iPad Mini – A Teacher’s Perspective

The iPad Mini is very light. It has the same operating system as the iPad and is compatible with all the apps. The screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio, but it isn’t retina, and it will set you back around £300 depending on your chosen model.

Right that’s the techy part out of the way – what about learning?

Firstly, if I wanted a device to ‘present’ with at the front of the class, then the iPad mini would be my number one choice. It is so light and effortless to use that swiping form resource to resource or annotating whilst speaking is incredibly easy. Coupled with AppleTV it is very powerful for those educators who ‘deliver’ lessons to their students. It is so fit for purpose that I can see the majority of presentations facilitated by the iPad Mini in coming months. However, I don’t believe tablet use in the classroom should be driven by the ability to deliver content.

The didatic environment is not where the tablet thrives. The most desirable model is 1:1 where every student has access to a device for creation and discovery. Allowing the device to enhance learning by supporting an atmosphere of collaboration and challenge is where educators feel most comfortable with the new technology. So does the iPad Mini fit into this model?

If I’m honest I would say no!!!

This doesn’t mean that the iPad Mini isn’t suitable for the classroom. Indeed I can see many schools opting for this cheaper alternative to the iPad for 1:1 schemes. It will still allow the students to ‘consume’ information and carry out every task they would on an iPad. But it it isn’t the best tool for the job.

The screen is too small for the type of activities that are now common in iPad classrooms. Annotating on an interactive whiteboard and adding text to pictures leads to ‘pinch zoom’ becoming common place. I have often found myself zooming in to check detail on the iPad Mini and the thought of doing this in lessons day after day would not fill me with joy. Editing movies and documents is also a little more difficult and yet viewing the final product is excellent due to the 4:3 aspect ratio.

The iPad Mini might be better suited to a shared device environment, where the tablet is used to collaborate and inform, before being stored back in the cart. The lightweight portability and excellent functionality would make it the choice of many schools looking to provide access to an iPad. Here the reduced cost is also a factor as the shared device is so much less personal that sometimes they are not treated with as much care.

As an aside it is interesting to note that the iOS operating system is playing a huge part in the success of the iPad. The fact you can do everything with iOS and the iPad Mini should not be ignored. If I was in a more mobile profession with plenty of commuter miles to endure then I could see the iPad Mini being my tool of choice. Indeed if money was no object I would like the iPad for the creation of resources and the iPad Mini for lesson time – I’m not sure my Head-teacher reads this? I can but hope . . . .

In terms of learning I would still recommend the iPad for the simple reason I wouldn’t want the hardware to present any barriers. My students are always creating on an iPad and I was interested how they found the iPad Mini compared to their experience with the larger device. When asked about the iPad Mini, students suggested they liked how ‘cool’ it looked and that movies would be good to watch on it. However, they didn’t seem so enamoured with the one finger typing and the reduced screen size when editing their work.

The difference in cost between the iPad Mini and an iPad2 is approximately £50 and as such I would suggest plumping for the larger device. An iPad Mini with a retina display may make the screen size less of an issue but I still doubt it would be the best tool for the job. Inevitably we will see the iPad Mini appear in school as our students have the option to bring their own device. It will be interesting to see if long term use changes opinion.

If you are using an iPad/iPad Mini or any other tablet I would be very interested to hear your opinion.

About Daniel Edwards
Director of Innovation & Learning at the Stephen Perse Foundation schools, Cambridge, UK (stephenperse.com). Interested in global connectivity for all and risk taking in education. Keen to discuss all aspects of learning and digital strategy. Also @syded06 on twitter.

65 Responses to iPad Mini – A Teacher’s Perspective

  1. Pingback: iPad Mini – A Teacher’s Perspective | iPad in Education! | Scoop.it

  2. As a teacher, I’m using the iPad (now the mini one) as my main computer. And in my humble opinion, the mini is the best iPad ever made. How it is amazing to type my IWork documents on the go as recording my lectures thanks to GarageBand. I can’t wait to see how my students will use it : today they are using iPod touches. You’d be surprise how they are working with such tiny screens!
    If you’re enough French friendly you can download my book about using iPad for teachers (Just type Ghislain Dominé in the search field in the iBookstore).

    Best regards, @Lannoy29

  3. Cherrylkd says:

    I’m a teacher in a special school and all of my students have 1:1 technology. Some have iPads, some have note books, some have ipod touches and others have pcs. The iPads are in use for non verbal children or those with severe physical disabilities. We are able to attach them to wheelchairs and tables and have key guards for those with shakey hands. We have also been able to purchase thick rubber surrounds for children who throw them. Of all the tech we have the ipad is the most versatile. There are also many apps available for children with learning difficulties and non verbal children. The iPod touches are far too small for the vast majority of our students. That’s the reason why I was curious to gather your thoughts on the ipad mini. 50 pounds is not a great saving but it has to be considered. I may ask if we can purchase a couple to try out. Thank you for sharing your information.

