So it’s here. The eagerly anticipated iPad Pro was launched earlier this week in San Francisco. As technological design goes, as with most things with Apple, it is a thing of beauty. Upon seeing it, I became a seagull from ‘Finding Nemo’, saying to myself, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”. I simply can’t wait to get my hands on one. As an educator however my thoughts are rather mixed.
When I first started researching mobile learning in the classroom, five or so years ago, I was as far removed from being an Apple fan boy as Bill Gates. Since then my outlook has changed considerably. As an educator, when I compare the offer across the platforms, Apple still have the edge for me. The heritage. The security. The operating system. All of it. It just works. That’s not to say that the other devices don’t have a place, it’s just that if you are going to do something well, in my opinion it’s worth doing it really well.
This comes down to far more than just technology. It’s about the learning. Pedagogy is the driver. Technology is the accelerator. As someone with more than a decade’s experience of innovative use of Microsoft product in the classroom, I asked many questions and made many generalising statements of the iPad when I first started my research. Where’s the keyboard? How do I log on? How do you work with such a small screen?! Where can I plug my USB stick into? How on earth am I supposed to complete anything on this?!
Needless to say my viewpoint has changed considerably. Not just from my own personal experience but from student voice, parent voice and from colleagues; not just in my school but from all over the world. App innovations, developments such as Air Drop, massively improved connectivity in schools and other moves forward have made the iPad the raging success that it has been. For me this has been largely due to how the iPad expertly facilitates creativity in the classroom. The iPad was always meant to be used as a personal device. iPad trolleys in the most part, primarily serve (in my experience although not always) lower order activities, mostly because of how sending work using an iPad through wifi is such a time consuming activity. I realise it doesn’t take a very long time but logging in and out of apps to facilitate workflow can take ten or so minutes to complete and ten or so minutes in a lesson can often equate to 20% of the lesson which is not a good use of learning time.
So what has this got to do with the iPad Pro? The iPad Pro has a beautifully large screen. It boasts 3 times the audio power of the iPad Air 2. It is significantly faster. The new iOS9 supports multi tasking. The resolution is better than you find on a Macbook Pro Retina. It has a smart connector which facilitates connectivity to a beautiful keyboard. It even comes with features that support the superbly technologically advanced Apple Pencil.
The iPad Pro addresses for me, many of the issues and questions I had all those years ago. As a lover of all things Apple, when it comes to the iPad Pro I am 80% want and 20% need. You see, it could be said, the iPad Pro is about 4 years too late.
I understand that technology wasn’t significantly advanced enough to produce this thing of beauty 4 years ago however it is my assertion that schools have addressed the issues (for the most part) that I mentioned earlier. Schools have evolved. They have developed innovative one to one handy BYOD programmes. They have taken on and run with MDM solutions. They have multi-device environments whereby if they need a device for a keyboard, they still have a few dedicated labs or Chromebook / laptops that can be used where necessary. Succinctly put, where is the niche for iPad Pro in education now?
I think it can have a place. The iPad Pro, at first glance, would be what many see as the very epitome of Apple arrogance in action. But it’s not. It’s goes deeper than that. If you look beyond the self-celebratory glamour, you find what can only be described as something that will go down in technological history as one of the greatest advances of our generation; the pinnacle of innovation and vision. It brings together all of those compromises that schools have developed over the years and makes them effectively redundant. It will, without shadow of a doubt, help to shape our future. I think it can and will have an impact on learning. I think Apple have cornered yet another niche in the education market. The iPad Pro is a great personal device for professionals, sure, there’s a clue in it’s name. In the classroom though the iPad Pro makes for a fantastic collaboration device. The screen is big enough for multiple students to work around, the operating system facilitates multi touch. The resolution is such that students working collaboratively, will be able to access the information on screen. The list goes on…
Of course the iPad Pro isn’t the only device to have a big screen. Let’s not forget the Galaxy tab or the Microsoft Surface. The thing is though despite some pretty cool innovations over at Microsoft, especially the forthcoming Class Dashboard, a Windows tablet is still a Windows tablet. It does have a space in education. They wouldn’t have sold as many units as they have if it didn’t. Some educators still work in a world where their workflows and skills lie in that ecosystem. And that is fine.
Never let it be said that I would dictate what choices a school makes with regards to its technology purchases. That is their decision to make. And an informed decision, taking on board the views of all stakeholders and what technology is available is (nearly) always a good decision. It’s just for me, the Surface doesn’t compare to the iPad Pro. An alternative viewpoint here says that the Surface is the productivity device. I would argue the iPad Pro is the collaboration and learning device whilst using the physical object. Whilst on the surface (no pun intended) they look like very similar devices, they couldn’t be much further apart. I think this goes in many ways to why Apple felt comfortable enough to invite Microsoft onto the stage at the launch event. It’s like baseball and basketball. They might have balls in common but they’re two completely different games.
The power of the iPad in education hasn’t come from Apple, it’s come from the creativity of the users and the developers; these people who have taken the power of the device and turned it into something amazing! iPads in education is one thing, but it’s not often the iPad that educators talk about. It’s the Apps and the iPad is pivotal to that innovation. Much more conversation happens about learning with technology around pedagogy and the Apps that support it. We read more about the sketchnotes from Paper or the screencasts from Explain Everything or the publishing of authentic books by children using Book Creator or how we learned about our world using augmented reality. As I said earlier in this post pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator. And yet again, Apple have provided the hub for the innovation that can drive all of this forward.
The iPad Pro in the classroom is not a personal device. It’s a device for learning. It’s a device for sharing. It’s a device for collaboration. It’s a device for creativity. In the Primary education space it’s the device that teachers will want their pupils to use together around the table where they can then share their work through innovations such as AirDrop to their iPad Minis. In Secondary schools and in FE it’s the device that STEM and Creatives subject teachers will want their students to use for practical, real-life scenarios. Of course, it is a flagship product and after all it is 80% want and 20% need, especially with that price tag. But as an educator, boy do I want one!