I have been asked quite a few times: “Which iPad should I get for teaching?”
Since the iPad mini has been out a couple months now, here are my second impressions on it, and whether you should get it for your teaching (I will admit that these impressions do echo my first ones, shared the week after it was released)
I was originally going to wait to purchase my wife an iPad mini when the second generation came out. But having read so many positive reviews about it, I caved in and bought her one for Christmas. We do have a plan for “upgrading” hers when the second generation does come out, but more on that for another post.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my wife has used the iPad 1 since its inception, around May of 2010. It was literally a life saver when she was stuck in bed, recovering after giving birth to our daughter. At first, she had to ask me what the point of an iPad was. “Isn’t it just a large iPod touch ?” (We had one of those too). Needless to say, we have gotten quite good use out of that iPad 1. Now, it sits alone on the shelf. We were going to let our toddler have it, but even she got a new tablet from her aunt, the LeapPad 2.
Nowadays, the mini is the main iPad at our household. My iPad 2 is used primarily for work and for blogging (I even set up Blogsy on her mini so that I could blog from it too!). Whenever she has to use her old iPad, she honestly can’t believe how heavy it is. The form factor of the mini is second to none. No one will dispute its looks and lightness. We brought it with us on our recent trip to Seattle, and it did everything its larger sibling could and more. The photos and videos taken on it were a vast improvement over my iPad 2. And it is not as embarrassing holding a mini up to take a video or photo like it was with an iPad. FaceTime with the grandparents worked great; iMessages worked without a hitch. It sure helped to have the hotel offer free wifi!
I have also mentioned these before, but that was before I had a chance to try bringing the mini to school. Here are my opinions on using the iPad mini in the classroom:
Get the iPad mini if:
- You want a truly great portable device that you can carry around everywhere;
- You think the original iPad is too heavy and would like to try the mini for its lightness and portability;
- You just plan on using the iPad as a personal teaching device (as a document/manual) reader;
- You are an elementary school teacher and you mostly plan on playing lots of music for your classes through the iPad;
- You have a projector and you wish to just mirror your iPad screen for your class. Since all apps work on the iPad mini, what the students see on the screen would be the exact same as on either iPad.
Stick with the larger iPad if:
- You sit at the carpet and would like to display your iPad to your students. The mini would be much too small for those sitting far away to see much detail;
- You plan to use your iPad for assessment (using apps such as Numbers) and are constantly inputting numbers in. Especially if you have larger hands, it might be cumbersome to be entering in many numbers on the smaller screen;
- You rely on a faster processor (iPad 3 and 4) and use graphic intensive apps such as iMovie and Pinnacle.
- You have larger fingers and you like to use “creation-type” apps for designing graphics or images. Art creation on the iPad is becoming more popular. The larger screen real estate is definitely better for this.
- You are a musician and are going to use the iPad instead of sheet music;
- You are akin to losing things. An iPad is hard to misplace while an iPhone or mini is easier. (Although the app “Find my iPad/iPhone” will help if you lose it.) I have heard a few people tell me that they’ve lost their iPhones, but have yet to hear anyone losing an iPad.
- You don’t have the greatest eyesight, and would prefer a generally larger font when doing anything on the iPad. This might sound silly, but I bet it can be a big consideration.
A lack of Retina display?
I thought that I would be bothered by the lack of the Retina display on the mini. That would hardly be the case. Although I love it on my iPhone and MacBook, the display on the mini is still very good. The only time I have complained is when I upscale iPhone apps to fit the iPad mini screen (for some reason, some very common apps such as Instagram have not released an iPad version). The display on the mini is still better than that of the iPad 2 (same resolution, but packed into a smaller screen). I have not yet once caught myself complaining about the screen.
Basically, anything you could do with an iPad 2 in the past, you will definitely be able to do with an iPad mini. I would argue that the vast majority of people who purchase an iPad mini would enjoy it so much that they would not think about getting the larger version in the future. Again, every person I’ve spoken with who own a mini rave about its form factor and lightness. I have yet to meet someone who would claim the original iPad to be light. Also, remember that both the front and rear facing cameras on the mini are much superior to that of the iPad 2, and are in fact the same specs as the iPad 4 (5MP iSight camera, FaceTime HD camera with 108op HD video recording)
Should you perhaps wait?
Finally, if you have the patience to wait it out until next year to purchase (or upgrade) an iPad, do so. I have read that in order to keep up with its competition, Apple may be turning to twice-yearly updates to its iOS devices. It makes it hard for us consumers to keep up. In fact, it would be impossible. However, if you are looking to becoming an iPad teacher in the next school year, try your patience and wait a few months.