  4. Pingback: iPad Mini – A Teacher’s Perspective | Classrooms and schools are for 21st century learners | Scoop.it

  5. Mat Pullen says:

    You know my opinion Dan, still think it maes a bigger difference to be lighter and slightly more portable, I can still create work on it, but then I started out doing all my digital innovation on my iPhone so maybe that’s just what I’m used to.

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  9. Great article Daniel! I hope you don’t mind, I linked it my latest post on teachingwithipad.org

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  12. sM3e (@sM3e) says:

    I myself am writing this reply from an iPad mini and I have to say it truly is a wonderful creation!
    The size of the original iPad really turned me off, I already have a MacBook Air and the size difference is barely noticeable yet the difference in application is huge.
    When the iPad mini was announced was the first time I really got excited about the prospector having a tablet as my daily machine. I have the full iWork Suite and I also have FileBrowser which gives me access to my home drive and shared network drives from within school (very useful)
    The portability of the iPad Mini is where it really excels. I arranged a Skype Call during a Ex Year 11 Celebration evening from our old librarian (now in Vietnam) and I used Airplay Mirroring and the Reflection App on my desktop to share the screen and sound onto the projector in the Hall and PA system (no Apple TV needed here or a multitude of connectors to convert HDMI to VGA and Audio) this then meant we could pass the iPad Mini around the hall and students have one on one Skype that is also displayed on the big screen for all to see. This showcase of modern technology was not only fantastic to witness but bought tears to students eyes and made our old librarian very homesick.
    I have used the iPad Mini to edit websites using Coda Lite, access my desktop machine using iTeleport and annotate PDF Files during meetings where everyone else sits with reams of paper. Holding it in one had is a real dream and I cannot wait to test out many of my other classroom ideas for such a device and try and get more into our school.

  13. Pingback: iPad Mini – A Teacher’s Perspective | Go Go Learning | Scoop.it

  14. clarkcsc3 says:

    Great information here, and I love the honesty. I’m now a more informed consumer, and will take all into consideration when deciding what devices to get.


  15. Christian Rene Friborg says:

    Screen is too small. Aside from this, it is ill-equipped USB port standard that will be very difficult to transfer data from your laptop to the iPad. It doesn’t even have memory card slot.

    • I think the point of this post was to compare the original iPad with the mini. Neither have the memory card slot, and there are several ways to transfer data quite easily. For one, all you need to do is plug in your iPad to the computer and grab the files through iTunes. If you are on a public computer that doesn’t have iTunes, I would recommend trying Dropbox. Dropbox has an iOS app that is extremely useful, and you can access your documents almost anywhere.

    • The 30-pin connection (or the Lightning connector in the newer iPads) has EVERYTHING built in: USB, hdmi, VGA, card reader possibilities, toy name it. You just need to heave the right adapter, and on sites like dx.com you can by a 5-1 adapter for £10,- which let you read USB cameras and several types of card readers.
      So I don’t see the problem here. On other tablets there’re several different connectors (which attributes to an increased size of the tablet) and they’re not nearly as versatile… try to attach a VGA projector to these hdmi-equipped projectors: that’ll cost you at least £50,-, for the signal needs to be converted to an analog signal.

      And lately I discovered that a lot of USB (condensator) microphones also can connect to the iPad, using a USB-adapter. Just make sure you choose the right one (I already had the Samson C01u, which appeared to work perfectly). Ideal for Flipping the Classroom projects, if you want better audio quality. (Just make sure you had GarageBand, since that’s the only app you can use to adjust the microphone’s gain).

      So, in my opinion, people should appreciate the Apple connector more: it makes the iPad mini as small as it can be, while making it possible to attach a wide array of accessories: just with one connector!

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  22. Very interesting article. We have purchased an iPad mini to try it, so we can decide if you it be a good substitute for the iPad are now using our secondary students. Thank you!

