hold of the key and came in at their leisure when no-one was around. From everything we have in the office, dozens of systems, Macs and Pc’s and all sorts of other equipment, the burglar took just our i-pod touch (my freebie from the Handheld Learning conference) and our Mac mini. Small enough to conceal and very sellable, just like the i-pad. No doubt the good Apple folk would puff out their chests in pride that their products are so eminently nickable so not likely to be much change there.

And as for robustness, I have no idea how much rough handling the i-pad can take (because of its elegance it does seem rather fragile, but this may well not be the case), but it would have to be very robust indeed to survive the ravages of my 12 year old sons treatment. Clothes, books, bottles, lunchboxes, nothing survives the daily onslaught. His mobile phone just about survives, because it is small enough to go in his pocket, and has a case to protect it. Even so it looks pretty sorry for itself, although just about intact.

It might be argued that other devices may be equally susceptible to damage, but that isn’t the point. Someone will have to address the issue of rough treatment, and I don’t suppose it will be Apple. They are just not in that space.

You may feel that I am simply being something of a killjoy about all this, but I think I am just being practical and pragmatic. I don’t doubt, or deride, Apples achievements as innovators. But, in the world I occupy, I cannot see a ubiquitous place, per se, of the i-pad, i-phone, i-pod et al despite all the potential on offer.

In this respect, though, Apples great achievement, and it is a great achievement, is to set the standards for others to follow and I applaud them for that. But I expect to see a greater use of other devices for education, netbooks for a while, making way for smartphones that can be had free on very low tariffs, gaming consoles like PS3 and x-Box, others like the DS and of course the brilliantly conceived Wii.

January 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm 9 comments

Kids cravings – addicted to gadgets

addicted to gadgets small

I have just come across a social experiment, ‘Teenagers try to go without gadgets’ that, as a parent, has added to concerns I have for my kids.

For any parent this is real food for thought and an aspect of addiction to technology that is not focussed on games addiction. It is, though, more worryingly focussed on the potential general addiction of young people to their everyday gadgets – mobile phones, mp3 players, i-pods, social networking sites, TV et al.

It is an experiment that was conducted amongst teenagers in Los Angeles who went without their electronic gadgets for a week. The results are worrying and illuminating. The teenagers themselves recognised their addiction, recognised that the uncomfortable feelings they were experiencing were akin to, or were actually, withdrawal symptoms.

One teenager talked of feeling empty, one described being without her gadgets as ‘being’ weird, one that it was harder than she thought, one described her desire to reach out for her mobile phone as a ‘craving’.

Part way one described feeling ‘at peace’ without any music blasting in the background, or TV or phone. One celebrated the fact that she met new people on the metro because she was not absorbed in texting etc.., and she also heard birds singing outside. One that whilst reading in her room she realised she could hear the crickets outside and the wind blowing.

I remember a few months ago when my 14 year old daughter had to do without her mobile phone for a few days whilst it was being repaired. She described her felling to me of it feeling a bit like having lost a limb. She was seriously uncomfortable without it.

I also remember one day when I took a day off work during school half term and spent it with both my kids (11 and 14) all hanging out together at home. We did a bit of baking together, some painting of egg cups, chatted, all things that have become sadly too rare in a household of working parents and electronic communication.

The interesting thing that I noted was how relaxed the kids seemed because there was no peer pressure on them, how my daughter went without any make up for the day (usually unheard of), how neither of them niggled at each other, as though this was a momentary respite from the charged world they have become used to.

I have tended to feel that addiction happens mostly on the fringes. Now I’m worried I may be wrong about that.

May 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm Leave a comment

The book is dead!

Last night I gave a talk and was on a panel at an event organised by the Children’s Books Circle on the subject of ‘the future of children’s publishing in a digital world’ held at Penguin books offices in London.

This, of course, is a hot topic these days with publishers, authors and others worried about the demise of the book when there are so many other digital offerings available.

I have been involved in the world of digital technology since 1984 and in the 25 years since then this has been a constant concern. However, the book is still very much alive even in this 21st century digital age, and in my view will remain so.

What has happened, though, is that in today’s digital world the book sits in a different context. Sales of children’s book actually are pretty healthy but one significant change is that these sales are invested in fewer authors. This suggests to me that whilst there is still a place for the book it has to fight for position and consumers are ever more discerning.

If this means that it is just the good books that survive then that’s probably a good thing. The danger, however, is that publishers, not renown for their adventurousness may become even less willing to take a risk on new authors.

As well as standing on its own the book, of course, has a life in conjunction with other digital offerings which are either counterparts or conjoined. The Lemony Snicket ‘Series of unfortunate events’ is a popular series of books and now has a film and video games associated with it. Similarly with the Harry Potter books which also have films and games and other merchandising materials related.

In other conjoined relationships books and digital media are interdependent. Scholastics 39 clues, for example, where in order to find clues and solve problems online users have to read the books. Currently the existing elements of this are books, clue cards and web based activities. However one feels that films and other merchandising opportunities are looming.

Whilst the Scholastic line is that with the 39 clues they are encouraging young people it is hard not to think that such laudable ideals are secondary to other more commercial motives.

In the purely digital world there are exciting things happening in the world of children’s storytelling. Inanimatealice, for example, is a purely digital story told in a series of multimedia episodes that grow in duration, in complexity and in interactivity as the story unfolds.

The really neat thing about this is that it has an associated authoring facility that users can utilise (although they do have to buy it separately) to create their own stories, or better still weave their stories into the story of Alice. Fantastic.

And who knows what the creative writing world will make of the opportunities offered  by the potential of, for example, creating flexible, personalised stories made up purely of 140 character Tweets.

But as for the book it’s pretty clear, I think.

The book is dead. Long live the book!

April 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment


Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

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