Computing with iPad

Ever since the arrival of the National Curriculum subject ‘computing’ in 2014, figuring out how exactly to teach computer science and coding in a Primary school has become a hot issue. Using a Mac or PC (or even a Raspberry Pi), there are some obvious contenders: ‘Scratch’ from MIT, maybe a bit of ‘LOGO’ or even some ‘Python’ for the more adventurous. But what about the iPad? Can computational thinking and an understanding of algorithms be taught using Apple’s intuitive and easy-to-use touch screen device?

There has been a range of coding apps for iPad right from the start, but only recently has the iPad started to really shine when it comes to learning to code. Here are three strong contenders.

codeSpark Academy with The Foos

This paid-for app (with free access for educators) aims to teach the basics of computational thinking to children aged 4+ with a fun, visual and no-words approach. It’s based around five different characters, called ‘The Foos’, who all have different skills and abilities that can be used to solve problems to try and catch the elusive ‘Glitch’. Using an intuitive interface and attractive 3D graphics, it quickly teaches children about sequencing, loops, events and conditions. There is also a curriculum that teachers can download, including ‘off-line’ activities to help explore coding concepts further.

We tried out using codeSpark Academy with our Year 1 children as part of the Hour of Code in December, and are now using the full app this half term as part of their computing lessons. I really like how it uses puzzles to really get children to think and increasingly harder levels to teach new concepts and consolidate learning. Definitely worth taking a look!

LEGO Education WeDo 2.0

Version 1.0 of LEGO WeDo was first released in 2009 and offered a simple way to teach robotics and coding to 7-11s using LEGO bricks. A USB hub connected various sensors to a computer, such as distance and tilt, as well as a motor. Following the onscreen building instructions in the software, children could construct various models and then use block-based coding to program them, e.g. making a crocodile shut its mouth when something is put inside it. We’ve been using these kits for several years and children love them: it’s accessible computing and you get to build with LEGO!

In 2016, LEGO announced WeDo 2.0, with brand-new models and parts and a Bluetooth hub to connect the updated sensors with iPads and Chromebooks, as well as PCs and Macs. The new WeDo 2.0 is a free download (obviously requiring the paid-for LEGO kits) and includes all the build instructions and a range of ‘Guided Projects’, both for science and for computing.

Version 2.0 is a really strong upgrade, both in terms of the hardware and iPad compatibility, but also in terms of the pedagogy; it requires problem-solving skills and creativity from children to both build and extend models as well as design the code required to complete the different projects.

Swift Playgrounds

Debuting at WWDC in June 2016 and launched last Autumn, Swift Playgrounds is a truly remarkable piece of software. It aims to teach children (Year 7+, but definitely accessible at the start for those in Years 5 and 6) the foundations of computational thinking whilst using real Swift code – a programming language Apple created that is used today by professional developers in many popular apps. Many other computing apps take a ‘block-based coding’ approach, where students can drag and drop pre-defined blocks of code and combine them to create a program. This is great for teaching the concepts of computer science, but leaves a chasm of confusion when students try and code using a typed language. Swift Playgrounds overcomes this by using written code from the start, but code that can be selected from smart autocorrect suggestions above the keyboard and then can be dragged around as if it were a ‘block’ of code.

The app is also really fun to play! On the right of the screen is a 3D world that you navigate to solve puzzles, entering code on the left of the screen. The puzzles can be quite challenging, requiring student to think carefully, spot patterns and apply the skills they have learned in a variety of ways. As you progress through the levels, it really does teach you how to think like a programmer through crafting efficient, reusable and readable code.

Accompanying each of the ‘Learn to Code’ books in Swift Playground is a multi-touch book that teachers can download. These provide a full curriculum to help with teaching using Swift Playground, complete with Keynote slides for each lesson.

