iPads for soldiers - good idea?

By Shaun Tan

IT'D make training in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) much more engaging and less turgid.

As for the hoopla over the iPad's use as evidence that the SAF is spoiling third-generation soldiers (like me), all I can say is that we are born in the age of technology, so why avoid it?

Just last week, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the SAF must keep up with the new batch of digital natives.

So, yes, I'm willing to give the iPad, iPod touch or Samsung Galaxy Tab a chance - if only to help me become a smarter and more capable soldier.

Still a soldier, iPad or not

Would I love to have an iPad? The answer is yes.

But do I really want an iPad for military training? I'm not 100 per cent sure about that.

I am a 19-year-old who will graduate from Temasek Polytechnic in March next year and enter national service a few months after graduation. The idea that I would very likely be handling such gadgets then is comforting, if a little worrying.

On the one hand, it'd make basic military training (BMT) much more engaging and less turgid.

So, I was at first thrilled to hear that those enlisting for BMT from November will be given the iPad, iPod touch or Samsung Galaxy Tab as learning aids.

I'm not exactly sure what kind of impact these devices will have on my training. After all - here's a confession - the most time I've spent with an iPad was when I fiddled around with the popular Angry Birds game on a friend's device.

Sure, having such a highly coveted device in my hands while undergoing the gruelling BMT does appear to make things easier.

On the other hand, call me a worrywart, but all sorts of what-ifs flit through my mind: Is it worth the hassle involved in taking care of such a delicate product?

What if it rains? What if I drop it and scratch it? Or, worse, an enormous crack appears? When I sleep at night out in the field, how can I rest assured that both my rifle and iPad are safe?

I can already anticipate the added pressure of having to ensure that the iPad remains functional and secure.

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has made the bold move to rejuvenate its training methods with the new gadgets.

They're easy to use and hold my attention far longer than a textbook and its sea of words would.

Mess up while doing something on an app? Simple, I'll just press the home button and restart from beginning. No need to pore over a thick manual in despair.

A friend of mine, who will enlist in November, said that he is looking forward to having a touchscreen device.

He said: "It will empower us. It takes old practices and updates them with modern technology."

As for the recent hoopla that the SAF is spoiling third-generation soldiers (like me) by giving them iPads, all I can say is: We are now in the age of technology, so why avoid it?

Just last week, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the SAF must keep up with the new batch of digital natives. It has already set up the SAF-wide online learning portal Learnet, so servicemen and trainers can discuss lessons online.

So, yes, despite my misgivings about taking care of a pricey device, I'm willing to give the iPad, iPod touch or Samsung Galaxy Tab a chance - if they help me become a smarter and more capable soldier.

Now, all I need is to get my hands on an iPad - one with no scratches, please.


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