Early critics of the Apple iPad suggest the device was intended purely as a media content receiver, and the limited range of (buggy) content producing apps at launch in April 2010, seemed to vindicate this position. Then the flood of apps came and the apps for creating music, drawing and digital manipulation of images (read ‘photoshopping), better features for text editing, layout and presentation in the Pages and Keynote apps, dramatically expanded the potential for media creation. Only the lack of a good keyboard (the Apple devices don’t stand up to prolonged use and everyday wear) and the limited accuracy of the finger via the haptic interface, held the original version back.
Version 2 of the iPad is even more of a content producer than the original. I haven’t experimented with it yet, but the Garageband app has real potential. Some great examples of the music creation tool on YouTube here and here. The iPad2 also has forward and rear facing cameras to capture still images and video. As mention earlier the video is great for portable Skype calls, but I’m yet to try out the Facetime app for apple devices.
The still images aren’t great, but I’m yet to see images from a portable device, like a mobile phone, that are. The stills captured by the iPad2 are very similar in quality to the iPod touch, and lower in quality than the iPhone 4. The forward facing camera is ‘VGA’ resolution, 640×480 pixels, which is fine for video conferencing but not great for portrait photos even through the iPad2 comes with a portrait-making application. The rear camera has still camera has a 5x digital zoom, but in any low light conditions the images are extremely blurry.
The video recordings captures 720p (HD) at up to 30 frames per second (FPS) with audio, and it is this feature in conjunction with the iMovie app that really makes the iPad2 viable as a content producer for non-professional purposes. This is an interesting side-by-side comparison of the iphone 4 and ipad2 video . I actually disagree with the conclusions of the video, although the FPS capture rate and colour saturation seems a little better on the iPhone4 the crispness of the detail on edges and depth of field on the wider capture of the iPad seem a lot better to my eyes but I’m not an expert on these types of comparison.
As a non-professional grade media content producer I think the iPad is a perfect tool for educational uses. I’ll talk more about the role of the iPad as replacement for textbooks later, but as a tool for new media driven practice it is unparalleled. I’ve already experimented with using Web2.0 applications in teaching and learning, and I firmly believe blogs, wikis, social network spaces, podcasts and user-generated video are the way forward, especially in Higher Education, replacing older forms of presentation and essay style assessment practices. I imagine entire cohorts as media-producers, each equipped with a mobile device like the iPad playing a key role in research and assessment practices for students in the near future, and each generation of these devices will help edge us one step closer.