All three of these apps show how iPad has really grown up as a platform for learning computational thinking.

iPad Wish List

The iPad has been around for 7 years now. It’s trajectory has been quite a mixed bag: stellar sales initially but a year-on-year declines since; aggressive uptake by schools at first but Chromebooks overtaking since in the US due to easier management and cheaper unit prices; 1:1 iPad making a transformative difference in some schools but being left to rot in others.

To be fair, recent developments with iPad have made a huge different and show promise for the platform in education. Apple School Manager, Managed Apple IDs and device assignment of apps make deploying iPads much easier, so long as you have an MDM that supports it. Classroom is very cool and makes teaching using iPad fun and in-control for the instructor. The 12.9″ iPad Pro is a great device for a teacher (if a little too big) and I’m definitely looking forward to the rumoured 10.5″ device. Collaboration tools in iWork are amazing and reliable and the creativity potential with iMovie and GarageBand are remarkable.

However, some parts of the iPad experience could definitely do with some loving attention from Apple. Here is my wish list:

  • iBooks Author on iPad. It feels like an abandoned piece of software on macOS, but it’s crazy that interactive multitouch books can’t be made on iOS. Book Creator is super simple and fun, but a more feature-rich equivalent would make a big difference.
  • Apple to support iPads with all of its websites. I hate how I have to VNC into a Mac to use Apple School Manager on an iPad and how icloud.com is  essentially inaccessible on iPad.
  • Xcode for iPad. I don’t develop apps, but it would definitely send a strong signal about the potential and direction of the platform if Apple released it. With Swift Playgrounds, maybe it’s already in the pipeline somewhere in the bunkers at Cupertino?
  • More aggressive feature parity with iWork between Mac and iPad. I like how all the new additions (like collaboration tools) come to both platforms, but there are quite a few glaring legacy omissions. Like editing print headers in Numbers. Or editing master slides in Keynote. Or highlighting text in tables in Pages.

Those are some of my wishes. What are yours?

Managing Change: the S-Curve

A few years ago I attended an Apple education event where a story was used to help us think about change management. We were invited to imagine that we were on a desert island, with another, better island in the distance. What sort of person were we? Were we the swimmer who immediately jumped into the water and started speeding off to the next island? Or were we the observer, standing on the shore with our binoculars and surveying the water for dangers, obstacles and perhap sharks? Or were we the flag-holder, someone who was going to stay put on the current island thank you very much and had no intention of going anywhere?

I would definitely say I was a swimmer, but it was interesting to discuss about the positives and negatives of each position and how all were important in managing change. Swimmers might get to new places quicker but could also get themselves into trouble. Observers are good at looking ahead and identifying possible problems and issues with a change, but can also be slow to actually take action. Flag-holders are good at championing the benefits of the status quo and questioning the genuine need for a change, although they can hold it back unnecessarily.

What was said next was the most fascinating though: to get to the island, what you really need is a boat. There needs to be a way that everyone can get across to the new island without leaving people behind. And sometimes you might need to burn the flag – staying behind and avoiding the change isn’t an option any more!

This way of thinking about managing change suggests a deep understanding of the Diffusion of Innovations theory (or S-curve). The S-curve theory is about the process of how new ideas, innovations and technology are adopted within a society or social group. It suggests that there are:

  1. Innovators – those who first invent or use a new technology or idea
  2. Early adopters – this who begin to use it more widely
  3. Early majority – a larger group who begin to also use the innovation
  4. Late majority – most of the remaining half of people who then accept the innnovation
  5. Laggards – those who relunctantly capitulate to the innovation, a significant amount of time after the innovators and early adopters

The theory can be applied to any new innovation in history, be it boiling water to sterilise and kill germs, the emergence of the motor car or using computers in school. Returning to the picture of the islands, perhaps the swimmer is the innovator and early adopter, the observer is the early and late majority, and the flag-holder is the laggard.

