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,
I like this—from an abstract I saw recently:
which often is the prerequisite for learning. There are also additional dimensions
to consider, as the usability and the physical fatigue. Their undervaluation, in
an educational context, can hamper the successful outcome of the experience.
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
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
- 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
If only we could see an era where a $199 iPad Mini flourished among second grade
and lower. This age group needs a breakthrough.