iPad FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About the iPad

Updated 11/24/2014

What is an iPad?

There was a time in the recent past where people had never seen or touched an iPad.  Since its introduction in 2010, there are hundreds of millions of iPads on the market, and every other tablet (whether Android or Windows based) is built off the original idea of the iPad.  In its original format, the iPad was the first commercially successful tablet computer, based on the same core functionality of an iPhone and an iPod Touch.  The (current) iPad Air 2 has a 9.7 inch screen which makes a world of difference in usability and function from the iPod Touch or iPhone.  The iPad Mini 3 has a 7.9 inch screen, dwarfing the less than five inch screen of current iPod Touches and iPhones.  This means that more information can be displayed on the screen, web pages require less scrolling, scanned (or PDF) documents are nearly their original size, and the on-screen keyboard is larger.   Recent versions of the iPad are faster, have a high-pixel screen (“Retina”), and have improved cameras over previous models (the original iPad did not have a camera).

The addition of the 7.9 inch iPad Mini (with Retina Display) changes the definition of the iPad slightly, as it is a physically smaller device (in size, thickness, and weight) but it retains all of the main functionality of the larger iPad.  Still, for most musicians, the 9.7 inch iPad Air 2 is a better choice.

The iPad has a battery which lasts ten hours, which makes it an ideal device in the educational setting.  On the other hand, the iPad is smaller and lighter than any notebook computer, even Apple’s own 11 inch MacBook Air.  The iPad is built on Apple’s iOS, the same operating system that runs iPhones, iPod Touches, iPod Nanos, Apple TVs, and of course, the iPad itself.  iOS is an operating system that runs one task at a time, with the ability to quickly switch between apps that are loaded–this is a different approach than Windows/Mac/Linux, where multi-tasking is the way to do things.

The iPad is currently in its sixth generation, but the fouth-generation iPad,  and the iPad Mini with Retina Display are also on the market.  As of the fall of 2014, if you are going to buy a full size iPad, purchase the iPad Air 2 with at least 64GB of memory.  If you are going to buy an iPad Mini, try to purchase the previous year iPad Mini with Retina Screen with at least 64GB of memory (the current iPad Mini 3 is generally the same device–internals and all–as the last year’s model.  Only the iPad Air 2 saw internal improvements).

What’s the big deal about an iPad?

For some, the iPad may be a “gotta have” trend.  But for many users, it is a device that can fill the gap of computing needs away from a full-blown computer.  It is the combination of ease of use, portability, operating system, apps and battery life that makes the iPad so popular with users.  The devices have been adopted by the corporate world, education, and the medical sciences.  The iPad is only limited by the apps developed for it.  At the most recent time of updating of this FAQ, there were 350,000 apps tweaked for the iPad’s interface.  Some of those apps are incredible, and most of them cost a fraction of what a desktop version of an app would cost.  Many users also like the lack of multi-tasking, as the iPad generally does one thing at a time.  This simplifies life and allows you to focus on one thing in a hectic world.

Although iPads range from $399 to $900, tablets from other manufacturers are available for much less.  As you examine these other tablets, make sure that you are comparing features, usability, and upgradability (operating system) with the iPad.

Won’t a new iPad be released in __ months?

There are always rumors of iPads of different sizes and features that could be released throughout the year, but in reality, no one knows when the next iPad will be released other than Apple, Inc.  The last refresh of the iPad was in November of 2014.

Why will the iPad become a fixture in schools?

The iPad continues to gain traction as a device, and in fact, I moved to a middle school position in 2013 which has 1:1 iPads for each student.  I am a firm believer that the iPad will be in nearly every school, with nearly every student.  Once again, portability and a ten hour battery are key factors.  The ease of use of iOS, combined with hardware that requires little IT hardware support make it an easy device to add to schools.  iBooks, ePubs, and abundant educational apps make interactive learning much easier to incorporate.  For the majority of computer tasks that our students are asked to create (papers, presentations, and spreadsheets), the iPad is perfectly suited to the task.  If you are an adult, you may not like typing on glass.  For students who have grown up using iPod Touches and other devices, typing on glass is a familiar, if not comfortable, activity.  Education will move away from traditional textbooks and printed resources to digital materials, making iPads a viable replacement in the classroom.

The mirroring capabilities of the iPad make the iPad an ideal interactive white board substitute–only limited by the apps that are available.  There are now a number of ways to mirror an iPad, including the Apple TV.  If you have a 3rd generation Apple TV and a 2012 or newer iPad, you can wirelessly mirror to an Apple TV without a wireless network.

