Tutaleni I. Asino
Blog Post

Who’s afraid of an iPad (a.k.a: don’t touch it! You’ll break it!)

29/05/2010 mLearning, Namibia

So far I’ve been wrong about two things since I first conceived of this idea:
1. I never thought Cole would go for this – letting me sign out an iPad for the whole summer. He did (I wonder if he would come looking for me if I don’t come back?).

2. Everyone would be excited and want to interact with it especially young people who are more into technology……this is not always the case.

1st incident of fear:
Flying home to Windhoek (Namibia) from Johannesburg (South Africa) I sat next to two men traveling on business. They were talking to me about financial markets, derivatives, investments, playing the stock market etc. and trying to explain what they do. I asked – half jokingly – if they were the ones responsible for the financial crises…..they got a bit defensive.

They took a look at the iPad as I was reading a book and after apologizing for interrupting they asked if they could learn more about it since it is not available in South Africa yet. We had a discussion about how to use it and I showed them some of the apps I have loaded on it. They were genuinely interested and excited about the device, so I offered to have them interact with it and let me know what they thought…..NOPE. They didn’t want to touch it, in the event that they may break it. Adult learners from my experiences tend to be more nervous about breaking technology and fear looking like they don’t know what they are doing. I think this was one of those situations…..or maybe I just shouldn’t have mocked them for causing the financial meltdown.

2nd Incident of fear:
I was at the Namibian College of the Art watching a friend (Wabei Siyolwe) conduct a drama workshop for aspiring comedians. After the workshop I showed the iPad to two students (1male, 1, female). Both students were excited to look at the device but only the male student would hold the device. I asked the female student if she wanted to play with it and her response was “no, I’m not insured for it. Uh uh, if it breaks my parents don’t have that kind of money”.

While I am quite happy to be selfish and have the iPad all to myself, how will I learn anything if no one is willing to touch the device.

Date written: 20 May 2010
World count: 415

  • SIMON RICHARD HOOPER 09:58 30/05/2010

    I’ve been fascinated by the responses to the iPad. The most interesting response was from my grandson. He’s 27 months old. He was hooked from the moment he set his eyes on it! More importantly, he totally ‘gets it’. He knows how to start an application, how to select from menus, how to use video controls, etc. And he absolutely loves the machine. Last night I heard him saying to my son, “Let’s go play Papa’s iPad”!
    I’m can’t wait to do some research with it. I am particularly interested in asking some questions that challenge the Great Media Debate. I’ve always believed that technology does make a difference to learning, but not in using the computer as a direct instruction machine. I especially want to see what happens when some of the more interactive software I’ve been making is put on an iPad. My trouble is that I don’t know Objective C– that’s going to be my challenge for the rest of the summer!

  • ELIZABETH ANNE DUDKIN 22:16 30/05/2010

    This sounds like a fascinating study and I look forward to following your experiences!
    I think you’re correct about older folks being afraid of “breaking” technology. I work with a man who is a sophisticated scientist, but he’s always concerned about how big a file is and whether or not he should keep a digital photo. Dude, you’ve got 500 GB, go nuts and keep the photo! Technology has gotten exponentially more complicated but at the same time the interfaces are becoming more intuitive. The technophobes are aware of the power (since that’s easy for techies to talk about) but probably aren’t familiar with the interfaces because you actually have to DO something with the technology in order to experience the interface.
    As for the young folks, I’m frequently appalled by undergraduates’ inabilities to use technology that they grew up with, like mp3 players, cell phones, and digital cameras. It’s not just a reluctance to create content, they’re not so good at consuming it, either.
    My suggestion is to have a specific task you’d like to demonstrate on the iPad. If the task is simple (finding an app, finding your location on Google Maps; getting directions; adding a comment to a presentation) you can seduce people into using the iPad.
    I handed my Nook to my 85 year old father, intending to show him how he could adjust the fonts and download books to make it easier to read. He took it from me and proceeded to screw up every single setting without figuring out how to choose a book, change/select a font/font size, turn a page or do anything else. He thought the Nook was a failure. Be careful what you wish for!

