Thursday, March 3, 2011

The iPad 2: 1st impressions from a teacher's perspective

The new iPad was announced today, and although I've been aware of this for weeks, as usual after a "Steve-note" presentation, I'm experiencing an acute case of the "iWant" syndrome. Why am I surprised? This always happens...

(breathing deeply)

Okay, I've calmed down a bit and would like to share a few first impressions and look at some exciting features I think will really enhance this device's use for educational purposes.

So what's the deal with the iPad 2? Instead of going over all the new features, I'll let Mr. Jobs do that. Here is a short five minute excerpt produced by CNET News of the new specs:

So there you go: thinner, lighter, faster. Two cameras, bigger speaker. All at the same prices as before. Cool, very cool, and it will be available in Japan on March 25th.

With regards to EFL, here are the features that excite me most:

Cameras: With the ability to do video chatting via Facetime or Skype, these cameras will open up opportunities for students to use English for real communication. Given the popularity of this device, I'm sure other educators will have the same idea. There will be opportunities for teachers to set up exchanges and for students to converse with people from around the world, and for students to make their own connections. Pretty exciting stuff. The fact that the rear facing camera is HD quality was a nice surprise. This will make for some better looking video that enhances and facilitates communication.

The cameras will also enable people to use the iPad as an HD camcorder, albeit a bit awkwardly. While not ideal and certainly not as good as a dedicated video camera, this feature will come in handy in numerous as-yet-to-be-imagined scenarios. For example, I can see teachers using it in class to record lectures or conversations, or for students to produce video projects. With a bit of thought, there will be a lot of creativity unleashed via this feature.

iMovie: This came as a total surprise, although in retrospect I don't know why. iMovie has been a part of the iPhone 4 since last summer, and it's only natural that it came to the iPad. The ability to edit and share video on this device will further increase creativity in the classroom. Can't wait to try this out. Just take a look at this iMovie demo video and imagine your students doing & sharing projects:

GarageBand: This was another total surprise. While not directly related to EFL per se, I can totally see how this app would generate interest among many students. Lots of students are interested in music, and at the very least, playing around with all the instruments in this would be a fun way to interact with a student in English. Check out the demo, and again, imagine your working situation as you watch. Any ideas come up?

The cameras, iMovie, and GarageBand give the new iPad more creative potential. This is what excites me- all the cool stuff I and my students will now be able to do. More than before, this tool will open up opportunities for teachers and students to produce engaging content which can then be used as a way of enhancing communication in fun and creative ways.

Video mirroring: This will really be huge for education- the ability to hook up an iPad to a TV in a classroom or to a projector at a presentation and have the screen mirror what's on the iPad. You couldn't do this before, or at least only to a very limited degree. Now teachers will be able to show and demonstrate stuff much more easily, allowing the iPad to make even more of an impact in the classroom. I can see using this with Safari to surf the web, Google Translate to look up words, Google Earth to visit locations around the world, and all sorts of other things. I'll also be much more motivated to use the iPad for making presentations at conferences. Totally exciting feature, and it's all made possible by this dock connector gizmo:

Ipad video mirroring gizmo 2

So all of these features have me really excited about the new iPad 2. Of course there is a lot more to it, and I'm still getting my head wrapped around the possibilities. If you'd like to know more, the video is now up for Jobs' entire presentation.

How about you? What are your reactions? Is this the greatest thing since sliced bread? Totally "meh"? Or somewhere in-between? If you and your students had iPad 2s, what are some of the ways you would use it?


  1. Just occurred to me that GarageBand will make a super on-the-go audio editor for teachers. You don't HAVE to use it for music- it would come in handy for editing/processing student conversation tests and stuff.

  2. Nice quote from David Pogue's review of the iPad 2:

    "On paper, Apple didn’t do much. It just made the iPad one-third thinner, 15 percent lighter and twice as fast. There are no new features except two cameras and a gyroscope. I mean, yawn, right?

    And then you start playing with it.

    My friends, I’m telling you: just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience. We’re not talking about a laptop or a TV, where you don’t notice its thickness while in use. This is a tablet. You are almost always holding it. Thin and light are unbelievably important for comfort and the overall delight. So are rounded edges, which the first iPad didn’t have."

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