As someone who wants to see education transformed with (Apple) technology, this theory is really fascinating. Only a small proportion of teachers will adopt a new idea to begin with, but over time many, most and finally all will also adopt it too. I have found this with all of the changes I’ve sought to bring in school, be it with introducing Macs, teacher iPads, ditching Smartboards or going 1:1 iPad with kids or starting to use Slack. It takes time to introduce a change, but there is a critical point where a ‘boat’ is required to accelerate its adoption and give people an easy enough path to move from where they are into the new thing. There is also a point where the old approach and method needs to be decisively removed to enable everyone to move together.

 

Do teachers need a truck, or will a car do?

Steve Jobs said the following in an interview back in 2010:

“When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy… because the PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it changes. Vested interests are going to change. And, I think we’ve embarked on that change. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it be next year or five years? … We like to talk about the post-PC era, but when it really starts to happen, it’s uncomfortable.”

The traditional desktop/laptop PC (whether that’s a PC or Mac) is likened to truck, whereas mobile devices (iPads/tablet or even just smartphones) are the car. The argument is that, eventually, the ‘car’ will be enough for most people, with the ‘truck’ reserved for more specialist use.

In my school, every teacher has an iPad but also access to a Mac too. Teachers carry their iPads with them everywhere, using them to teach with (mirrored Explain Everything), check email/Slack, take and view photos, access web-based resources including our registers and data on Pupil Asset, as well as increasingly creating all manner of documents using iWork as well as other iPad educational apps such as Showbie/Seesaw/Tapestry. The question is, to what extent do they really need a Mac?

Admittedly, the embedded Mac workflow is to do planning on (horrific) Word documents overflowing with multi-cell tables that are then saved to the SMB shared drive. Plus, quite a few educational resources are doggedly stuck in the technological dark ages because they still require Flash (looking at you Mathletics!). Plus, people feel familiar and comfortable on a desktop, most not knowing or utilising the increasingly powerful productivity features of iPad.

But with Brexit 20% price hikes on Macs, and newest iPads nearly overtaking older Macs in terms of speed, have we reached that ‘Post-PC’ moment? Do teachers need a ‘truck’ to teach with, or can they be persuaded that a ‘car’ will more than do?

I have been #ipadonly since the beginning of this year, and kids at school since September, so it is certainly possible. With some training, some faster iPads, a switch to Google Drive, a few Smart Keyboards and some judicially placed Office365 licences, some teachers could be pusuaded to join me?

Slack: helping Teachers ‘be less busy’?

A few years ago, Julian Coultas recommended we tried using Slack at school. It’s basically a chat service for work, allowing users to easily and quickly communicate across the whole school team. You can pay for it, but the free option gives most of the functionality you would need. At that time, I knew it wouldn’t work because not everyone in the school had easy access to a computer. However, as we were making sure every member of staff had a computer from the beginning of this term (desktops for office staff, iPod Touch for Early Years and iPads for everyone else – teachers and TAs), I thought it was time to give it a try.

We’ve only been using it for a couple of months, but here’s some benefits I’ve seen:

  • I’m receiving and sending much less email internally. Much of that email was just letting people know things or having a conversation about a topic, all of which is easier in a ‘chat’ interface.
  • Slack’s organisational structure of open channels, private channels, individual direct messages and group direct messages means all communication comes ‘pre-filed’. For every email received, you have to decide whether to delete it, leave it in an inbox or file it away in a folder. With Slack, this decision has already been made by the sender.
  • Email, because it’s a bit like sending a letter, tends towards the more formal, insisting on a salutation and closing greeting. Short and to-the-point messages can come across rude. With Slack, short and concise messages are just informal and fun.
  • Sending emoji via email can be hit-and-miss whether the receiver can display it, whereas Slack loves emoji! This makes the communication that little bit more fun and light, something that the teaching profession could always benefit from.
  • With push notifications enabled, Slack can cut through the communication ‘noise’ of email. Because you choose what channels you want to be part of, and all communication is from within your team, every Slack message is potentially relevant and important and so worth a notification.
  • Email can have quite small attachment file size limits, whereas Slack allows for the sharing and resharing of all manner of files and media. It supports all the ‘Open In’ hooks in iOS too, which is nice.
  • The people at Slack seem like a really friendly bunch and have always been super helpful with any support issues.
  • Push notifications also make communication really instant. Our IT technician doesn’t have a walkie-talkie because sending a DM or posting to #ictfaults has just as quick a response!