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  29. Amy Archer says:

    Mr. Edwards,
    Hi! My name is Amy Archer. I am a student at The University of South Alabama. I am currently taking Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 Course where we learn to incorporate technology into teaching.
    Your input on the iPad Mini is a great resource for me! I have actually been curious as to how useful the iPad Mini would be in the classroom because it is less expensive. However, with your input I see that it would better for me to invest in an iPad because of the typing.
    I am wondering though if you have used one of the new tablets created by Windows? Would these be in any way comparable to an iPad? I was just curious because I know that these tablets would be more affordable for the public school system.
    Once again, thanks for your advice!
    Amy Archer

  30. Pingback: iPad Mini – A Teacher’s Perspective | Dragon E-learning

  31. Mike says:

    This discussion has been very enlightening, even if I am still torn on whether to exchange my recent purchase. I am writing this on my new iPad Mini. Print size in Evernote is small on the iPad Mini, which is my go-to note-taking app and storage solution. Of course, I’m use to iPhone note-taking. But the reason for the purchase of iPad Mini was two-fold: iPad was too heavy and large for thumb typing; and the tiny iPhone screen made editing large notes, such as articles or blogs, a scrolling absurdity. The form factor of the iPad Mini is key to me as it facilitates holding the device comfortably and it increases the screen size to see a “page” of what you are typing. Fact is the print size issue is not insurmountable with my drugstore reading glasses on–I’m dealing fairly well with the small print now typing in this comment box. Lastly, if you move up to iPad 2, 3, + size you might as well carry about a MacBook Air, especially since a laptop has better features for inputting and working with data. OS is better than iOS.

    My conclusion is that IPad Mini is the bridge between iPhone and MacBook Air. iPad is just to unwieldy and crippled by iOS compared to a full featured OS. For the improved user experience, I can forgive the fact that iPad Mini is a big iPhone. I can’t justify a really big iPhone, like iPad.

  32. Adam Wolf says:

    Hi there, great post. I wanted to add that one-finger typing on the iPad mini is not by any means the only way. As a grown adult, I’m able to use 10 fingers and touch type. I’m sure your student’s smaller hands would be even better suited to the task.

    I wrote a blog post about the iPad mini typing situation here: http://blog.flairify.com/how-to-type-on-the-ipad-mini

  33. Will Rice says:

    I agree that the smaller size is a barrier to effective content creation for myself but for younger students (K-2) the smaller size makes the unit easier to handle and as a result they love it for content creation. My 5 year old chooses my 7 inch nexus over our iPad 2 just based on the physical size and her “products” seem to be about equal in quality. (She also drops the nexus less often:)

  34. One remark on your comparison of the iPad Mini and iPad 2: the iPad Mini has a WAY better camera. Actually, a student wanting to use the camera for scanning papers, need at least the iPad Mini (or iPad retina), because the iPad 2 would make it illegible and unsuitable for OCR (i.e. for kids with dyslexia, wanting to have read a lout text scanned from books).

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  38. Jen Dobson says:

    We have iPads for teacher use. For me the portability, and weight so far outweigh the other factors. Young learners also seem to find it easier to pick up and move around. So less dropping. Battery doesn’t seem to last as long though.

  39. John Umekubo says:

    Daniel, as always, wonderful insight from you. At my school we have a 1:1 iPad program for grades 5 through 8 and a mobile cart for sharing in grades PS through 4. We currently have iPad 2s and of course the release of the mini has me considering it for the coming school year. Like you, however, I find the screen possibly a bit too small for some of the content creation work (I.e., google drive, creative book builder, explain everything, etc).

    That being said, I love the weight and size for portability and reading comfort, and admittedly find myself gravitating to it often. I now leave my iPad 3 at work and use the mini at home. With cloud based services so good these days it doesn’t really matter what device I’m on. But I do tend to use the mini more just for reading, simple email replies, and short posts, like this one!

    All the best to you, keep up the great work.

    • Really appreciate you taking the time to comment John. I think your device management is quite common amongst those lucky enough to have the mini and the iPad. All the best.

  40. Mavirek says:

    After a couple months now with my iPad Mini, I can truly say I made the right choice. It fits a need between the MBA and iPhone. While iOS is perfect for those needs, it is not a laptop or a desktop alternative. If you intend to edit, highlight, reorganize or do some other work that requires a bigger screen or applications with all features enabled, then it’s back to the desk/laptops. But for reading, emails, note-taking, even running a Keynote is better using the iPad Mini.

    Keynote is a good thing to point out. You have an easier time using Keynote Remote to run a slideshow from your iPad Mini, but creating a slideshow using Keynote from an iPad Mini is NOT an efficient alternative to a laptop or desktop.

    Lastly, as for differences between the iPad Mini and the iPad, I have had ZERO regrets regarding screen quality, ZERO trouble getting a 1/2 day of continual use from my iPad Mini’s battery (watching movies, listening to the radio, surfing the net and reading emails), BUT judging from all the other comments here the size difference does make a positive difference. Somehow, someway, the iPad Mini is just a more appealing, satisfying size. Of course, I would want a bigger screen on occasions to see more, but that feeling occurs more often with my iPhone than my iPad Mini. The iPad Mini just seems to have hit the sweet spot with its size: big enough for what needs to be seen but small enough to wield comfortably.

