While Apple readies its second generation iPad for an anticipated spring launch and Android slates nibble away at its market, there’s a way to make the iPads you have a lot better. The overall look and most of its details will be unchanged, but installing Apple’s iOS 4.2 update can transform an iPad with new abilities that will fit in well in the classroom.
It still won’t be able to play Flash videos or expand its storage space with an SD card or memory stick, but there are a basketful of bug fixes that make it run smoother. On top of that, add in limited multi-tasking and a game center and you have a significant upgrade.
At 550MB, it’s a hefty download, and you won’t lose anything that’s already on the system. In addition it takes about 15 minutes to install the software via iTunes. Don’t worry, all your apps, media and documents will still be there when you’re done and everything will look like nothing has happened.
Expect it will take you a little while to get used to the new software, but Apple’s User’s Guide can help.
The big thing the update brings to the iPad is AirPrint. This gives the iPad the ability to print to a nearby wireless printer without adding a third party printing app like PrintCentral or Ndili’s Fax Print & Share. Be careful, though, there are a couple caveats. AirPrint only works with select applications, including Pages, Numbers and Keynote, and it only works with 10 recently made HP printers.
I tried it out with the PhotoSmart eStation C510 printer and it did a great job of printing a presentation and spreadsheet. Before it can work, you’ll have to update those apps that are print enabled.
Got dozens of apps cluttering up your Home screen? The new software lets you organize them into folders so that you can keep all your science apps separate from those used for drawing.
The dictionary in the iPad now supports 50 languages and there are new keyboards for adding accents and diacritical marks for language classes. Your notes don’t need to look dull anymore because iOS 4.2 supports choosing which font you want to use, but you have to choose from among three that are available. Just go to the Notes section of the Settings page and pick the font and whether you want it to look like it was written with a felt marker, a piece of chalk or with the reliable Helvitica font.
Finally, the iPad can help those who teach handicapped students. The pad can now print to 30 different Braille devices to become a curriculum storehouse for blind students.
All told, it makes the iPad a better place to teach and learn. It’s not perfect and the changes include things that should have been in the initial release of the iPad. Still, it’s a big step forward for a small and very portable computer.