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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: On not having an iPad (yet)
April 12, 2010 - 10:29pm

Sometimes I think it's a good thing I'm not wealthy*. Not that I can't imagine all kinds of good things to do with lots of money, of course, from traveling to donating to paying for the kids' college to…

But wait, this was about how it's ok not to have it. And, really, it is. At least in one very specific regard. You see, I love gadgets. It's sort of an odd thing, I guess —in our household I'm the one who wants the electronics, who hooks up the computers and calls the cable folks and plays with the Wii. My husband, who's great with his hands and keeps both our cars and our house together, couldn't care less about the techno-stuff. I can't even get him to carry a cellphone.

So, if I had all the money in the world, I'd have an iPad right now. But, would it really do me any good? I'm not at all sure yet.

This semester I've had the opportunity to play around with a Kindle. Our library acquired several and faculty have been testing them out to see if they'd be useful in the classroom. Because the library staff knows I'm open to using technology in the classroom, they asked if I'd like to try out the Kindle. Would I!? I've wanted one ever since I first saw them — the opportunity to carry around most of my library in my bookbag seemed irresistible.

And there are many good things about the Kindle — and, no doubt, other e-readers — don’t get me wrong. I love the Kindle's screen, the way it doesn't feel like reading a screen. I do, indeed, like carrying around a lot of books without a lot of weight. I've even made my peace with the somewhat-clumsy markup features.

But. But it's not a great piece of technology for the classroom, or at least for my classroom; not yet. Some of the books I want to teach aren't available on it, for example. For my course this semester, I found that two of my primary texts weren't available at all, and several others weren't available in very good editions. Since I'm teaching relatively new books, most of them mass market paperbacks, that was both surprising and, really, unacceptable. And the markup, while fine for recreational reading (yes, I mark up my recreational reading!), is really not all that useful for scholarly work. I want to be able to turn quickly to the page I want — something that the technology of the book plus bookmark, or sticky note, makes very simple, but the Kindle makes a little more difficult. (Steve Kolwich wrote a bit about this a couple of months ago.) And I miss the page numbers, the distinctive fonts, and some of the other features (the ability to take copious notes on endpapers!) that books offer.

So I'm just as glad that I have to wait on the iPad as well. I'm sure there are great things about it — it may even solve some of my Kindle problems. (Joshua Kim, in IHE's Technology and Learning blog, suggests that it might.) But I'm sure it's got other problems, still, and until someone else has worked out some of those glitches I am doing fine with the technology I've got.

Delayed gratification. That's the gift that modest circumstances give, and it's not all that bad, after all. (Still, those iPads do look pretty cute.)

*Yes, I do realize that compared to most of the world's population I am indeed wealthy — but when it comes to buying brand-new technology at full price, I'm not there yet.


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