The iPod Touch makes me feel like a kid again! Not so much because it came with white ear buds, which I understand is part of the coolness factor for the teenager, the white ear buds signify you are using an iPod, that's like wearing the right brand of jeans for a teenager. It makes me feel young again because it pulled me out of my comfort zone, I had to learn some new techniques to operate it.
When I watch my own daughters work on a computer, it is obvious that they are seeing more on the screen than I am. When we are trouble shooting something an unusual icon in the corner of the screen, that to me is seemingly unrelated to the problem we are working on, will catch their attention. Yet that unusual icon or message, along with a couple of other clues, will lead to the solution. It must be a generational thing. My approach is to read a book about how it is supposed to work, then try to use it. Their approach is to try it, and if it doesn't work to search the Internet for suggestions on how to make it work.
The iPod Touch's manual was just a few paragraphs telling me to install iTunes and hook the Touch to the computer, following that they asked me to open the Safari browser on the Touch and one of the choices became "iPod Touch User Guide". That contained a "Getting Started" and a "Basics" section, they were not extensive. What I did find, is that I was now learning by immersion, not just by reading. The whole idea of tap, tap and hold, tap and drag, spread two fingers to widen the screen, where to touch to go back a menu level, these were all new to me. I learned them by playing with them, not by reading about them.
Now think back about the two different approaches to learning that I've described above and ask yourself, "Which of these is closer to what we call the scientific method"? I believe the answer is clear, and it is not the way I learned when I would first study what to expect, and then for the most part only see the parts that conformed to what I was expecting to see.
This has implications for how we teach physics. We need to let the students "experience physics", that involves labs, that involves posing questions not just giving answers, that involves having students work problems that the student can't solve on the first try. It involves not teaching dogmatically, and turning physics into an exercise of how many equations can you memorize and then see if you can pull the right equation at the right time.
Just for the record, I now have my iPod connecting to all of my email services and coordinating with the email accounts on my computer. I can make phone calls over the Touch to any place in the world using my previously existing Skype account (no additional fee). I can sync documents I have on my computer with the Touch, so that I have the documents/spreadsheets with me when I travel. I can bring up any stocks I own and get detailed charts, current prices, breaking news, and Morningstar reports. I have detailed star charts for my location and time. I don't need to wait for tomorrow's mail to arrive to read about what happened today. I can read the major breaking news stories from the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today instantly, I have available all of the approximately 150 Sirius-XM radio channels that used to only be available to me in the car, and I can connect the Touch to the stereo system in my living room if I want to listen to them that way. I can watch video lecture presentations from any of 1,900 courses from MIT through the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, and if I like I can hook the Touch to my 32" HD TV to watch them in that format. Not bad for a 64 year old!