Daft as it sounds, the first thing I thought when I opened the box was that I couldn’t believe how big the screen was; it’s a significantly bigger piece of kit and it also feels heavier, but strangely more fragile (though this could have been partly down to an enhanced fear of dropping it before I could get it into a protective case).
Initial surprise over, I got to tinkering and I suppose the first thing to realise is that it is still an iPad and this is ultimately a good thing, after all, we wouldn’t have chosen the iPad Air as the device of choice for our students if it wasn’t what we wanted!
When you’re multi-tasking it becomes quite clear what the benefits of the device are. With split screen mode in action, you essentially have two iPads running side by side and that missing piece of the puzzle is finally found. Obviously iPad Air 2 users have had this functionality since iOS 9 was released, but I wonder if the size of the screen on the ‘normal’ iPad might be a strain in the long run?
I have become a pretty fast typer on a regular sized iPad, but the bigger on screen keyboard is a bit more tricky. The spacing and size actually was quite challenging given the conditions under which I tend to use the device. As such, the keyboard that can be purchased for the iPad Pro feels like a must, and once this is in place, you’ve got a really powerful machine, not quite in your hands, but certainly on the desk in front of you! The way the keyboard works means that you can very quickly switch between tablet and pseudo-laptop without any fuss. Having the keyboard in play means that you are able to take advantage of the screen size (which is bigger than that of my Macbook Air!).
The Pencil is a very expensive stylus, but, it is also really quite good at what it does. It has a great weight, making it feel like a real pen rather than the usual imposter-feel of a cheaper stylus. For me, my feedback on Showbie is looking a lot better and I feel like using Notability as a more mainstream part of my own toolkit is viable for someone who is left-handed and has pretty rubbish handwriting anyway!
I think that the iPad Pro is a seriously interesting device, and whilst it is an iPad, if it is adopted in classrooms it might be used in quite different ways to how our students use it now. It is not as mobile as the iPad Air and so the dexterity that it offers could be lost. For students at the lower end of the school, the device is almost as big as their torso so it doesn’t seem a practical device for them. For a sixth form student however, the multi-tasking flexibility of the device and the laptop size, combined with it being a tablet, means it might just be the ultimate tool for older learners.
And staff? If a school was looking to dispense of PCs and replace them with something else, then this could work. It has the benefit of not being a laptop and thus if you’re running an iPad scheme, your staff are using the same technology as your students and thus be more used to what they can do. But, as it is not a laptop, it couldn’t run software like iBooks Author and obviously anything else that is not app-friendly, so it is not a device that can replace absolutely everything.
It’s expensive, so certainly this is not going to be a decision taken lightly. It is however an important evolution in the tablet repertoire and provide a way of differentiating the needs and uses that are apparent in a school. So a couple of weeks in I’m impressed by the image and sound quality and genuinely workable multitasking option, but I do miss the extreme portability and discretion of the iPad Air.