There is a strong network effect with Slack – it only really works if everyone in your organisation is part of the team and has easy access to a computer device. But it seems to be working for us!

#deploy2016

For years I have really wanted to do a 1:1 iPad deployment in my school. Ever since we started getting sets of iPads in our school, they always tended towards one-per-child, with teachers combining smaller sets so that every pupil in a class could have one. When the original iPad mini came out in 2012, I put a proposal to my headteacher for us to roll out iPads across the whole school, which (thankfully, in hind-sight) wasn’t accepted. This was back in the days when syncing to iTunes was still a thing and we still had a creaky and patched together wifi network. It might have worked at scale in a 3-4 form Primary school, but I do doubt it.

Since then, we’ve been slowly increasing the number of iPads in the school and gradually embedding them into everyday practice, bringing us to the point where ‘going 1:1’ just seemed like the obvious next step. We just needed more devices so that the iPad could be a tool for learning whenever it was needed, rather than having to negotiate an hour slot once a day. After all, you don’t have to book out a class set of pencils – everyone gets one, whenever you need it!

With this in mind, our proposal for going 1:1 in KS2 was agreed, with the rollout at the beginning of this term. Here’s the process we went through…

Picking the device

We’ve been using iPad minis with children in our school for 3 years, and it’s been working well. The devices are small and light enough for children to easily carry and use, as well as not taking up loads of space on a desk when not required, and they’re also that little bit cheaper than a ‘normal’ sized iPad. The question was then about storage size and model. For the money we had to spend on a lease, we could get 32GB iPad mini 2s over 3 years, 16GB iPad mini 4s over 3 years or 64GB iPad mini 4s over 4 years. Having that slower processor of the mini 2 at this point felt it would feel pretty tired and old after 3 years, as probably would the mini 4 after 4 years. Admittedly, 16GB is pretty scrimpy for doing a 1:1, but with iCloud storage and uploading finished projects to Showbie, I feel like we can make it work. Hopefully! It’s not entirely ideal, but the best of the options.

Broadband Upgrade

We get our broadband at school through London Grid for Learning, which has a pan-London network with pipes from Virgin Media. In return for us signing up for so many more years, they’ve doubled our broadband speed to 200 Mb. The upgrade wasn’t entirely pain free as the increased bandwidth required an enormous new router, which barely/didn’t fit into our existing cabinets. Putting in a new cabinet involved re-patching all the cables, with occasional one popping out because the little clip had snapped off, resulting in “aargh, why doesn’t our network work!” panics.

Having a bigger pipe coming into the school can only help, particularly we significantly increasing the number of devices in the school.

Caching Server

OSX Server has a featured called Caching Server, which basically keeps a copy of any and every app that is downloaded on the network for iOS and OSX and then serves it up the any device that then subsequently wants it. This dramatically speeds up app download speeds and reduces pressure on your broadband connection. Which is nice. It even works in weird networks like ours, where our school is buried deep within LGfL’s network.

However, we only had caching server on one machine, meaning one of our sites was cache-less and the other site had to share one cache with lots of devices. So we got Toucan Computing to install a couple of other Mac servers for good measure.

802.11ac WiFi

The iPad mini 4 comes with faster radios, supporting 802.11ac wifi. Our existing wifi installation was the 802.11N Unifi from Ubiquiti, which allows you to add as many access points as you want without additional licence fees for the controller, which can run on a Mac/PC/Linux box somewhere. They mount nicely on ceiling tiles or walls and can be powered via PoE (Power over Ethernet). They now have an ‘ac’ model, so we swapped in newer access points for the classrooms having 1:1 iPads. So far they seem to be managing perfectly fine with 30+ devices per access point, with faster download speeds as well.

