Last week we posted a review by CORE's IT Manager, that was published in the NZ Herald, on his experience with the new iPad mini. Over the last week or so, we sent out one of our e-learning facilitators, Tania Coutts to check out what teachers and students thought about the iPad mini experience. Here's the results.
The new iPad mini—described by Apple as ‘Every inch an iPad’, but is it?
Like many other Apple enthusiasts, I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this product and ‘sitting on the fence’ with my thinking. I jumped at the chance to trial one, and over the last few weeks have had the opportunity to observe the iPad mini in the hands of students in Whangarei primary schools and Early Childhood centres. I have listened in on their conversations, and questioned their thinking. I have enjoyed robust professional discussions with teachers as we reflected on the differences, the similarities, and the reasons why, or why not for the iPad mini.
So, my conclusion…
As with any teaching ‘tool’ there will never be a ‘one-siz- fit- all’ model, and the iPad mini does not appear to be any exception. I am absolutely positive some that have ‘touched’ the iPad mini over the last couple of weeks have been wooed instantly by it’s magic, and will be eagerly awaiting a delivery from Santa. Others have already made the decision that they are sticking with the iPad and there would be no reason to purchase an iPad mini.
Of particular interest was one Whangarei teacher's reaction—as he was walking into the staff room, I let him know I had an iPad mini for him to check out. His initial look said it all—wasn’t at all interested, and his exact words were ‘Why would you?’ But, not being able to resist the temptation to look, he headed over, and I passed him the iPad mini. He sat down, nestling the iPad mini into his hands—it was love at first touch! He was sold. There is something about the way Apple make their products that makes it feel just right…
The reaction of students was also varied. Our younger ECE students weren’t at all phased—for them, size didn’t matter at all, it was all about what it could do for them. It was definitely ‘the whole package in a smaller package’ for them. What I noticed, however, was the ease in which they could manipulate the iPad mini. One of the main purposes of utilising an iPad in an Early Childhood centre is to engage children in literacy experiences. This may include documenting their learning and creating digital stories. Both of these require taking photos, recording their voice, and or typing their words. The iPad mini seemed to be the perfect size for their small hands—they could hold it with ease, and didn’t have to juggle with moving to manipulate the buttons, as I often see them doing with the iPad. There didn’t appear to be any less collaboration happening because of the smaller size, which is something I was concerned about.
In the primary school context, students were very excited to get their hands on the iPad mini—the advertising hype playing more of a role in their expectations. To get their true view I decided on the PMI approach—using four well-known apps, the students, in groups of four, used both the iPad and the iPad mini to compare the pluses and minuses and think about what was interesting.
Plus (iPad mini)
- The camera takes way better photos—when you enlarge the photos in the pic collage app they are really clear and when you print it out it looks way better.
- It is way easier to take photos with, it is better to hold and click the camera button without having to shuffle your hands.
- It is easier to type on—you can hold in your hands and type with your thumbs really quickly.
- It is lots lighter and easier to hold.
- Not as easy to play collaborative math games together—it seemed a bit squishy when all four of us were trying to have our turns
- It would be way easier to carry to school, it is heaps lighter!
- If I could take a iPad to school – the iPad mini would be awesome.
- It would be good to have a mixture in class of iPod touches, iPad minis and iPads
- The iPad seems big and clumsy after holding an iPad mini!
For me, there weren’t many surprises in their feedback. It seemed clear as they were exploring they were going to favour the iPad mini—perhaps the only reason being that it was newer, and as one student said, ‘shinier’. I was most impressed with their thinking that, actually, a mixture of devices would be good. It is very clear that students, when given the opportunity, will pick the right tool to fit the purpose needed to support their learning.
As with any new device, there will be those who jump in boots and all and line up for hours to be the first to own one, and those who sit back and wait quietly to see if it's worth jumping for. As an educator, making a decision about whether to ‘jump in’ with any device, requires research. We know it’s not about the size, it’s not about the shininess, or even how many apps it can hold. It all really comes down to researching how the chosen device will support teaching and learning. How will it engage and motivate our students to learn, to create, to use their imagination, to foster independence, to collaborate and connect with others, and to share their learning with the wider world.
It is important that we continue to collaborate and share our thoughts as educators. Conversation around the iPad mini has started on the Virtual Learning Network. We would love others to join us in this discussion and look forward to hearing your thoughts.
On a personal note, as an avid reader and online learner, I am hoping Santa will bring me an iPad mini—I am impressed with the size, the clarity of the display, and the feel. I can just imagine myself relaxing in the shade of a tree reading a good book, having the option to check out twitter, catch up on the news online, and jump up every now and again to take a photo of my kids enjoying the Northland summer. :-)
We welcome your comments and questions below.
Latest posts by Tania Coutts (see all)
- ‘An invitation to play’ - November 9, 2016
- Bringing imaginative stories to life in Northland schools - February 2, 2016
- Google Apps as a platform for student and teacher inquiry - May 27, 2014