Jawanda has let me guest post today because I am her personal technology assistant. I have had several people ask me about buying their child an iPad vs. a notebook or other device. After a great deal of research, we purchased an 1st generation iPad for Rachel last year. I am far from a real expert. What I know pales to many people such as my friend Justin Meredith, but I suppose compared to many I know more than I think. Following are practical suggestions on what to buy for your child with Down syndrome.
If you are going to get an iPad put the money toward that and skip the iPod touch. Several have asked if that is a good starter. In my opinion just go ahead and get an iPad. Once you have that there will be no going back and you will already be $100 toward the $500 – 800 you need. For most people who are not going to use this for business, the “WiFi only” is all you need. Otherwise you pay a monthly plan just like for a smart phone. This is useful to connect when you are on the road. However, with WiFi you can connect over wireless at home, at Starbucks in a hotel etc. Really, that is all most people need. I went ahead and got the 32G version just to make sure Rachel could have several movies on hers for trips. 16gb is a lot and you could have three movies and a bunch of apps and probably be fine.
If you get the iPad you would interface with iTunes, and it can be used on a PC or a Mac. Be sure to double check when you buy and tell the Mac salesperson what windows operating version you are running. We keep our purchased videos stored in our iTunes account and she decides which ones she wants on the iPad for that trip. Then we trade out. Since it is “online” you could fly to LA and watch three movies. Go to the hotel and log in to your account and you could switch those three out for the trip home and just sync up.
I bought Rachel a polyurethane cover but it doesn’t have a plastic shield. In general if it is dropped hard enough to break, the plastic cover may not help but does prevent scratches. That is really a personal preference. They have some excellent cases and I may find Rachel a new one that folds over and covers it when not in use and again spend the 50 bucks to get a good one. These also allow you to prop up and use in a more comfortable fashion. Several of our friends have this already and find it useful.
Apps! There are hundreds of good ones and I spend lots of time sorting them out. We now have several good resources and I will try and list a few below. Even big apps do not take up lots of storage. Depending on whether you have movies on your iPad, you could have possibly have thousands of apps. You can I think you can store over 10,000 songs with 32gb of memory. The hard part is organizing. You will want to create folders to organize by education or games etc.
Finally, the iPad 1 vs 2. As of this writing, most people reading this post will still be fine with generation 1. What do you get with generation 2? Here is a short video and I think gives a good overview http://www.iphoneipadipodapple.com/ipad-1-vs-ipad-2-whats-new/. But for a educational and entertainment device for our kids, the first version is still pretty magical.
I really can’t speak to tablets. I think there are some good options. We already owned a Mac at home and I use one at work so it just seemed to make the most sense. I love their customer service. Rachel has started middle school and we have already loaded some cool science apps and language arts apps that she loves. We find her logged in using the educational apps and teaching herself. The best part is she is learning and having fun. Last year for me the biggest thing I loved was using gFlasPro flash cards http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gflashpro-flashcards-tests/id297332787?mt=8. This allowed me to get rid of Jawanda’s beloved piles of index cards (alias “The Index Card Lady”) and put them right on the iPad. We used them for spelling, history, science: you name it. I put the questions and answers on the on line flash cards. Then when we were going to and from choir or drama and had 20 extra minutes I would give Rachel her iPad and she would work through her work. Gone are the plastic bags of index cards that you can’t read in the dark!
Apps that we are using right now that have been good. Our new favorite is Star Walk http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/star-walk-for-ipad-interactive/id363486802?mt=8 that allows you to hold the iPad to the sky and see what constellations you are looking at, where the space station is at etc. We are also using Shake a Phrase http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shake-a-phrase/id436414534?mt=8, Story Builder App http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/storybuilder-for-ipad/id377631532?mt=8 are all ones we are using right now. I am also looking at Britanica’s science apps for volcanoes and other earth sciences.
One of my go to places for apps is Moms With Apps web site http://momswithapps.com/ they do a great job reviewing and providing suggestions. I would also highly recommend the Tech Chicks and listen to their podcasts, Facebook page etc. They are very knowledgeable and teach technology in Texas. The always provide me with lots of new things. One the brought to my attention they I have shared with our schools is LiveBinders http://livebinders.com/ is your 3-ring binder for the Web pretty cool.
I could go on forever. I like this kind of stuff so I enjoy finding ways to use technology to enhance Rachel’s learning. I think we are seeing more people such as the Moms with Apps who will help us as a clearinghouse. There are more and more special needs apps and people who now see this as a huge market so that is good news.
Final word: Say yes to an iPad as soon as possible. It is a fun device but it is a HUGE education and life changer. Our children are having whole new worlds opened to them now and in the future because of this technology. So be it an iPad, tablet or other device like this I say start saving your money, do your research and get your child learning. Feel free to leave questions and I will do my best to find you answers.
Jonathan D. Mast
Dad of Rachel
Jawanda “The Index Card Lady’s” Personal Technology Assistant and
Emerging Media Manager, Black & Veatch