I have been teaching with an iPad for the past three years (currently using an iPad Air II from $399) and one of the greatest benefits has been that I am completely mobile in the classroom. I have a projector mounted to the ceiling of my room and hooked up an Apple TV (3rd Gen $69) to it which allows me to connect wirelessly to it. Conveniently the Apple TV is compatible with all recent Apple products so in a pinch I can also project my iPhone screen or Macbook Pro screen. As a result, my setup allows me to walk around the classroom as I am teaching, allow students to manipulate the screen, and gives me greater flexibility in general simply not having to be anchored to a projector station in the front of the class.
I often use my iPad to complete basic tasks throughout the day such as submitting attendance as students enter the classroom, project class directions on the screen, project my Google Slides lesson, take pictures of and project student work and examples, project questions and materials on the whiteboard which I or the students can write on, and show Youtube clips.
Flipping the Classroom
This past year was my first time teaching Algebra (typically teach science and social studies) and the struggle was real. I was dealing with a class who fell all along the spectrum of what they were able to do, from those who were solving logarithms to those who still thought Pi was just a delicious dessert. In order to meet the diverse needs of my students, I began to create math lesson videos that walked students through our math lessons and included multiple example questions. These videos were available for students to watch in class and outside of class and covered a range of different skills which allowed me to meet students specifically where they were in their abilities. Using the iPad to create these videos was relatively simple, as there are a number of apps that allow you to record your screen and voice and upload them online without the need to invest a lot of time. The app that I use personally is ExplainEverything ($5.99 on the iOS store), alternatively ShowMe is a free option on the iOS store.
Apps to Use
Before I list a number of apps you can use on the iPad, let me preface it with the fact that apps are constantly going through the reiterative process and improving, or eventually are no longer supported. In all reality, if you are reading this post a year or two from now, many of these apps may be irrelevant.
Google Drive (Free) - If you are are Google Apps for Edu (GAFE) school this is a necessary app along with all the other associated drive software: Slides, Sheets, and Docs. I almost exclusively do all my content direct instruction using Slides, project project instructions from Docs, and record class statistics on Sheets.
Google Classroom (Free) - At some point I will create a whole post just on Google Classroom, but for all GAFE schools I believe that this is an essential app. It allows you to pose questions to students where they can respond to each other, assign projects and directly access your students’ work from the app and project it on the screen (always be sure to ask their permission first).
Pinterest (Free) - I am hardly the teacher to heap praise upon Pinterest but I cannot deny that it is an amazing app to find great teaching ideas and pinspiration (see what I did there?)
YouTube (Free) - Youtube is such a great resource for finding and showing short video clips of different concepts. With millions of videos available, you are almost guaranteed to find an appropriate video that visualizes whatever topic it is you are trying to convey to your students. In addition, it is so simple to upload your own content directly from your iPad. Be sure to always preview the videos you are planning on showing to ensure they are suitable for the students you have.
Twitter (Free) - This is less for the classroom but still is a must-have app as I find it to be the most effective personal professional development tool. There are a million plus teachers on twitter who help to support an amazing network of professionals that share teaching resources, collaborate across international lines, and inspire each other. Use the following hashtags to get started: #EdChat #EdTech #EarlyEd #CommonCore #CCChat #CCSS #BlendedLearning #PBL
Audible (Free) - If you use stations in the classroom, setting up an audiobook listening station using Audible is a great option. Perfect for listening to a variety of audiobooks and podcasts, many of whom are free.
Green Screen by Do Ink ($2.99) - Have green butcher paper? That is all you need to have an effective green screen! Simply cover part of a wall with it, film your students or objects in front of it, and then overlay images or other videos on your video clip to create a fun and innovative project. Easy enough for students to learn quickly!
Prezi (Free) - An alternative presentation tool to Google Slides is Prezi. Similar to Google Drive apps, all your work on Prezi is saved to the cloud. Prezi can be fun and engaging, although beware! Some students may get motion sickness if you or your students get too crazy with it.
NearPod (Free) - This is an interactive presentation tool that allows you to project content and splice in multiple choice and short answer questions that students can respond to on their devices (compatible with smartphones, tablets, and computers, no downloading of the app required). It is an effective and immediate formative assessment tool.
GoFormative (Free) - So I’m cheating a little bit here as GoFormative is not an app necessarily, but can be accessed through a web browser. This program allows you to upload PDF and Word documents and insert questions directly on to them that students can answer. Questions come in the form of multiple choice, short answer, and drawing options. Assessments can also be made from scratch, and all student responses are live and the results are clearly organized and give the teacher a very accurate overview of the class’ understanding of the content and standards being assessed.
Challenges of a One iPad Class
The initial complaint of teachers who have a single iPad is that it is not enough to share with their class. While I understand this issue, the mindset that teachers should have is that it is solely a teacher’s personal teaching tool. Ideally you work in a school where students have access to school devices or have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOB) policy. I will post more about the effective implementation of One-to-one schools in the future, so be on the look out!
iPads are great teaching tools, but even with attaching keyboards they are more limited than what a laptop can do. I do all my lesson planning and content creation on my Macbook. While I could potentially do it on my iPad, it would take much longer and I would be far less efficient. The new iPad Pro (from $599 for the 9.7” or $799 for the 12.9”) solves some of these issues but they are still far from being a complete laptop replacement.
Storage is an issue if you plan on taking multiple photos and videos, space will be at a premium. I have quickly found that 16GB is far too little space to have, even with constantly uploading everything to the cloud (Google Drive). If you can afford it, I would highly suggest splurging on the higher storage options.
Professional Development for the staff is simply not optional. In order to effectively use the iPads in the classroom, it is essential for teachers to receive training in best practices, modeled lessons, and planning time and flexibility to help teachers become comfortable in their use. I highly encourage all administrators to identify teachers who excel in the use of technology and push them to become leaders and exemplars within the staff.
If you could have one personal computer device in the classroom, you should get an iPad. Do not worry too much about spending a lot of different apps, get Google Apps for Education, seek out professional development, and experiment!
Let me know in the comments below what apps you use, how you use your iPad in the class, and any questions you have!