Literacy: The Real Reason to Celebrate the iPad


The iPad is out and selling well; very well. Along with all the hoopla about it and its features, one thing that hasn’t been discussed is how the iPad can help literacy efforts.

As mentioned in previous posts, the iPad is a social computing device; it allows people to share the computing experience with others in a way that other computers — even the smallest netbooks — do not. This alone helps people experience what is on the computer in a new way through its portability and easy-to-use interface. That in itself has the ability to enhance literacy for health on the Internet, or eHealth literacy .

But what makes the iPad stand out is its visual interface. Unlike a traditional computer, you can use the iPad through knowing very little about how to read or write. Witness the viral video of a two and a half year old using the iPad to see how this could work.

It is probably reasonable to guess that the iPad was designed for the Apple faithful, a group that is generally pretty educated, white, male and young. It may be that the iPad becomes the computer of choice for newcomers and people with low literacy. The tactile, visual interface allows a type of interaction that is based on icons, visual wayfinding, and a set of cues that are vastly different than those used on a traditional computer with its menus, text-driven starts and keyboards. It is in providing computing power and connection to that group that might truly make the iPad the killer app delivery system for health equity.

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