Coaching Small Shifts to Smaller Devices

I think it’s rather likely that most readers who regularly check in with this blog are fairly curious about and comfortable trying out new technologies.  Of course, there are also those of us who dive in a bit more cautiously; chances are, we know more than a few of those folks (and probably even work with some).  We may be able to act as technology coaches to get these new users up-and-running.

I recently had a conversation with a professor who is just getting started with using a tablet for the first time, and is open to discovering best practices in integrating it into his existing workflow.  Although this process can be one primarily dictated by personal preference, I do have a few recommendations for those who may be in a similar situation, or supporting those who are.

My general recommendation is to start out by trying to use the tablet instead of the familiar device (i.e., desktop/laptop computer) to complete routine tasks. You will quickly see which types of programs you miss, and which you may like better in tablet form. Personally, I prefer web browsing on a tablet, and often find myself later trying to manipulate websites by touching my non-touchscreen desktop monitor. If you are looking for some basic apps to get started, here is what I recommend trying out:

  • A place to store your files across multiple platforms. Try: Google DriveDropbox, or Box (iOS and Android). Why? Save on one device, access on another; share and collaborate with colleagues/students simply and easily.

  • A reader for opening documents on your tablet: Try: iBooks (already on iPad) This app will allow you to read PDFs as “side-by-side” rather than vertically, which may be more comfortable. You can choose to open any pdf on your ipad in iBooks. For example, you could email yourself an article that you wanted to read after work, open it on your ipad, then choose, “open in iBooks.” It will then be available to you in your iBooks library under PDFs (Android users: try the Kindle app).  To move beyond the basic functionality of iBooks, you can try Good Reader (iOS) or ezPDF Reader (Android), which allow you to annotate and comment on many different types of documents, not just PDFs. Why? Find out if you are comfortable reading and editing documents on a tablet.

  • Mobile versions of software you already use. Try:Apple iWork Suite, Microsoft Office for iPad, Office Mobile for Android. Why? Using software you are already familiar with may be an easy way to make the leap to increased mobile use (these apps can be pricey, though, so use caution before purchasing).

With some exploration and experimentation, many of us will find that mobile devices integrate (mostly) seamlessly into our routine. Ready to move beyond the basics? I like to visit the Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker blog for inspiration.

What suggestions do you have for getting new users comfortable with their devices?