James Montemagno
James Montemagno

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The $300 iPad: Nearly The Perfect Learning Tool

James MontemagnoJames Montemagno

Apple on Tuesday had a pretty awesome event called "Apple + Education" where they revealed a brand new $300 iPad for students. In addition to this they announced some really great software for students/teachers and a new API called ClassKit for developers to help gamify the classroom and teaching. Frank and I were so excited that we recorded a Special Edition of Merge Conflict to discuss all the goodies, which you should listen to.

Since then I have gathered my thoughts even more on the keynote and I would say a lot went right and at the same time a lot went wrong. So let's break it down.

ipad

A New $300/$330 iPad

The new 9.7-inch iPad is absolutely beautiful, dispite the fact that it doesn't come in rose gold. Apple really delivered on the ability to bring "Pro" features to the main line iPad line. If you compare the new iPad to the existing iPad Pro line you will notice that it is really similar besides the ProMotion/True Tone display. It offers up an A10 Fusion chip, which can deliver great AR experiences and is just a tiny bit below the current A10X chips. To be honest with you everything else is there: Pencil Support, Touch Id, 8-megapixel camera, 1080p HD video, and more. It isn't the iPad Pro, but it is really close and I could totally see this sitting in my kitchen or living room.

Classroom and Teaching Software

When it comes to software for the classroom I have to give Apple a big standing ovation. They nailed it! They not only updated all of their core applications to use the pencil, but they also released a new version of the Classroom and software for teachers to hand out homework called Schoolwork. They also announced new multi-user support for the iPad, which is pretty impressive (although late to the game), so a classroom can have a few around for all students.

software

What I really like is that they have gamified teaching/learning in a way that apps can integrate with ClassKit to report back student's progress, see how well they are doing, and gather a lot more information as a student goes through the year. This is pretty great and can see tons of applications. 👏

Apps

This all reminded me of the 5th grade when I would win "computer time" and play Math Blaster on our single Mac. These students will truly have some great hardware and software if they can get their hands on it.

iCloud for Every Student

I will also give Apple props for giving all students 200GB of iCloud storage for free. It is truly great on-boarding to the Apple ecosystem. First use the products and second get all the data locked into iCloud and the Apple apps. Makes complete business sense to me and I think it is very smart.

What Could Be Better

You are reading this and probably thinking whoa Apple is going to crush it in the classroom! I think they totally will, but in very small select amount of classrooms.
Here becomes the problem as they attempt to compete with sub-$200 chromebooks out there:

Durability

My niece has a chromebook and has dropped it tons and yet it still works great. The new iPad is just an iPad and if you drop that puppy then game over! If you want a rugged case you will have to pay

Pencil Not Included

That is right! Even though every single app that Apple showcased added pencil support it is not included for students at all. If you want to get Apple's official pencil (with the weird charging that will surely break in the classroom) then it is another $99. There is a logitech "crayon" as well, but it still clocks in at $50 :(.

No Keyboard

Maybe I am out of touch with students and kids, but I am not sure how you type up huge papers on a virtual keyboard. I think not having a mouse is hard enough on something that is supposed to be a full learning machine, but without a keyboard I just don't see it happening. Although, yet again a student could always buy one.

Entry Price == Out of Control

A $30 discount for students is at least something, but to really get an iPad as the main learning device that a student takes home every night without all the add-ons seems a bit much. Students, teachers, and maybe even the parents are looking to fork over $500 for a full setup? I think that is going to be a hard pill to swallow at the end of the day for any family or school district where it is already hard for teachers to buy basic supplies.

I wish that the consumer price was higher to subsidize the educational price or that they came out with a full bundle that truly included everything that students and teachers need to be productive in the classroom.

I will say that perhaps that isn't Apple's angle here... maybe they are thinking this is more of a device cart in the classroom where kids log in and out? This could potentially work with just the $300 price point, but still a bit high when every dollar matters for schools.

You may be saying... James you aren't a parent and you haven't been in the classroom for a decade or more... that is correct which is why on this weeks Coffeehouse Blunders podcast I asked Danny what he thought about all of this. It was a great discussion.

So Much Potential

My full take away form the event is that Apple is truly on the right path here and I think got a lot of things correct. I want to see technology regardless of Surface, Chromebook, or iPad get out there and into students and teachers hands. Perhaps this will spark even more competition and we will see lower prices and better hardware. I think we are getting close.


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