5 days of iPad Pro

Monday

The day has come! For a while now I have been um’ing and ah’ing about whether to invest in an iPad Pro...Do I really need a bigger iPad? Do I need to actually use a stylus? Can I present and work with a bigger tablet. Last week I finally took the plunge and paid for the latest Apple device, the iPad Pro.

I thought it would be great to trial the device over a week (much like I did with the Asus Chromebook) and see if I can live my digital life with just one device! Let me start in the shop!

As always, my shopping experience in the Apple store was second to none. Walk in, ask for the model I wanted (I opted for the 128gb Slate colour with Wifi only - I’ll explain my reasoning in a bit) then simply scanned my iPhone and payment, bagged it up, and left the store...somewhere in there I was overcome with the urge to get the Apple Pencil, so put that in the order for good measure!

Because I use my iPad devices for a mixture of presentation, video, teaching and assessment I often use a lot of storage space… this isn’t the same as loading loads of apps… in fact my daily ‘use’ are only a minimal set of apps. I think I will probably do another entry on just this… if anyone wants that? (add a comment below if you do!). I opted for the largest storage available, but chose the Wifi only option.This is mainly because I am never far away from a Wifi / Access point and I wouldn’t really be using this device out on the hills (I sometimes take my iPad Mini out climbing).

I didn’t buy a case, mainly due to them not having the one I wanted in stock. However the kind Apple guys did point out if I wanted one I could have it delivered… I had some ‘spare felt’ at home, so thought it craft one when I got home (again let me know what you think of that in the comments!). I think I will grab a silicone case eventually.

Getting the device home, it was so simple to set up… turn it on, add my Apple ID...boom. Done! The Apple Pencil (being a bluetooth device) needs pairing, this is made easier by Apple simply making you plug the Pencil into the lightning port to complete a first setup (you simply remove the cap at the end of the Pencil to reveal a rather durable aluminium lightning connection).

So far, so easy!

Tuesday

Tuesday is catchup day, Jay and I are more like ships passing in the night at the moment. Both of us are managing several school IT projects each and often find ourselves distributed across the UK. We don’t really need to be in the same location to work, as all our ‘office stuff’ is flexible enough to be cloud based and remotely accessible. Sometimes however it’s good to call in face to face. We use a couple of methods for this, either Google Hangouts if we want to document share, or Facetime if we need a good solid video connection. Tuesday was Facetime day!

The massive screen (practically 3 times the size of my iPad Mini) gives a great Facetime experience, the sound is particularly awesome as the speakers are considerably more powerful (think one of those bluetooth speaker units). The HD camera (on both ends, Jay used his iPhone 6) is epic, and the stability of the call was great, even though Jay was using a data connection on his phone.

This type of call is great for staff wanting to conference in staff meetings, and vital if holding remote attendees like between two campus’. The fact that I can access all my contacts sync’d on the device between my Google Apps for Education account, and iClound (and if I had it, my Microsoft Exchange) this is a great tool that can be used almost instantly inside most schools!

Wednesday

After having a play around with the Pencil soon after I got in from the Apple Store, I decided I needed some apps built for its use. At the moment with it being so brand new there are only a few (what I would deem) good apps available. By far the most impressive is Apple’s own ‘Notes’ app.

I use the Notes app intermittently on both my iPad Mini and iPhone, often for just making task lists or copying web links that I find useful, but not much else. However since the Apple Pencil has been integrated, and the launch of the (for want of a better term) Scribble icon, Notes is my go to note making app! For a start the Pencil is mind bendingly great. Really great...REALLY great.

Being an ardent Graphics teacher I never thought that any stylus could beat the feel of graphite on paper. Or that a digital / faux pencil could ever replace the ability of shading and sharp/soft a traditional pencil could provide. The Apple Pencil is so close to doing this I have to say Im starting to rethink my attitude to styluses...in fact, I have! 

This Apple Pencil is FANTASTIC!

Because it senses pressure, angle of hold, and allows the iPad Pro to palm reject (the iPad knows the difference between the Pencil and your hand/finger edge) the writing experience is so close to the real thing you could almost suspend belief that it is actually a real pencil!

With the big amount of iPad screen ‘real estate’ I can use the multi window function in iOS to make written notes AND browse the web...Great!

I sit with an SLT team and sketch out (literally) a plan for their curriculum and staff training using the Notes app and Apple Pencil. I can then share the note using AirDrop to their iPads for them to keep. I haven’t had to load a specific app onto their devices, or go to a web link, or anything complicated...this is awesome!

So far as the classroom goes, this model iPad can instantly rpelace all those interactive whiteboards. The lvel of accuracy, and pressure control, as well as being wireless...means that I dont have to be slave to the front of the classroom. The cost of this device measured against that os an interactive whiteboard means I could easily get a couple of iPad Pros for the cost of one interactive board...or… one super 4k TV, Apple TV, relevant apps AND iPad Pro with case and Apple Pencil… FOR LESS THAN one interactive board!!!!

