Apple iPads are continuing to gain traction as a 21st century classroom technology that assists and enables the teaching process. The feedback we hear again and again from teachers is that it is unique and valuable tool that helps to engage students. With this trend in mind, here are our current purchase recommendations for K through 12th grade classrooms that are moving in this direction.
Based on the features and capabilities of the current line of iPads available from Apple, (http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_ipad/compare) we recommend purchasing the iPad with the Retina Display, 16 GB Wi-Fi only, in white or black, priced at $ 499.00.* The primary advantages of this model are:
- The newer, Retina display which offers improved graphics capability
- Larger size supporting more screen content
- Faster processor with quad core graphics to support the Retina display
While the iPad mini is a possible alternative ($ 329.00* with 16 GB and Wi-Fi in white or black), in our opinion the larger Retina display gives the recommended iPad additional utility and makes it a better overall value and a better longer term choice. There are also options to increase the storage capacity and to add 3G/Cellular access. While this may make sense in certain situations, the additional costs are an obvious drawback.
* Pricing: By qualifying for an Educational Account and purchasing directly from Apple, educational institutions can order the iPads directly from Apple and will not be charged sales tax.
Which iPad Accessories?
To help protect the iPads, at a minimum we recommend purchasing the following third party accessories for each iPad:
Non-slip snap-on plastic back case – The back case makes the iPad “less slippery” to hold and provides some protection against damage to the back and corners of the iPad if it is dropped. Back cases for the recommended iPads cost about $ 6.00 or less.
Screen protector – Provides scratch and fingerprint protection. The protectors for the recommended iPads costs run about $ 4.00 for a pack of two.
A range of alternative or additional accessories such as smart covers, portfolio cases, power and other adapters are available directly from Apple as well as other third party suppliers.
In addition to the pre-installed applications (apps), there is a vast selection of applications available to teachers at all grade levels. Many applications are available at no cost or at a very nominal cost. Based on our experience, we offer the following recommendations:
1. Allow the teachers to find the apps they like and will use. The approach we prefer is to encourage the teachers to explore the Apps store and other online teacher resource sites to find apps of interest to them.
2. As a starting point, configure all of the iPads to use one shared Apple ID account. This will allow the teachers to share and take advantage of the applications they and other teachers discover. By tying the iPads to the same account, most of the applications can then be installed on the other iPads associated with the account at no additional cost (some restrictions from Apple and third parties apply).
3. Secure and connect a pre-purchased credit card to the Apple ID referenced in the previous item. An initial value of from $ 300 to $ 500 is suggested.
4. AirServer – One specific App that we recommend for teachers with iPads that also have a PC in their classroom connected to an LCD projector is AirServer. Once the app is installed and configured on each PC, content displayed on an iPad connected wirelessly to a particular PC through the network can be displayed on the PC and as well as on the LCD projector connected to the PC. This solution requires Wi-Fi connectivity and sufficient bandwidth from the iPad to the network and then to the PC to operate. The App costs $ 4.00 per PC based on Teacher/Student pricing (www.AirServerApp.com ).
Training is an important element that should not be overlooked as a part of the deployment process. Based on our experience, we recommend:
Initial training – An initial training session, typically 90 minutes to no more than two hours, to introduce the iPads, their operation, the supporting infrastructure and the purchase and use of various Apps. Regardless of the range of experience of the participants (current iPad owners/users to novices), the training is worthwhile.
Post launch training – At a point several months after the initial deployment, a follow-up session focused on specific issues that have come up as well as questions related to “where do we go from here?” is very beneficial.
Tailoring A Solution to Meet Your Unique Needs
Of course, the above recommendations are general in nature and may or may not apply to your unique situation.