Around the world, throughout this pandemic, many of us find our children being schooled virtually from home. Around the world, throughout this pandemic, many of us find our children being schooled virtually from home.
As lessons go online and parents discuss the difficulties of sorting kit to facilitate online learning, I’ve found myself having this same discussion a number of times with different parents. Now, readers here are likely pretty tech savvy, so hopefully I’m not entirely ‘teaching Grandma to suck eggs’ here…
If you are a parent considering buying a laptop for your kid(s) to facilitate online Zoom/Teams etc lessons — don’t do that! At least not if they/you already have an iPad they can use. The trouble with ‘cheap’ laptops is you pay for them in other ways; poor performance, dreadful longevity and well, Windows. Instead, by purchasing just three pieces of kit for an iPad, you’ll get a far better ‘laptop’ and for far less!
The kit links below are using my Amazon affiliate code. So if you go ahead and purchase anything, Amazon will give me a few pennies. If the thought of that is too abhorrent to bear, obviously just search for the product names!
Since iOS 13.4, Apple has provided support for external mice. You can use a Magic Mouse or a cheaper 3rd party Bluetooth alternative. We’ve used the Magic Mouse that was in my drawer from an iMac purchase. I can’t get on with the Magic Mouse personally, and find I get wrist pain whenever I use it but my eldest loves it.
Here is the official Apple documentation on adding and setting up an external mouse. I don’t think Apple get enough credit for the manner in which mouse support is integrated into iOS. It is excellent. Absolutely stellar.
Arguably even more useful than the mouse on iOS/iPad OS is the ability to use an external keyboard. In my experience, this is more useful for older children (probably around 10+ age) as it frees up the screen real estate — making it more like a laptop for text entry and reading.
Logitech makes great peripherals. In our house, we’ve had great success with the K380. Especially as it allows you to connect it with up to 3 devices and easily switch between them, so you can use it for a phone, your TV etc as well — just a really useful bit of kit to have around the house or in your bag.
Of course there are a gazilion other Bluetooth keyboard options and any of them will free up the full screen and allow all the macOS conventions you are used to. Alt-Tab to switch Applications, CMD+ arrows to skip around words. If you think “I wonder if…” chances are it will work in iPad OS just fine.
Once you have the external peripherals, one thing that really helps complete the laptop-ification of an iPad is a decent stand. Preferably one you can use whether or not you have the iPad in a protective case.
We went for one of these aluminium numbers. In fact two as we’ve just got another for the other iPad it’s been so useful. It’s under 20 quid but still seemed like a bit of an indulgence at the time but I was surprised how it changed my sons attitude to working on his iPad. I say this not to boast (although I’d be lying if I said I’m not incredibly proud) but my eldest, now 11 years old, has just released his first novel on Amazon. That was written and published almost entirely using this iPad and external keyboard/mouse setup. This from a child that was the last child in his class to be allowed to use a pen his writing was so bad! In an odd way I think it empowered him to feel more ‘grown up’ and certainly gave him the confidence to express himself in writing in a way he struggled to do so with handwriting.
You already know how good iPads are. You can make them even better with a few relatively inexpensive extra bits of kit that will give you a better performing and less expensive option than a ‘cheap’ laptop.
As ever, any queries or personal recommendations, be sure to let me know in the comments.