Ask LH: Which iPad Should I Choose For School?

Ask LH: Which iPad Should I Choose For School?

Hi Lifehacker, My eldest child is starting high school next year and all students are required to have an iPad. The tablet will be used for text books and for taking photos and video. What’s the best choice for a student?

Mini or full size? 16Gb memory or more? And which model should I consider? The only things I’m sure about is that it has to be at least an iPad 2 (the school specifies that) and it will be Wi-Fi only (because I’m not paying for the SIM). Any suggestions? Thanks, iPad Shopper

Picture: ABC TV

Dear IS,

Our general advice when buying any new tech applies here: within the constraints of your budget, buy the absolute newest model you can. Technology changes rapidly, and buying the latest model possible at the time ensures that you maximise the period before your device goes out of date. So if you can afford it, go for the iPad Air or iPad Mini with Retina.

Which form factor? If the device really is going to be largely for textbook reading and image capture, I’d choose the Mini — it’s a more portable size. If your student doesn’t have access to a regular computer as well and it’s likely a keyboard will be added at some point, the regular 10-inch size makes more sense.

On the storage front, I’d also go for the maximum amount you can afford. You’ll sometimes hear the argument that onboard storage doesn’t matter so much when everything is stored in the cloud. However, if your child is going to be storing a lot of textbooks on the device, the space will disappear quickly (especially if the texts are in iBooks format, some of which can be massive in size). You can’t upgrade iPad storage, so you need to make the right choice the first time.

If money is tight, consider picking up a refurb model from Apple. What’s available will vary (as I write this, everything on offer includes 3G as well as Wi-Fi), but you can potentially save a lot.

If students currently rocking an iPad have additional advice, we’d love to hear it in the comments. Happy shopping!


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  • Do they really need an iPad? otherwise get a surface. even the basic surface (with windows RT) you get the full Microsoft office suite (excell, word, powerpoint, one note, outlook). The surface pro gives you access to all the programs you can install on your computer.

    plus it has a front and back camera for photo and video.

    • I was thinking something similar… Why does it have to be an iPad…? There are are a plethora of equally good but cheaper, and even better machines out there…! 🙂

    • I guess if you want kids to use specific apps or are planing on developing apps specifically for the school it is easier to have everyone on the same OS. That was my thinking after they specified it must be at least an IPAD2.

      But yes I agree the surface is perfect for schools.

    • I am the ipad shopper, so yes, it has to be an ipad (2+). This has been specified by the school (public HS school in Melb).

      I absolutely agree a simple netbook is all a young student should require. The school does not. (They also run an optional macbook pro program which must be purchased/leased brand new – completely OTT for most adults, let alone a kid).

      An old ipod is the only Apple device in my house. I wanted some advice as to what would best suit a young student, particularly how much memory would be needed.

      • i hope this is a school in a decent income area…when i was in high school most of my classmates could barely afford a mobile phone

  • Why-o-why get an iPad? (rhetorical) Get a decent small 13″ laptop with windows 7 and 256Gb SSD. You will have access to TONS of freeware and gazillion of different choices for whatever you want to do. Get support from just about anywhere. iPads are for kids 2-5yo to keep them out of trouble.

  • This is ridiculous! student MUST have an ipad? what a joke. get a bunch of parents together and complain. I’ve worked in schools and I can tell you that this sort of BYOD is a NIGHTMARE! A better fairer, cheaper option is for the schools to buy a whole bunch of ipads (at a bulk discounted rate from apple of course) and then use them in whatever class needs them at the time. This is sooo much easier as they are all usually managed my Meraki and all synced with the same software and updates, it also manages the licencing for paid apps. Just imagine having to enroll all those BYOD ipads with certs for the wifi.

    • We’re starting primary school next year and they are initiating a BYOD program, but they aslo have a shared pool.

      The reason for using iPad over other tablets is that it has a track record of being used in many schools already so the school is comfortable saying the program will work.

      The reason for BYOD over the shared pool is the ability for a student to take their work with them. I could imagine it would take very little skill to teach my kids how to send me an email at work with a picture of their work, which I think is exciting.

      I raised the question about affordabilility and also device protection (from damage and theft) and how it would be good to choose apps than run on earlier iPads so you can 2nd hand goods if needed.

      The school said they were happy to try other devices but didn’t know if they would succeed.

      It is an opt-in program (noty mandatory) but a small, very vocal, minority of parents got quite upset at the idea because of : cost, lack of studies to show iPads help schooling (I disagree), giving kids a break from technology, and keeping up with the joneses.

      Very interesting meeting

    • Makes it a bit difficult to take home for homework, though.

      As much as the haters might love to hate on it, having an agreed standard device that is compatible with the devices that everyone else has is a huge advantage here.

      And yes, it’s 2013. I find the requirement of a portable computer/tablet/whatever perfectly reasonable.

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