Storage Cabinets

Because we’re not sending the devices home, we needed an easy and secure way to store and charge iPads. Three years ago, lots of people sold ridiculously expensive cabinets that could USB sync your iPads with iTunes. However, I wonderfully stumbled across these cabinets from Zioxi (formerly ISIS, who have since changed their name as the innocent river flowing through Oxford has inherited some other connotations). The trolleys are basically some shelves for each iPad with some power strips to plug in the USB power adaptors.

I’ve found that teachers are notoriously bad at remembering to lock up cabinets, so we opted for ones with digital code locks, making the locking process a lot easier. It seems to be helping!

Apple School Manager

The thought of manually creating 450 Apple IDs made me feel ill at the thought, so thankfully Apple have now released Apple School Manager where you can, amongst other things, create Apple IDs that are managed by the school. These accounts can be reset by the school, as well as inspected for their contents at any time. They also strip out anything to do with commerce on the account, which means no buying apps or in-app purchases. This might make you wonder what the use of them is, especially as apps can now be assigned to devices by the MDM. It’s basically for iCloud backup, plus the ability to accept distributed e-books and enroll on iTunes U courses (with a caveat – read carefully!).

Apple School Manager is an attempt to unify all of the different systems such as Volume Purchase and Device Enrollment. It does work, but still feels a bit like a work in progress.

The dream of Apple School Manager is that it will sync seamlessly with your student information system (SIS), automatically populating your MDM and iTunes U with classes, teachers, courses and the correct students. Our SIS isn’t supported, so we instead have to download 6 CSV templates, complete them with the relevant information and upload it back to Apple via an SFTP address. It was rather fiddly (not helped by the fact that LGFL blocked SFTP traffic to begin with) to set up, and requires some careful reading of their support information, but I got it working in the end. You are supposed to be able to set the passcode requirements (normal alphanumeric, 6-digit or 4-digit) from the CSV file, but that didn’t work for me so I had to manually reset all the account passwords after importing.

Once the Managed Apple IDs are created, you then print them out (either full page or many to a page) and give them to children to enter when setting up their ipads. They have a temporary password that the user then as to change during the setup process. One annoyance was that there was no way to filter or sort by class, only by year group, meaning I had to manually sort a big pile of login sheets into each of the four classes in year group. Hey ho.

Casper Suite

We moved from Meraki to Casper Suite as our MDM last year, and I do not think we could have done a 1:1 programme without it! Amongst its many benefits, it allows us to have our own internal ‘App Store’, through their Self Service app. Students can then browse and download the apps they they need from a pre-selected list without the need for an Apple ID or using the App Store.

Roll Out

With all of this planning and prep, and all the features that Apple released in iOS 9.3, we were able to roll out 15 classes of iPads in just 4 days, with children themselves tapping through the set up process and entering their Managed Apple IDs etc. It really was remarkably straightforward!

ADE Global Institute #ade2016

At the end of July, I had the privilege of attending the ADE Global Institute in Berlin for four days of jam-packed professional Development. The Apple Distinguished Educator programme has a new intake every two years, with me joining last year as part of the ‘Class of 2015’. In the intervening years, they run what is called the ‘Global’ Institute, where nearly 400 ADEs from around the world gather together for a week. In order to attend the Global Institute, existing ADEs have to submit a two-minute video demonstrating what they’ve been up to for the last few years and how they’re sharing that wider. After spending a half term in February cobbling together a video about how we use Explain Everything and Showbie at my school, I was surprised but pleased to secure a place.

Here are some highlights for me from the four days:

Meeting Apple people

On the first day, we had product demos from the Product Managers of things like Keynote, GarageBand and Final Cut Pro X. It was inspiring to learn tips and tricks from people who know the apps inside out and to then think of ways that could be used in the classroom. I was particularly blown away by the new ‘Live Loops’ feature of Garageband, which allows for the easy creation of electronic dance music through arranging and triggering loops. There’s a great GarageBand for iOS Starter Guide that walks you through all this, which is well worth a look.