  • Uttam Tambar 23:52 31/05/2010

    I’ve been trying to convince my wife (unsuccessfully) that getting an iPad will be great for the family. I think I chose the wrong profession.
    I’m an organic chemist, and recently I was totally sold on the iPad by a fellow chemist who showed me how to give presentations and organize research articles on the iPad. It’s great. I just wish it was cheaper.
    I can imagine that many people (young and old) will be afraid to play with an iPad out of fear of breaking it. Perhaps one way to demystify the iPad and make people more willing to play with it is to describe it as a cross between a cell phone and a computer (portability of a cell phone with power of a computer). Since most people have seen a cell phone, this might make them more comfortable with playing around with the iPad. Before showing them the iPad, maybe you can even ask them what is the one thing they wish they could do with a cell phone.

  • Debbie Piecka 06:17 02/06/2010

    Hi, Tutaleni. I wish I were in Namibia to see the others using the technology. I am not at all surprised by the reaction that you describe.
    When I first traveled to Namibia in 2007, my observation about using technology was that the issues we face are global ones. Technology is still a tool. There needs to be play time to just figure out how to do things. Guidance is also very helpful. A few simple instructions go a long way, especially since you are the guardian of the machine and want and need to bring it back to PSU!
    I have another idea for you about a topic for your blog. I have an idea for you – keep blogging about your insider/outsider feelings. This is great for contemplation and while you may never include it in your dissertation, it definitely has the making of an article. In fact, I just coordinated a session at ICQI – the International Congress for Qualitative Inquiry http://www.icqi.org I was talking about subjectivity in research – the ghosts and passions that drive us.
    However, the insider/outsider topic is exactly one we contemplated. As a Namibian, you are observing that others are hesitant to use your technology. As an outsider having the technology, how do you encourage others to explore?
    Both qualitative and quantitative researchers need to prepare themselves for these situations and contemplate strategies for entry and exit. Why not use this as an opportunity to explore how you are feeling, back it up with scholarly reading, and produce an article?
    So, how do all of the apps look?

  • ALLAN SHAWN GYORKE 10:35 08/06/2010

    Fascinating to read about these reactions. I don’t suppose you have a video camera with you, do you? I’d love to see the reactions first-hand.
    As for my nephews, the oldest one (who is 17) bought his own and loves it. The youngest one (who is 4) was playing with mine as if he had been using one for years. It was incredible to see an instant adaptation to a new interface – which is a great indication of a natural design.

  • TUTALENI I ASINO 06:31 09/06/2010

    Thank you for your comment Dr. Hooper. I agree, the research opportunities surrounding the iPad are many that the only obstacle is to decide where to start. I am getting a lot of ideas on this trip, I have to be more discipline in writing them down and exploring them later. Technology does make a difference in learning, and what is more fascinating to me are the unintended impact way, especially for those who may not have been the target audiences.
    I found out that there is a Chinese version of the iPad. I believe it is called the aPad (I am not sure) which run on open source. I met a lecturer at the University of Namibia who has ordered it and I’ll be doing some comparison with him in the coming weeks.

  • TUTALENI I ASINO 06:34 09/06/2010

    Thank you for your comment and the ideas. Before teaching undergraduates I used to make various assumptions about their understanding/usage of technology. I have been surprised in many ways. I am learning that it is possible to grow up in a culture and not know much about it because you take it for granted since you are immersed in it. Doing research here, I am learning about my country in a way that I did not when I was just living here, or when I used to come for purely vacation purposes.
    I like your idea of having specific tasks that should be performed. I have a drawing program on the iPad that I think I’ll get different people to use and draw thing as well as some books that I’ll let people read.
    As for screwing up the settings and configuration, that is a good point, but I am actually looking forward to someone who is willing to do that much with it, because it means that they are not afraid to explore. Yes, I am probably asking for trouble.

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