Thursday

A few lessons needed teaching today… well actually all week, but Thursday seemed appropriate as the iPad Pro really came into its own.

I spent the day with some select staff looking at how Explain Everything (EE) could be used instead of Interactive Whiteboard software. The Apple Pencil was a definite game changer!

Explain Everything (if you haven't met the app yet, take a look here) is a perfect replacement to any Interactive Whiteboard. Indeed if you have just one (or many) mobile devices in your classroom I would really recommend you spend the £2.99 and get yourself a copy of this.

EE is great for a number of reasons, and even better on the iPad Pro. Firstly all students (on any device they have, albeit phone or tablet) can have the same application you use to create interactive content. Something not possible with Interactive Whiteboards.  Also it means you’re not stuck at the front of the classroom attached to your PC / desktop / laptop. Both you and students can create presentations, tutorials, worksheets, assessments all through this app… If you want more information on how awesome this app is I can do a detailed analysis in another blog... leave your comments below!

Anyway, back to the session!

The Apple Pencil isn't (as of writing) fully supported in EE. It writes well, but the app doesn't make use of the pressure and tilt sensitivities within the Pencil… yet! Because the Apple Pencil is so accurate, and so similar to writing on paper, it is incredibly easy to make written notes using the app. EE has a great ‘unlimited page’ feature meaning I can just keep writing and panning the view to make more notes.

Recording the screen as I do this means I can record my voice, and in one of the demos we looked at explaining how to work out multiplication grids. A perfect and simple way of recording my demonstration without fuss! And because I can export the video, then import it back into the app (from the camera roll) I can have my tutorial ‘looping’ in the corner whilst I carry on my presentation! All in a few taps.

The multitasking element of the iOS interface means I can easily copy and paste content from the school website, or even search for Creative Commons images on unsplash.com and copy them directly into EE. Its wonderfully quick and simple! I love it, and watching the staff get to grips with it in a matter of minutes is fantastic!

Friday

Friday has come round quickly again. This week was a fantastic journey into the potential of what the new iPad Pro can do for teachers. Coupled with the Apple Pencil this device really stands apart from its competitors.

Having worked for years with an iPad Mini it was a bit of a shock to use something closer to the size of a laptop keyboard. But after the initial ‘how do I hold this thing whilst presenting’ (incidentally I overcame this by resting the whole device on my forearm and gripping the short edge) I really think this device is great!

One thing Jay and I discussed earlier in the week was could this actually replace our beloved Macbook Air / Macbook Pro. Where the Macbook Pro has a considerable spec difference, I think that it is totally feasible to use the iPad Pro as your primary device. Sunday evening was spent making a set of tutorial and promotional videos, typically I would be using my Macbook Pro and either Adobe Premiere or iMovie (depending on my geek level) to edit footage. iMovie on my iPad Mini tends to lag a bit when editing larger files, and I often default to the laptop - mainly because keyboard shortcuts are a god send! But with the iPad Pro there is enough screen to see the right amount of detail in the film strip / video snippets. The Apple Pencil also goes some way to helping with accurate editing, but as yet there isn't great support for the Pencil in iMovie - although I am positive this will come.

There are various tech posts and bloggers who are questioning the Apple Pencil and its longevity as an accessory to the iPad range. Most concerns are around whether app developers are ‘taken’ enough with it to start adding its functionality into their apps. Personally I think the Apple Pencil is crazy good, and judging by the early entries/app changes from the likes of Adobe, this will really change the way we use the iPad.

Although, I believe Steve Jobs did say in 2010 “ If you see a stylus, they blew it.” I think Apple have really done something magical to the stylus, and despite the Jobs quote being thrown around, Apple have far from blew it.

Taking this back to the classroom, I can imagine a lot of people saying ‘yes James, this blog post seems a bit too Apple Fan Boy’...so lets look at the potential for this device in the classroom…

Is if worth downing tools on the other iPad models? No. The other devices are great, and with a lot of schools invested in iPad Mini, Retina, and Air models, I think it is silly to simply buy the iPad Pro over the others.

The iPad Pro would be ideal for Media teachers, or staff responsible for creating multimedia content, and who don't have a laptop already.

The actual cost of the device is rather a lot. The base (from the Apple Store) 32gb WiFi model is £679 and with the Apple Pencil at £79 that leaves a ‘store price’ of £758... meaning you could get almost 4 iPad Mini 2 devices for the same money. Yes they are different beasts, but… the impact in the classroom could be greater with more devices in teachers hands!

How do you see the iPad Pro fitting into education? Let me know in the comments below!