Which iPad should I get for teaching? Second impressions of the iPad mini.


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!

Classroom considerations

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:

  1. You want a truly great portable device that you can carry around everywhere;
  2. You think the original iPad is too heavy and would like to try the mini for its lightness and portability;
  3. You just plan on using the iPad as a personal teaching device (as a document/manual) reader;
  4. You are an elementary school teacher and you mostly plan on playing lots of music for your classes through the iPad;
  5. 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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. You rely on a faster processor (iPad 3 and 4) and use graphic intensive apps such as iMovie and Pinnacle.
  4. 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.
  5. You are a musician and are going to use the iPad instead of sheet music;
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. adunsiger says:

    Thanks for your feedback on the iPad Mini. A couple of my students got one over the holidays, and they were trying to convince me to purchase some for the classroom. I ended up buying an additional iPad (the full version) over the holidays instead, and I thought that this larger one would be more beneficial for the videos and presentations that we make on them.

    I was noticing that you suggested an iPad Mini if “you’re an elementary teacher,” but then you said, “and you’re using it to play music.” Would you still suggest the iPad Mini if you’re an elementary teacher, but you’re using it more to “create” with your students? I teach Grade 6 this year, but I taught K-2 for 11 years previously, and I still do JK/SK prep coverage at my school. I use the iPads with all of these students, and I’m looking at the best options for all students. Any additional feedback you have would be great! Thanks!


    1. Thanks for the comment, Aviva. Are you purchasing these iPads with your own money or with school money? The elementary teacher reference was only suggested because songs are probably more often used in the lower grades. As for music creation, what apps are you using? Garageband? All apps should work just as well on the iPad mini. Output will remain the same. The students will not complain about the smaller screen size, as a few classes I know have even created music on the iPod touch. Again, if you are patient, it looks like the next iPad will adopt a very similar form factor to the iPad mini. Fingers crossed!

  2. Kristie Bradford says:

    I would really like to mirror my iPad mini on my classroom projector (I have done it with AirSketch perfectly but I have apps that I would like to mirror) but I cannot use Apple TV at my college. It cannot connect to the network because of the security protocols on the network and the lack of an OS on the Apple TV. Can you tell me what would work instead?

    1. I would suggest getting the HDMI connection kit (if your projector does not have hdmi, get the Kanex ATV Pro.) and doing a wired connection. Mirroring wired will give you great results with zero lag time.

      If you really need a wireless mirror, try bringing in an old or extra router and setting that up with your PC. It should work if you set up the AppleTV with the password of the extra router.

      Finally, there are ways of mirroring your iPad through your Mac/PC which is wired to the projector, using the app Reflector:

      Hope that helps!

  3. HI Steve,

    What’s your advice on buying the extended warranty on the iPad mini? Excited to start learning more about apps now that I finally have one!


    1. Sylvia,
      Since I’ve already had an extended conversation with you on Twitter, here’s the short end: If you can afford it, get AppleCare+ (emphasis on the +) It will give you two “accidents” within two years where they will replace your device for $50 each time. You will get a brand new (not refurbished) device. They will only replace the device (not the boxing, charging cables etc.)

      AppleCare+ costs $100 and must be purchased within 30 days of the original device purchase.

      If you have a 32 or 64 gb device, I’d say it’s a must.

  4. Oneil says:

    I’m glad I have stumbled upon your desktop.

    I am a part time teacher in college. I was really quite hesitant in the concept of tablets thinking I would be better of with a netbook or small laptops for teaching. But it seems tablet have already gone far compared to the first time it was introduced. So with this I am planning to use it now for teaching. Mainly for assessment, notes and presentations.

    But before buying I would like to hear you opinion in these questions:
    1. I know this is an iPad site but I think it won’t hurt if I include android. Here’s the question.
    Android vs iOS for teaching? If android which device? (Pros and Cons)
    2. IPad air or iPad mini 2 (retina) for teaching
    3. Would I be able to do all the things I have said above without resorting to buy premium apps?
    4. I have an MBP 2009, is it possible to sync it both? Like when I am using mbp I could input grades and when I have the tablet I would be able to access same file in mbp and append the new grades and vice versa. I might not have access in the school so syncing could be made at home. Automatic sync, like once I connect to internet files automatically sync.l?

  5. Hannah Odette says:

    I work at an afterschool program and we are purchasing ipads for our literacy program. Would you suggest the ipad air or the ipad mini?

    I am also curious about what types of cases you have purchased for in the classroom. These ipads will be used for grade K-3rd.

    Also, when syncing all of your ipads do you just have the same apple id on all of the ipads and then just purchase the apps once or how do you do it?

    Thanks 🙂

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