What was particularly cool was that you could then talk further with these guys over lunch, rather than just listening to a workshop. All the Apple people were really keen on hearing our feedback on products as educators, and I didn’t hold back coming forwards (basically, keep porting OSX stuff to iOS – iBooks Author I’m looking at you!)… Trying out Apple School Manager for the first time and then being able to fire questions at various Apple engineer people was very helpful!

Meeting old ADE friends and new

It was really great to catch up with ADEs from last year’s Institute and also meet face-to-face people that I had been in touch with via the online ADE community but had never met in person. I also met lots of new ADEs and was inspired by hearing people’s stories a bit more. In a world of digital community, it was really refreshing for the effort and time to be given for people to meet in person. The ADE community wouldn’t be what it is if it didn’t gather together at different times.

Day trip to Berlin

On the Wednesday, we were all sent off around Berlin to explore the city and go on a learning adventure ourselves. My little group went for an open-top bus tour, taking us around places such as Checkpoint Charlie and other parts of East Berlin. It was a fascinating insight into the history, and sobering to remember how different things were in Europe not so many years ago.

Running a workshop

An ADE friend Benji and I got to deliver a workshop during the Institute, looking at managing Macs and iPads on a budget. It was not hugely well attended (7 people?), but it was fun to do and hopefully helpful to those attending.

ADE Showcases

At some point every day, 12 or so ADEs presented what they were doing in their educational setting, with a strict 3 minute time limit (complete with countdown timer) to do it in. This was always inspirational, but I was particularly stuck by the ADEs who were using the accessibility features on an iPad to really help out those with physical or learning difficulties. At my school we have some iPads assigned to children with SEND, but I know there is much more that I could be doing in this area.

Sketch-noting

After taking up sketch-noting last year, it was fun to return to an Institute armed with an Apple Pencil and an iPad Pro. The Pencil really does make a huge difference, as does the larger canvas of the 12.9″ iPad Pro, and I certainly enjoyed capturing and processing my learning in that way.

Looking back at my comments after the 2015 Institute, it certainly made an impact on the last academic year. I’m looking forward to the year ahead!

 

Thoughts on iPad Pro

So, I’ve now got an iPad Pro (the 12.9″ version). Here’s my thoughts:

  • It’s really big. Like, “Why have you got such a big iPad?” big, or: “What is that?” It’s bigger in footprint than an 11″ MacBook Air or the infamous 12″ MacBook.
  • The really big size makes split screen multitasking really great. You can fit two apps side by side as if you had two ‘normal’ iPads stuck together.
  • Lots of screen estate means a bigger keyboard whilst still having lots of space still on screen. The bigger keyboard has a dedicated number row that is always present, which means I hardly ever have to go to a second symbols keyboard. This is nice.
  • Being so big makes it a little ungainly in the more portable settings, which is probably where most teachers use an iPad. I sometimes feel a little ridiculous carrying it round or pulling it out in meetings.
  • Using it for sitting at a desk and doing ‘proper’ work is nice. It’s just such a big canvas and you don’t feel cramped working on it for an extended period of time.
  • The Apple Pencil writes really nicely. It’s a million miles away from something like the Paper53 Pencil and from any other capacitive stylus I’ve used.
  • The STM case I have (well, ‘shell’, as I still need a Smart Cover) has a handy slot for putting the Apple Pencil in. This is super handy, but the downside is that, because it’s always so close to the iPad, the Pencil’s battery gets drained super quick even though I’m not using it. The only solution I’ve found to that is to turn Bluetooth off on the iPad when not using the Pencil. Or just not to carry the Pencil in the slot.
  • 128gb is very handy. I no longer have to continually juggle storage, which makes it feel much more like a main computer.
  • The speakers are indeed nice and loud.
  • I haven’t used the Smart Keyboard with it, but I have played around with the keyboard on a 9.7″ iPad Pro. I imagine that cmd+tab switching is jolly handy, and so is having cursor keys. I’m not sure the the complex foldy nature of the Smart Keyboard would help with portability on the 12.9″!
  • I do like living in iOS land. Going back to a Mac for various tasks just seems so complicated and old-fashioned: OSX does need way more babysitting than iOS!

