The iPad Pro: Hands-on Observations

The iPad Pro is, at its core, a larger iPad. Larger screen. Larger speakers (four of them), larger keyboard, larger processor, and larger resolution. But so what? Well, I guess it depends on whether or not you believe in magic!

Not just life-size but larger than life. Running anatomy apps like Ess. Skeleton 4 is truly exciting and throughly engaging!

Not just life-size but larger than life. Running anatomy apps like Ess. Skeleton 4 is truly exciting and throughly engaging!

I’ve been with the iPad since the first one back in spring of 2010. The original screen was the perfect size for what it did well. But too big for some things, and too small for others. The iPad Mini does mini iPad stuff very well. But still it was too big for some jobs, and plenty too small for others.

Understanding the size of an iPad is based on two things. First, let the tablet do what it does well, and second, don’t use the tablet for things it doesn’t do well. So enter the iPad Pro, the bigger, faster, louder, smarter younger brother.

Leica's SlidePath app is a database of exceptionally clear and detailed microscope slide images. The massive real estate of the iPad Pro is amplified by the ultra-high resolution of its Retna Display.

Leica’s SlidePath app is a database of exceptionally clear and detailed microscope slide images. The massive real estate of the iPad Pro is amplified by the ultra-high resolution of its Retna Display.

In the few days I’ve had my hands on an iPad Pro, I learned much about what a larger touch screen offers to a teacher, to students, and to the running of a class.

The beauty of the iPad Pro easily outshines the utility of a textbook-sized screen. Using a projection system via AppleTV shares screens, but the resolution of the iPad Pro can be more advantageous than a huge but lower resolution projection. Some apps like Leica’s SlidePath, or the 3D 4 Medical apps including Essential Skeleton and Essential Muscle. Anatomy apps are particularly effective on a large touchscreen especially when the object under study is full size.

Although the iPad Pro is large measuring 30.5cm x 22cm, its weight is actually about five grams less than my first generation iPad. The Pro is also half as thick. But no matter what, the iPad Pro is a two-handed device when held. The Pro has a 12.9 inch screen that Apple refers to as a retina screen.

iPad Pro size comparison

Comparing screen sizes, the iPad Pro is large to giant. Pictured are the Pro, the iPad, the iPad Mini, and the iPod Touch. All sizes have their place and strengths.

Sensor apps become a truly collaborative effort with the iPad Pro. The large screen and magical touch interface makes manipulation of captured and graphed data a joy to explore. Apps including Vernier’s Graphical and Pasco’s SparkVue HD, while not formally optimized for the iPad Pro’s screen resolution, do offer a significantly more immersive environment. 

While the iPad Mini and iPhone makes for a highly convenient and mobile data collection platform, and the original iPad size makes an excellent individual interface for data collection, the iPad Pro brings to life the obvious visual components while offering up nuances that would go unnoticed or inexperienced in a smaller frame. It is like the difference between consuming media on a laptop compared to a large-screen HD television. Or television compared to movie theater. Well, maybe not quite that big, but it’s definitely a different experience.

As Apps are optimized for the iPad Pro, and others are invented specifically for it, there will be an expansion into uncharted teaching and learning territory. With each new space (with “space” denoting a new size, form factor, or interface) we discover more about education. One area that has struggled to gain wide traction is with digital textbooks. The iPad Pro just might be the breakthrough needed to push the digital textbook platform into widespread use. The size of the Pro is more friendly to new digital text users because it does not require either squinting at the screen or manipulating the pages in an entirely new way that distracts from the traditional cognitive tempo and smoother workflow that paper books offer readers.

And while discussing books, the iPad Pro is large enough to hold up in front of a class of students without just going through the motions of sharing. You can actually present images by waving the iPad Pro around the class. I imagine a preschool teacher loving the Pro because it has a similar screen real estate as many children’s books that are read during circle time. And the bright backlit screen would make the viewing the pictures more lively and rich as the colors and artist’s details jump off the “page.”

iPad Pro size comparison

Another size comparision.

There is plenty more to explore with the iPad Pro in science education, but since the Pro is less than a week old, I’ll be visiting this topic again. The iPad Pro has many new features like a slo-mo video option (aka: High Speed) as well as better light sensors. The touchscreen seems to have some hidden advantages that will be exploited further with the Apple Pencil. And the offering the growing potential of multitasking allows a more fluid (but not perfect in my opinion) solution for combining the power of Apps. The boomy and loud speakers makes the Pro an obvious choice for small to medium sized group work and communication. The onscreen keyboard mimics a laptop  keyboard and has additional buttons and features to make the iPad Pro a worthy word processor.