    It was worth every penny. I do not think I would upgrade for retina display if that’s all an upgrade offered. I am truly satisfied with the non-retina display. I see no reason to upgrade within the next year. (Not a good note to end on for AAPL stock.)

  41. Vivian Chow says:

    The ipad mini is so light-weight that it can be easily knocked off the table. As well, younger learners that aren’t so dextrous will find it a challenge. Smaller isn’t better for young primary students. Thanks for the review.

    Vivian’s Blog

  42. Mathias Everson says:

    I’m a student and I have recently purchased an iPad mini for school, I find that a lot of the time I use it because of it’s simplicity. I still use my laptop for most tasks, but for research, and small writing assignments, and discussion I find the iPad really useful.
    One thing that if used in school, the ability to control what the user uses it for, as it is so simple to multitask, and can easily become a teachers nightmare. Using the inbuilt restriction is an option, but can only block age categories.
    The transfer of work from the iPad can be sorted out by either using the function to transfer files through iTunes, or using iCloud.

  43. HG says:

    Helpful article! I am a teacher and my school is planning to purchase 29 iPad Minis. Does anyone know if there is a company that sells a charge and sync cart specifically built for the iPad Mini? The 10″ iPad carts seem too large.

  44. Jill says:

    Thanks for your input! I am looking to purchase an ipad for my six year old son to be used by him in his first grade classroom. He primarily would need a way to communicate his math skills, short creative writing assignments, and possibly spelling words. I would also like for him to use a few apps that would build his fine motor/writing skills as he is currently unable to efficiently write do to a neuro-muscular disease. I am hoping for a device that would be easy for him to use over the next couple of years. (I’m assuming as he begins to type long assignments, we would have to find something bigger.) Do you feel the ipad mini would be a good fit for him?

    • Thanks for commenting Jill. A school near us catering for similar needs bought iPad minis for their students. They chose them after trying a few different devices. I don’t think you would be too far wrong with the mini for your son.

  45. John Leck says:

    Thank you for this information. I teach science to eighth graders. (A bit like herding cats.) I would like to use an iPad, along with my interactive board, in order to move about my classroom more freely. I would like to use it for keeping track of students, taking notes at meetings, attendance,etc. From what I’ve read here, it sounds as though the mini would work just fine. Have you considered using a wireless keyboard so that creation of docs is simpler? I was just looking at mini + Logitech keyboard just for this reason. I’d like to get some feedback about this because I would don’t have enough money to make the wrong purchase.

  46. Philippa says:

    Has anyone who has a mini here used it to speak/give presentations from? By this I mean, reading speeches/presentations from notes etc as opposed to hooking it up to an interactive board and showing a presentation that way.

    I am looking to purchase either an ipad or a mini, but the primary usage will be writing and giving talks at conferences so am not sure if a mini will be large enough for this. Does anyone have any thoughts?

    I am happy to purchase a keyboard, but will the screen size for writing be frustrating? I don’t have a laptop at the moment.

  47. taniasewell says:

    Interesting. Thanks. As a parent we were advised to buy mini due to its size and the little hands of grade preps. I opted to send the “old” iPad2 to school but got a retina mini for home use, thinking if game aps, video and photo journals. I feel like I did the right thing after reading your paper.ni can see disadvantages for older grades, maybe ok for younger ones whose focus should be on handwriting most text with enhancement to learning through aps to reinforce. I look forward to further reports after a year of implementation.

  48. Hey There Dedwards,
    Thanks for the info Hey guys, Just wondering if I could some advice. I’m going to be purchasing my first tablet for college and was wondering what might be the better choice. The iPad mini or iPad4? This not a computer replacement I have a Macbook to write all my reports or what not. This tablet is more for my pre-reqs for Nursing as well as the Nursing program itself. I would like something small to bring to Anatomy so when the teacher talks about the Muscular System I can pull up a 3D model of it with names and locations on something other than my iphone.

    This iPad4 or iPad mini will not be used much as a media device. Maybe for that hour in between classes but other then that it’s strictly for my big three Sciences (ANAT, PHYSO, BIOCHEM) and then threw nursing. What i’m getting at Is would the iPad be to big to big to lug around or the Mini be to small or not as powerful enough for my medical classes. Thanks for your help!

    • Could I suggest you go for the iPad. As it looks like you’ll be looking at content and detail then the screen real estate will help. The iPad mini would do the job but I do find myself zooming quite a lot.
      The iPad air is actually the one you want but it comes at a cost.

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