I’m not convinced the 12.9″ is the perfect computer for a teacher, mainly because it’s just that bit too big to easy carry around. So maybe the 9.7″ iPad Pro is + Smart Keyboard + Apple Pencil is. If I’m asking teachers to not use a Mac, a hardware keyboard is probably needed at some level.

The original iPad felt a bit like the jump from Apple ][ to Macintosh (not that I was around to remember it…!). In order to make  radical shift to something new, the old was jettisoned: no command line, no cursor keys. But if you look at OSX now, those things are there again. With iPad, the physical keyboard (with its cursors) and the mouse pointer were gone. But in the iPad Pro they’re back: Smart Keyboard (with cursor keys) and two finger cursor for editing (iOS 9 feature).

The post-PC age has been heralded for over half a decade, but (despite falling iPad sales), I do think it’s really starting to arrive with iPad Pro.

#iPadOnly

Since the arrival of the iPad Pro in Autumn of last year, there’s been a bit of a meme on the Interweb about ditching the MacBook and going ‘iPad Only’. We’re going 1:1 iPad with our KS2 children from September, where we’re basically requiring children to use iOS as their main computing platform, so maybe I need to see what that’s like too.

Before jumping in and getting an iPad Pro, I wanted to see if it really was possible to do ‘normal’ life as a teacher just using an iPad. So for the last few months I have almost entirely run my school life off my trusty iPad Air. Here’s what I’ve found…

Things I’ve liked:

  • Having everything in one place, meaning I can do all of my work anywhere where I have my iPad. A MacBook Pro is so heavy and bulky in comparison!
  • Instant-on, so no waiting for slow hard drives or boot up times.
  • The adventure of discovering the potential of iOS. With features such as Document Providers, Slide Over and Picture-in-Picture, iOS really is more and more suitable for ‘real work’.

Apps I’ve found useful

  • PDF to Images is a little app that converts, well, PDFs to images. Handy for making some Apple TV screensaver Flickr slideshows using Keynote!
  • Documents 5 is such an essential app. It provides a file system that you can open documents into, which can then be served up in other places (like in Safari) as a document provider.
  • Word allows you to view .docx files with reliable fidelity. It doesn’t fully play nicely with the iOS world (for example, not supporting ‘Open In’ for files), but is great if you need to view/print/edit Word documents properly.
  • Screens VNC is a Mac remote access app. I’ve been using this to remote into our Mac server if I ever need to do something I haven’t yet figured out how to do on iOS.

So, having basically survived quite well on only an iPad for quite a while, why not just stick with an iPad Air?

  1. So an iPad really can replace a Mac for me. Split screen multitasking, and just having a bigger screen, make jobs like copying data from websites to spreadsheets easier rather than a fiddly and laborious process.
  2. So teachers can see that an iPad could replace a Mac for them too. With Apple Pencil support and a bigger screen, scribing and modelling handwriting becomes a reality.

 

Choosing the device

We’re considering going 1:1 iPad with our KS2 children from September, but the question is about which particular model to go for.  We’ve been using iPad mini with children for the last three years now, and it hit the sweet spot in terms of its size, price and weight. To go 1:1, we’ll be looking at an operational lease, but there is a bit of a tough choice to make about the exact model for the budget we have. Here’s a table to explain the problem…

iPad Model Storage Lease length Positives Negatives
iPad mini 2 32GB  3 years  + Good amount of storage  – Older hardware so will feel old at end of lease
iPad mini 4 16GB  3 years  + Fast hardware  – Storage space will fill up quickly
iPad mini 4 64GB  4 years  + Fast hardware
+ Great amount of storage
– Can hardware last four years?

Perhaps, when it’s presented like that, the solution is obvious?