The Case for a Student UI

By all accounts, Apple’s iPad is already a huge success. Pre-orders soared and it’s Apple sold a gazillion within the first few days.  I’ve posted in the past about whether or not I thought the iPad would be a successful tool to use in the classroom. It might be, it  just might, but ultimately, I think it’s success largely depends upon how well students are able to navigate it.

If you have fingers, you can navigate an iPad, but then what?

One of the biggest mistakes that can be made when introducing a new technology into a classroom is to assume all students know how to do what you’re asking them to. Students (especially this generation – insert symbolic individual letter here) are fairly adept at figuring these things out on their own. A lot of them are used to handling a new gadget and have some rudimentary understanding of how UIs work, but not all. That’s part of the problem though. Does the UI of a device have to be overly complicated to be great? And, if the goal for students using the device is to improve student success, do we really want them to hit the ground stumbling as opposed to running?

This brings into question the effectiveness of having the iPad as the defacto learning gadget of a classroom. Students all know how to use their fingers, so the idea of simple gestures like swiping and pinch-to-zoom should be second nature, in theory. But then what? If it’s really hard to open an ebook and annotate that book once it is open, is it worth it to force students to learn a completely new process?

I want my students to be able to pick up a device and have more familiarity with something they already know how to do without a gadget, like writing. That’s why I’m currently batting my eyes at the pretty girl across the room who goes by the name of Courier.

Courier is the still unofficial tablet product rumored to be created and released by Microsoft. Based on rumored leaks, the Courier can do everything the iPad can do but (from my classroom centric vantage point) better.

See, the Courier is designed to look like and act like a book or journal as it is. In addition to having multi-touch capabilities like the iPad, it also has a stylus input. Speaking for my classes alone, my students aren’t taking notes with their fingers, they’re using a pen or pencil. And (if recent potential demo video are to be believed) the pen/stylus does so much more than just draw.

Although the interface and the learning curve of the Courier might seem steeper, I think the payoffs might actually be greater.  There seems to be a lot more potential with interactivity and the device that goes beyond fingered brush strokes.

I already have a classroom set of iTouches, so the need for something “simple” is already met. What I want is for my students to create and read, something – I have a sneaking suspicion – is better suited for the dual screen format of the Courier.

If it ever exists…..of course.

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