I ran across a forum post today that essentially said:

“I’m a _____(Insert name of profession here)____.  What are the apps I should download?”

This is a natural question many people ask, but it’s a bad question.  Just like Bill Gates stating in the Chronicle of Higher Education that tablets aren’t good for education.  Reality is a lot more complex than these kind of binary questions or statements would lead you to believe.

I can help you much better if I understand your problem fully.  Just like doctors, technicians, mechanics, and the like are much more likely to diagnose your condition or problem if you give them all the information you have available, I can only help you solve your app problem or help you decide if a tablet is useful if I know what you need to get done- these things are just tools in the large tool box of life.  Sometimes, you need a phillips head screwdriver.  Sometimes a hammer.  While you can try to use these tools interchangeably, they work best and most efficiently when used within their design function and capacity.  The same is true with technology at any level.

For example, for an educator/teacher, there are general purpose apps that might work for anyone trying to deal with different projects.   You might want to try things like Bento, Ideate, Google forms and docs, or any of the great calendar apps out there.    You may want to use Audionote to record meetings while taking notes, or even your own lectures.  You might want a reader-application for RSS feeds and news like Flipboard.  If you want to create podcasts of your lectures, you could add Garageband into the mix.  You might want to try TED talks or Khan Academy and try flipping the classroom for a few lessons.  Dropbox might help you keep your files organized between devices.  Mindmapping apps like iThoughts might be useful as well.

For document creation, Pages is useful.  But maybe you want more of a journal- maxjournal and other notebook apps work well- many are available at different price ranges.  Skitch is great for annotating screen captures.  Pearltrees in an interesting mind map meets social bookmarking app.

But until we really understand what you want or need to do, I’m just throwing out random ideas, none of which are particularly tailored to your needs.  It’s solutions in search of a problem, not the other way around.  And in order for the tool to be successful, you first have to figure out what you need to get done, and whether the particular tool is good at that job.

Really understanding your needs and what you need to do makes tool selection a LOT easier, and makes it easier for people to help you as well.  If you never take the time to understand your own problems,  you are wandering the world, randomly trying to use screwdrivers to hammer nails, and will become very frustrated, both with the quality of the tool and the person trying to offer help.

I would love to come help you solve your problems.  I know lots of stuff and know a lot of people and tools that night help.  But if you can’t tell me what your problem is, or what you want to accomplish, my help won;t be as awesome as it could be otherwise, because I’m left guessing.  Bottom line- start by really understanding your problems and frustrations first, and finding solutions will become a lot easier.