What about other tablets (Android, Web OS, Windows 7)?

There are and will continue be competitors to the iPad.  It is possible that some will win contracts for schools.  Those competitors will need to compete in price and app offerings–and somehow offer more functionality (not just hardware features like SD card readers or USB ports) than an iPad.  Apple has a tremendous leap above its competitors, particularly when it comes to the quality and quantity of quality apps.  Basically, Apple would have to stop refining its product to be outpaced by its competition, and Apple shows no sign of being the company they were in the mid 1990s.  I like competition, because it will help to keep Apple on its toes.  At the time of editing this FAQ, there is no true competitor to the iPad, even though Google, Samsung, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Microsoft all have large tablet options (some of them quite nice) on the market.  Widescreen tablets aren’t going to “cut it” for music reading until the industry starts distributing music in a digital format.  But for taking existing resources (choral octavos) and putting them on a tablet, widescreen just doesn’t work so well.  4:3 tablets (iPad the some rare models of Android devices, such as the Kuno) replicate the ratio of paper better.

The Chromebook is the biggest competitor to the iPad in 1:1 deployments, but a Chromebook is very hard to integrate into music education; truthfully, you have to modify your music class to accommodate a Chromebook.  If your school purchases Chromebooks, you might be able to petition for a classroom set of iPads to use in music; schools that adopt Chromebooks are usually fully aware that they are very hard to integrate into music and other elective classes (and they saved so much money by choosing the Chromebook that they may be able to afford a classroom set of iPads for the music teacher!).  As of the fall of 2014, I believe the Chromebook is “winning” in education, but that does not mean that it is a “winner” for music education.

How do you use the iPad in your classes?

I use forScore (an app) for all of the sheet music used in all my choirs (curricular and extra-curricular) along with audio files of those songs (performances, accompaniment files, and rehearsal tracks).  The iPad is my accompanist, via the app Notion.  My students currently use NextPage for music on their iPads, and their scores distributed via Showbie.  I have used the iPad to show a video from time to time (Handbrake will convert a DVD to a iPad-friendly video), to write letters of recommendation (Pages), and to edit/interact with PDF files (PDF Expert).  On occasion, I will also use the iPad to hand write notes (written or music notation with Noteshelf) or even write music (Notion for iPad or NotateMe).  Of course, our district resources (grading, attendance) are online, so Safari can be used for that, and you could use the iPad to write and answer e-mail (although I don’t at school, as this is my own iPad and I do not access district resources at school on my own personal device).  I use the app Attendance 2 to have students scan a QR code to check in to class each day.  I also use the SmartMusic app in class for sight reading exercises.   As a side note, the iPad is Bluetooth enabled, so I can use a foot pedal (AirTurn) to turn page.

As of October 19, 2011, I began mirroring from my iPad to a projector in my room.  I recently bought a 3rd Generation Apple TV (current model) so I could wirelessly mirror without using the district network.  You can also set a computer to run Reflector, AirServer, or X-Mirage to act as an AirPlay receiver.

If you were given __ amount of dollars, what would you do with a classroom full of iPads?

First, if I had unlimited funds, every student in our district would have an iPad.  I am fortunate to be in an 1:1 iPad school as of the fall of 2013-2014.  If a 1:1 initiative was not possible, I would still want a classroom set of iPads.  They would be used in every class I teach–choir, guitar, music theory, and even our musical.  Choir would use them for all their music (and sight-reading).  Guitar would use them for their method books and for any additional project.  Music theory would use Notion for all written assignments.  And the musical would use them in many ways–from rehearsal to score study to the pit orchestra.  I might even be tempted to create an “iBand”

What are some great iPad apps for music education?

I’ve already mentioned them, but I’m sold on forScore (and unrealBook), Notion.  Additionally, I think you would want PDF Expert, Garage Band, Explain Everything, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers.   Some of my music education techie friends like Tonal Energy Tuner and Wave Pad.  There are many good tuners, fingering charts, and metronomes available.  You will want to try NotateMe, which allows you to handwrite music, as well as to scan music into the app (and out to other apps, devices, and programs).   See my iBook for a comprehensive list of apps, which still doesn’t cover every app in the app store.

What are potential apps that still need development for the iPad?

Believe it or not, there are few areas for music education that are not already covered with the iPad.  If you have ideas…develop an app!


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