The iPad Project Shopping List: Selecting the Right Device (Part 1 of 3)

Part of the work I have done with schools is to look over an evaluate quotes for upcoming purchases. While working with a London based primary school, I managed their IT procurement. The school had already sourced a number of quotes from reputable Apple resellers. The school had done everything right, but I was still able to scratch off £40,000 worth of products and services that were completely unnecessary.

I use this example to highlight how easy it can be for schools to get duped. This school’s staff members are no slouches, and they have an experienced business manager handling procurement. The reality is that schools often walk into agreements with resellers having little idea of what they need for their project. This is a sales person's dream scenario!

The second reality is that many salespeople have no idea what they are selling you. Most have never set foot in a school and have no experience of the challenges that occur on a day-to-day basis. They end up selling inappropriate technical solutions to wider school problems.

I want to help you avoid this by sharing my industry knowledge and breaking down what exactly should be on your project shopping list, so that you can maximise your budget and cut out any unnecessary extras.

Below is a simplified list of what you absolutely need for an iPad Project. In this 3-part blog series, I’ll break down why each item on the list is necessary and provide some recommendations.

iPad Project Shopping Checklist

  1. The right iPads/devices

  2. Protective cases

  3. A way to sync devices

  4. iPad Cart/Trolley

  5. Leads and adapters

  6. Accidental damage insurance

  7. The right Apps

Before you start, choose a deployment model.

At this point, I want to refer briefly to the different deployment models that schools employ as this will impact on your purchasing.

  • Bookable Class Sets: The School makes a set of iPads available for teachers to book for individual lessons.
  • Group Sets: Schools place a small number of iPads in each classroom and students work in groups with their device.
  • Personalised Devices: Each student has their own device. This may be school or student owned. Schools see the biggest impact when devices go home with students.
  • BYOD scheme:  Students bring their own devices from home. While it costs the school very little to run a BYOD scheme, there are many barriers and challenges to overcome.

Once you have decided your deployment model, you can go ahead and choose which device is best for your project.  


There are a few questions you need to consider when deciding which iPad is for you:

Should I buy the latest model?

My advice is to opt for something mid-range. The latest model will be packed with the best processor, latest graphics and more RAM, but in an educational setting, you will not test any of these to anywhere near their limit.

There is a lingering assumption that it is risky buying technology that is not the latest model in case it breaks or becomes outdated. Technology today is built to a very high standard and will likely last longer than you ever intend to use it for. Just look at all those Nokia 3210 phones from the mid 90s that still work! Technology obsolescence is a much more relevant concern, but to ease any worries Apple have always supported devices into and beyond their third year. Rather than buying the latest model every time, it is much better to plan for obsolescence. I look at this in much more depth in my book, The Tablet Revolution [link]. In brief, you should be looking to replace your devices after the third year. The fourth year is the threshold where the technological demands of software outpace older hardware’s capability.  

What size iPad should I buy?

For student devices, there are easy rules to follow. If your iPads are going to be used on an individual basis by students, then the iPad Mini will be fine. If you plan on using your iPads for shared/group work, then buy the 9.7” iPad [link]. Depending on the models available when you buy your iPads, you can usually get four iPad Minis for just a little over the price of three iPad Airs. For staff devices, I would recommend the 9.7” iPad, unless you think you would be comfortable working from a smaller screen. The iPad Pro is a beautiful device, but I think it is overkill for anyone but a graphic/design focused teacher.

How much iPad storage will I need?

This depends on your deployment model. If you are using shared devices, and you want to take advantage of Apple’s new sign-in feature that will allow students to load their profile to the device then you will need 32GB devices. This is a requirement. If you are looking at a 1:1 project, providing you have followed my advice on workflow, storage and apps, then 16GB iPads will be fine for your project.

You should not worry too much about storage for apps because you can run an entire 1:1 project on ten apps. I know of schools that use just five, and they see better impact than those using ten times as many. It is all about how you use what you have, and by picking apps on the impact they add to learning rather than their popularity, then you will do just fine.



Invest in a robust case to minimise breakages on your project. I have seen many schools, especially at primary level, buying cases for less than £5 each online. It may seem like you are saving money, but as soon as the first iPad is dropped, you can say goodbye to those savings when the screen cracks. Apple does not repair iPads. The best course of action is to protect your iPads from the outset by choosing a drop-tested case. I would recommend one of the following:

STM Dux: An enclosed durable folio style case that comes in a range of colours.

Maroo : A range of folio cases that are high quality at a competitive price.

Griffin Survivor:  A military-grade protection case that fully encloses the whole device ensuring it is also waterproof. Your target price should be no more than £20 per case; both the STM Dux and Maroo case come in below that. The Griffin Survivor is very tough and durable, but the fact that it leaves the slots for the microphone, headphone and camera not easily accessible might put you off. There are plenty of other case manufacturers in the market, but I have never felt they offer anything above the three listed above. Many have better drop-test heights or are more shock absorbent, but this overlooks the fact that the most sensitive part of the device is the screen, and this is something that cannot be protected when students are working on it.


Keep an eye out for part 2 of "The iPad Project Shopping List" where I talk about syncing and charging your devices. 

Key Takeaways

  • Before you start shopping, choose how you will deploy your devices.

  • You don’t always need to buy the latest model in an educational setting. Opt for mid-range devices. Also, think about what size and storage model is best for your project. If you get your workflow right, then 16GB models will be fine.

  • Always invest in a drop-tested, good quality case. Breakages and accidental damage are simply unavoidable on your project, but you can minimise this significantly with a robust case.

Is technology in your school simple and effective? Take the LearnMaker Scorecard test to find out. Get your personalised 14-pg report and guide:  

The LearnMaker Scorecard is completely free. All it requires is 10 minutes and your honest input. This Scorecard gives you 3 key areas on which to focus to make technology in your school simple and effective. 

Jay Ashcroft

Entrepreneur. Author. Speaker. Cofounder of LearnMaker