There are more and more options available to educators who want to use tablet technology in the classroom. From class sets to 1:1 programmes, heavyweight companies are trying to grab their piece of the pie.
Apple have emerged as market leaders with an intuitive operating system supported by a burgeoning app store. Many people are seduced by their clever marketing and advertising campaigns. However, beyond the hype, the iPad is currently the best tablet for education (cost aside!). Or is it?
The release of the iPad Mini has further muddied the waters when it comes to choosing appropriate technology to enhance learning. If your institution is going to buy into new technology which tablet should you choose? Here are the positives for the iPad Mini and the 4th Gen iPad and, I promise, a conclusion at the end!
- Portability – The iPad Mini is less than half the weight of its bigger brother and ‘just about’ fits in the palm of one hand (although it isn’t comfortable for long periods of time). It makes little difference when slipped into a bag and is clearly an excellent travel device for consumption.
- Usability – The rise of ‘two-thumb’ typing is not lost on the iPad Mini when replying to an email or composing that blog post. When held in two hands the touchscreen keyboard lends itself to the ‘two-thumb’ technique and the screen is large enough to cope with text scroll. It should be noted that a number of users have taken to increasing the default font size of the iPad Mini, available in the accessibility option in general settings. The relatively light weight of the iPad Mini also suits presentation delivery and will be very useful for those educators who are at the front of the class for long periods of time.
- Desirability – Not something I would associate with a choice of device but judging by commentary on social media sites, the iPad Mini is a very desirable product. It will be interesting to see, after the Christmas boom, if the iPad Mini is quite so sought after. I’m not sure educators need to be cool!?!?
- Functionality – iOS6 works well with the iPad Mini and means that app developers can optimise their products for its screen. If you add the battery life and camera options then you have great functionality with a smaller device. The front-facing HD camera for Facetime video chat is a nice touch.
- Cost – This might be the most important factor in education. At around £270 the ipad Mini is over £100 less than its big brother and this is very significant when talking about class sets or 1:1 programmes. A saving of £4000 when purchasing 30 tablets is going to make any administration think twice and the introduction of the iPad Mini might just be for this purpose. A cheaper alternative to the iPad?
iPad (4th Gen)
- Retina Display – A bigger factor than you might at first think. With the iPad Mini essentially delivering the same experience as the iPad2, the lack of a Retina display is key. I appreciate we are talking ideal world here, but you do notice slightly blurry text and poor imagery on non-retina display. You can also add the enhanced display works much better outside the classroom in broad daylight.
- Processing Chip – It seems strange that a teacher would refer to A5 or A6 processing chips. However, you only have to compare devices with the slower and faster chips to see the difference. If you are investing money in new devices processing speed is a factor. For a demonstration compare an iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 when web browsing.
- Creativity – The iPad’s major selling point in the classroom. I have discussed, at length, that the way to truly enhance learning with new technology is to engage the students with creation not consumption. Challenging individuals to collaborate and create allows for the guided discovery that embeds learning.
- Screen size/App Function – Whilst many applications are based on the consumption of material, the majority of educational apps are based on student interaction. The larger screen size encourages that interaction and suits the pooling of resources into one whiteboard display or mind map. The major advantage over the iPad Mini can be seen when observing students sharing the device and show each other their work.
- Resource Creation – I reach for the iPad when I want to create something for a class or student. When bringing together resources or annotating student work the iPad is the most suitable device. Again it comes down to screen size but I rarely find myself ‘pinch-zooming’ on the iPad to check my work. The screen is optimised for the user to create and it doesn’t disappoint.
- If you already own an iPad 2, 3 or 4 I wouldn’t buy the iPad Mini until it is released with a Retina display
- If you don’t own an iPad then the iPad Mini is very suitable for a teacher to trial its potential use in the classroom
- If you are looking to buy a class set of tablet devices to enhance learning then the iPad is the most appropriate choice. If cost is a factor then the iPad Mini is a suitable alternative
- If you are a teacher with a laptop then the iPad Mini may well suit your needs as it works very well as a presentation device – buy the iPad for your students!
Personally, I am going to stick with my iPad and wait for the iPad Mini to be released with a faster processing chip and Retina display. But that’s because I’m picky . .