The A9X chip running the show behind the scenes of the iPad Pro is noticeably faster than previous iPads. Not that we are all making movies and editing large pictures all the time, but to make the classic silly oversight, I’ll just go ahead and say it, “Who need all this power in an iPad?”

The answer is we all do because we don’t yet know what’s possible since we’ve never been here before.

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8 Responses to The iPad Pro: Hands-on Observations

  1. Timothy Miley says:

    The IPad Pro could be a game changer, but once again, Apple cares more about profits, instead of education. Each Pro costs 360 to make and Apple is giving educators, $20 dollars off. They should be ashamed of themselves for holding back a revolution in education, due to cost. For educators, the Pro has to have the overpriced keyboard and pencil, but Apple thinks they need a markup of 120% on these important tools. Here is my proposal for teachers. $799 for everything, because they go together for full function of kit. All educators must force Apple to start discounting these vital tools for our students, through social media and broadcast media. Let’s put Apple on the spot for putting profits in front of our children.

  2. Martin Horejsi says:

    Hello Timothy,
    Thanks for the read.I do agree that Apple’s pricing has put many of it’s products out of reach of education, and like your package idea with pencil and keyboard. I will suggest that to Apple.
    However, the cost of the raw parts for the device can be very misleading. Many aspects of the iPad Pro had to be invented first, with special mention of the iOS. In fact, I’d bet that Apple has poured hundreds of millions into assistive/accessible aspects of the iOS and creating device hardware for a fairly small market, yet all iOS devices have the features. And that is never included on the unit build spreadsheet.
    Additionally is the design and feel of the deices. Apple’s touchscreens are the best in the world. And that tech is not cheap to invent. Imagine telling a book author that his/her work was only worth about a buck and a half in paper, glue and ink. What Apple does with silicon, glass, aluminum, copper, and assorted rare earths is nothing short of art.
    While I have paid the “Apple Tax” many times, I have also enjoyed the sheer magic of the devices and never ceased to appreciate the over-the-top effort Apple puts into building them. Apple’s attention to detail changed the industry and literally caused us to expect nothing short of perfection from them. Of course, as you noted, that came at a cost. But my world is certainly better and brighter by having the choice. The other side of the coin is summed up in the Walmart effect where when you pay $75 for a lawn mower, you don’t expect much in return. I believe Education is too important to low-bid. But I do live in reality.
    By comparison, I have worked with many schools who are limping along with look-alike technology where “black rectangles with rounded corners” were purchased in bulk, but rarely used because they absolutely failed to live up to the dreams of the teachers and students. Same with cheap laptops. Same with so-called Netbooks. Same with really cheap Chromebooks. Same with stand-alone tablet-like devices. And same with BYOD programs with no bottom standard.
    But on the bright side, if total use can be summed up with basic utilities, the new Amazon $50 tablet might serve a purpose. While certainly a conduit to Amazon content, the Android skin is workable, and the power is enough for a general purpose tool. Just leave your Apple expectations at home and think of it as a feature-filled calculator.
    But in summation, I do think the iPad Pro has a home more with the teacher-side of the classroom. But that is with just six days on the ground with it. While I don’t think the Pro will become the new norm, I do think it will work it’s way into those abundant corners of our lives where we currently share screens, stream media, work with documents and presentations, and study images. After that, I will just have to wait and see what else the iPad Pro teaches me about how to best apply it’s power in education. And I am listening.

  3. Gina Pagnotta says:

    This article is awesome and gives a plethora of information concerning the iPad Pro! I think the iPad Pro would be a great tool to have in any classroom, especially at the elementary level. Younger students would be able to better hold the newer device with the device being slightly larger, and the teacher would not need to zoom in on an image for multiple students to be able to view.
    There are many apps students would be able to access in order to enhance the instruction given by the teacher. The Science app, 3D Cell Simulation and Stain Tool, allows student to explore the inside of a cell. This would be an awesome interactive for children to use. There are numerous science education apps teachers would be able to use with the iPad Pro. Unfortunately, many district do not budget in enough money for new technology every year. With the iPad Pro being so expensive, many school district may not be able to purchase the technology for a large amount of teachers.

  4. Amy Homer says:

    This was an extremely informative article. The iPad Pro seems like a wonderful tool to use in any classroom. Being an early childhood educator, I see how excited young students become when learning through technology. I think it’s great that the screen is so large, making it much easier not only for young children, but older adults to use as well. Being that the screen size is large enough to view text books, I would love to use the iPad Pro while reading aloud to kindergarten students. This would definitely keep the students more engaged in a story than reading a typical picture book. The fact that all of the students in a classroom would be able to view the words and pictures of a story at the same time, is a teacher’s dream come true.
    It’s also fascinating to discover all of the apps that are available to the iPad Pro. The size and quality of the screen allows for an extremely life-like experience when viewing pictures or discovering new science concepts through the use of the iPad. I hope I am given the opportunity to utilize the iPad Pro in my classroom in the future. In addition to enhancing my teaching, the device would allow for a richer learning experience for my students as well.

