I think the iPad Mini could have reshaped pre-reading education, but it didn’t get a chance to.
The iPad mini, which was last upgraded in 2015, and the 9.7-inch iPad, last refreshed in March, won’t be upgraded, a person familiar with the company’s plans said.
Chromebooks are the new fashion in elementary school. They are cheap; they are everywhere. And they are unusable by kids in kindergarten through, in some case, third grade.
Sure, by now children can do some rudimentary typing and mouse flicking. But if you think trackpads are awful for adults, you should observe children using them. Tears, people.
I like this—from an abstract I saw recently:
The iPad Mini was the first device in a very long time that I was truly excited about. In my mind, the most underserved group in our educational system is the pre-reading group from K-2, which cannot be served by the current Internet and which are largely given mobile edutainment apps.
Despite that—the touchscreen is watershed technology for this group. And younger:
Children as young as 24 months can complete items requiring cognitive engagement on a touch screen device, with no verbal instruction and minimal child–administrator interaction. This paves the way for using touch screen technology for language and administrator independent developmental assessment in toddlers.
In my experience, using Chromebooks and iPads among these groups, the tablets far outshine—a child is able to immediately speak its language. Sure, time spent learning a Chromebook can be useful. But making the device an end unto itself is part of our problem—language is technology and technology is language.
The language that toddlers are picking up on their parents’ phones can be built upon in school. This is a great benefit—since it has been very difficult to map gamepads—another similar ‘language’ form—to education.
And yet, we have so many problems:
- The software has not caught up. We are so impatient to move on that we don’t take the time to utilize amazing technology that is still trickling its way down to children.
- The stock market has moved on. Apple is end-of-lifing the iPad Mini for its poor sales. Despite tremendous evidence that this device has the ability to transform the lives of a specific group of pre-readers (and, I would also argue, the lives of autistic and special ed students—who I’ve seen similar results with), Apple is ready to just leave these groups to Google in pursuit of further growth, when they should have the freedom now to make a contribution like this.
- Mobile devices are still seen as lesser technology in education. Yes, for adults, a mobile device can be a handicap. But to a child, this perspective is reversed—they can actually work on mobile devices. They can create, they can express, their abilities are enhanced.
Apple has recently put a $299 price for schools on their standard iPad, but Chromebooks are still eating them alive. I’m afraid that this signal away from the iPad Mini could set us back for the foreseeable future.
If only we could see an era where a $199 iPad Mini flourished among second grade and lower. This age group needs a breakthrough.