Some Thoughts from the Classroom on iPad 2

So it's finally here or, at least, announced and there are some interesting things for us teachers.

I spoke at ACU's Connected Summit this week (more on that later) and I wrapped up by saying that whatever Apple announces with the iPad 2, it will only be interesting insofar as it enables better or more powerful apps. Apps are king and that's why any "iPad killer" you may hear about probably isn't.

So what's new? Thinner, lighter and faster are three things nobody will argue against. Not that the original iPad was particularly fat, heavy or slow but the new slimness is welcome.

The inevitable cameras. Ah, cameras, such a two-edged sword in the classroom. I'm glad to have them, I guess. I imagine the uses will be more for AR apps and data capture rather than serious photography and videography but it will be a lot neater in the classroom to have the cameras on the device rather than requiring that you get an iPod touch and the Camera Connection Kit.

My philosophy about school IT includes the determination not to attack imaginary problems. Some pupils will be jackasses with cameras but the idea that you lock everything out "just in case someone might do something bad" is no longer good enough. You can disable the cameras through a configuration profile on the iPhone and I guess you'll be able to do the same on iPad 2.

You cause me a problem with the way you use the camera? You get the special cone-shaped Configuration Profile with the big D on it.

I don't know whether I or my Apple reps in Scotland will be more delighted that iPad 2 supports full video mirroring. I'll be happy to have it, they'll be happy that they no longer have to hear me beg for it. I strongly suspect that this has been, by some distance, the #1 most-requested feature from education markets. Thanks for listening, Apple. Really.

I have wanted iMovie and GarageBand for some time on iPad and I'm delighted that they're finally here. Ars Technica reports that both apps will run on the original iPad but without certain hardware-dependent features like capturing video directly within iMovie. It will be interesting to see how well these apps run on an original iPad but I think these apps put Apple even further ahead of any other tablet manufacturer. The hardware is stunningly solid but the apps matter more than any of that.

So, finally, what about that Smart Case? I think I was perhaps alone in really liking the Apple iPad case. We deployed them at school and they've proven robust and functional. Admittedly the material didn't stay new-looking for long but nothing ever does in a school anyway.

I'm slightly concerned that the magnetic hinge will be easily forced off when an iPad 2 ends up sandwiched between books and other materials in a school bag. I'll have to wait and see how well it holds together.

So what do I think? Not having held one, I'll have to wait and see with some things, but Apple was already ahead of the pack. The hardware alone keeps it ahead of the pack and, with iMovie and GarageBand on iPad, Apple is starting to stretch out of sight when it comes to delivering a hardware and software toolkit for education. Anyone can do a tablet with a web browser and an email client. Most can get a port of Kindle, Evernote and Gowalla.

Nobody else has anything even close to Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie and GarageBand on their platform far less the great 3rd party iOS apps such as OmniFocus, Instapaper, Toontastic, and the Elements. iOS is and remains the only mobile platform worthy of consideration for education.