  5. Melissa Haudenshield says:

    I found this article very intriguing. Coming from someone who has never had an iPad, I enjoyed reading about all the features that this iPad Pro had to offer. This would be a great tool for the classroom. In a science class, students will be able to individually work on animal dissection instead of using the Promethium board as a class. In a math class, students will be able to use the larger screen to work out problems in partners or in groups so everyone can see the process. I feel that these iPad would be great learning device if all students had access to them. I have never bought an iPad because of how expensive they can be. I know many districts use the technology they have for many years until they buy new devices, so it could be many years before schools will have enough money to buy iPads for their school.
    I have to wonder if these iPad will be accommodating for all students. With the larger screen (the size of a textbook) will all students be able to hold the device to learn? I also have to wonder about students with sensitivity to sound. Will the loud speakers, while other students are using the device, distract the other students?

  6. Melissa Haudenshield says:

    I found this article very intriguing. Coming from someone who has never had an iPad, I enjoyed reading about all the features that this iPad Pro had to offer. This would be a great tool for the classroom. In a science class, students will be able to individually work on animal dissection instead of using the Promethium board as a class. In a math class, students will be able to use the larger screen to work out problems in partners or in groups so everyone can see the process. I feel that these iPad would be great learning device if all students had access to them. I have never bought an iPad because of how expensive they can be. I know many districts use the technology they have for many years until they buy new devices, so it could be many years before schools will have enough money to buy iPads for their school.
    I have to wonder if these iPads will be accommodating for all students. With the larger screen (the size of a textbook) will all students be able to hold the device to learn? I also have to wonder about students with sensitivity to sound. Will the loud speakers, while other students are using the device, distract the other students?

  7. Alyssa Wetzel says:

    This article provides very supportive details of how iPad Pros can be used in a classroom. I was very unaware of the differences between the different models. However, I am in a school district that has iPad Pros throughout the district. The district is actually moving in the direction of a 1:1 ratio, with every students having an iPad of their own to use within their educational experience. Right now, each of our elementary classrooms have a total of eight iPad Pros to use however they choose to do so within their classrooms. Having the first hand experience of using these tools within a classroom, I am able to see how wonderful they are for students and teachers. The physical features such as the largeness of the screen. camera, and the accessibility of the touchscreen, make these tools very easy for my students to handle. The touchscreen and the ability to zoom in on photos or in apps, is a feature that students seem to enjoy using. One of my favorite math lessons where this feature came in handy dealt with the Google Earth App and Google Maps App. Students were required to plan a road trip across the United States: finding locations to stop, estimating gas prices, and calculating the fuel costs, etc. I permitted students to use both Google Maps and Google Earth. Their ability to zoom in on the locations they had chosen for a stopping point was easily done using the iPads. In addition to this lesson, some of my students favorite apps are presentation based learning apps: Prezi, Google Slides, Puppet, and ShowMe have been some of their favorite.
    Fortunately, I am in a district that has the funds for these wonderful tools. Knowing that this is not the case for many other districts within the country, I really try to utilize them when I can. I see a difference in my students’ motivation to learn and the unique opportunities iPads provide for them. I recommend any educator that has access to these tools start using them where you can within your classroom!

  8. Sarah Goehring says:

    I love using iPads with students. I teach third and fourth grade reading and find that the iPads offer so much to students. Students who are in need of extension activities have a website to visit when they are finished with their regular classroom work. There are also times of day when all students can access the iPads to use specific educational apps. Many students prefer to use the iPads in place of a computer when taking an Accelerated Reader test.
    I think using iPads for young students is such a great idea. Since the iPad Pro is larger than the original it would be a great tool for the teacher. I’m sure that as new apps are created they will delve students even deeper into books with apps that add animation to the traditional story book. There are a lot of visual learners in today’s classroom. Incorporating visual materials is a must in the classroom. iPads are a great tool to aid in their education.
    As a master’s student taking classes solely online, I am amazed by the power of my iPad mini. I had no idea how useful an iPad would be during my studies until I started playing around with its features. I personally love that I can download all of the materials needed for class and take them with me wherever I may go. This came in very handy at the beginning of the semester when I was traveling in the Bahamas. I had coursework to complete while I was there. The wifi was a bit unreliable. I thankfully had saved everything to be offline before I left and could easily access needed materials. Before, I would have had to take my bulky laptop with me.

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