Why iPads


iPads allow us as teachers to think differently about the way we use technology in our classrooms and because they are portable devices, the way we use technology outside the four walls of the classroom on field trips and other activities.

This difference is possible due to a number of factors which include the design of the device, the range of educational Apps available, the curriculum support from a sharing community and the variety of accessories to enhance its use.

Let’s explore each of those factors in a bit more detail …

The Device

A post PC device

While the iPad can perform many of the same tasks as a computer, it is ultimately a different sort of device, so it is best to reimagine the ways that it can be used for education.

For starters, the iPad is light and easy to carry around and it has a battery that will last 10-12 hours – so that opens up possibilities for its use both in the classroom and outside the classroom.

More important are the other features built into the device that allow us to use it in different ways. For example, there are two cameras, a microphone and a number of built-in sensors including an accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, an ambient light sensor, and some models even have a built-in barometer.

Camera possibilities

The cameras can be used to take photos and videos – newer models of iPad also allow panorama shots, time lapse and slow motion videos with the default Camera App. (There are panorama, slow motion and time lapse Apps available for older model iPads)

The camera can also be used to create stop frame animations, green screen and other special effects using a variety of available Apps. With Apps like
i-nigma the iPad can be used as a QR Code reader.The Star Walk App (see image on the left) is an example of “augmented reality” that overlays information onto what the camera is showing. That App uses Global Positioning System information to help “augment” reality. The image above shows a student using the camera with the Quiver App to make his coloured-in drawing come to life.
There are Apps such as IPEVO Whiteboard that allow the iPad to be used as a document camera where the camera image can be annotated (and recorded as a video for later playback).

A variety of accessories are available that can enhance the abilities of the camera as well. For instance, the image on the left was taken with a ProScope Micro Mobile microscope accessory attached to the iPad.

There are also accessories that mount the iPad onto a tripod so that the camera can be kept still when creating stop frame animations, time lapse videos or while the iPad is being used as a document camera.

Microphone possibilities

The microphone also offers opportunities to use the iPad in various ways in the classroom.

It is possible to add sounds and commentary to multimodal texts created in Apps such as Book Creator.

Create recounts, voice memos and screencasts in Apps such as AudioNote Lite, Doceri and Explain Everything.

In GarageBand, you can use the microphone to create a podcast
(similar to a radio broadcast).

There are Apps like Multi Measures 2 that allow sound to be measured for science experiments (see image on the left).

Sensor possibilities

Like the last microphone example above, the in-built sensors can also be used for experiments.

The image on the left shows seismic vibrations which could be used to simulate an earthquake and show how a seismometer works or could be used in mathematics to explain the x, y and z axes as each can be individually turned on or off.

There are also Apps that turn the iPad into a Teslameter (to measure the magnetic field), an Altimeter (to measure elevation), a Barometer (to measure atmospheric pressure) – even a Theodolite (to work out latitude, longitude, altitude, elevation,etc.)

And there are accessories that can be purchased that allow the iPad to get information from a variety of other sensors – to check heart rate, water quality, temperature, wind speed, motion, speed and velocity, volume and pressure.

The Apps

There’s an App for that …

While that is an overused phrase, it is very true. However, it is very easy to become overwhelmed with the App choices. It is far better to start with a few Apps – particularly Apps that can be used by students to demonstrate their knowledge. Apple’s 5 creative Apps – Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and GarageBand – are now FREE (note: the latest versions only work on iOS 10 devices)

Pages is a word processing and desktop publishing App similar to Microsoft Word – in fact it can open Word documents, and if a document is created in Pages, it can be saved in any of the following formats – a Pages document, a Word document, a PDF document or an ePub.
Numbers is a spreadsheet and graphing App similar to Excel – and it can open and save in its own Numbers format as well as Excel format, and it can save as a PDF.
Keynote is a presentation App like Powerpoint – it can open and save in its own Keynote format as well as open and save as Powerpoint format and save as a PDF.
iMovie is an easy to use movie making App with two parts – a “scaffolded” Trailer feature and a fully featured professional Movie making feature.
GarageBand can be used to create music and sounds but it also can be used to create podcasts or radio style broadcasts.

So, out of the box, the iPad becomes a creative tool that will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways – a report or poster, a spreadsheet or graph, a live presentation or kiosk-style presentation, a short trailer or movie, or as an audio podcast.

One suggestion to limit the number of Apps is to “initially” only purchase one other creative App and also one “productivity” App that allows work to be easily transferred to and from the iPad.

The creative App could be Book Creator – a wonderful App for creating multimodal texts which include text, images, movies, sounds and now also has “comic book” features for an even richer experience. It is suitable for students of all ages.
GoodReader is an example productivity App (although there are many others). Check out the blog on File Transfer and the iPad for more information about GoodReader and the other file transfer options. Not only is GoodReader useful for file transfer, it is also a file management tool and a PDF annotation tool.

Supplementary tools

There are also a number of other “free” Apps that can be downloaded to supplement the creative Apps already mentioned – these include brainstorming tools, image editing tools, painting and drawing tools, screen casting and whiteboard tools …

popplet lite is an easy to use brainstorming tool. Individual “popplets” can contain text, drawings and photos, can be colour coded and easily linked to other popplets to show a sequence.
iBrainstorm is a collaborative brainstorming tool (up to four iPads can connect together) that uses the concept of post-it notes to capture ideas. There are a variety of backgrounds available to help organise ideas into patterns.
Photo Editor by Aviary is a multi-purpose image editing tool that can be used to crop images, correct faults and annotate with drawings, text and stickers. It also has a variety of filters, frames and overlays to enhance images.
Paper by FiftyThree is a powerful drawing and painting tool that can also be used for note-taking and “sketch noting”.
Doceri can be used by the teacher in the classroom to “simulate” an interactive whiteboard. In the hands of students however, it can be used a screen casting tool to allow them to demonstrate and save their higher order thinking.
IPEVO Whiteboard can also be used as an interactive whiteboard and as a screen casting tool – with the added benefit that it can also be used as a document camera.

With the combination of the five free creative Apps from Apple, Book Creator and GoodReader and the free utilities mentioned above, the iPad is now a wonderful tool that can be used across the curriculum by students to show their knowledge.

Please Note: none of the Apps mentioned above rely on the internet to work, so the iPad can be used successfully in schools with poor bandwidth.

While it is handy to use the iPad wirelessly in the classroom – when they are being used as a “simulated” interactive whiteboard or when students wish to show their work – it is still possible to use the same functionality by plugging the iPad into a data projector or large screen using an adapter and cable. So, a lack of Wi-Fi is also not a blocker to iPad use in the classroom!

Similarly, while the GoodReader App will connect wirelessly to G Drive to transfer files to and from the iPad, it can also be used via a cable directly to a computer in the classroom.

Curriculum specific Apps

There will eventually be other Apps to be added depending on the age of the students and the curriculum to be covered once everyone is comfortable with the creative Apps and tools mentioned above (remember – don’t swamp teachers and students with too many Apps initially).

Below are some of the blogs on the Learning Place that may help with the choice of Apps.

iPads in the classroom lists a number of Apps that allow the iPad to be a useful teaching tool.

Being creative with iPads lists the ways that the iPad can be used creatively – it also has links to some “how-to” documents for Apps like iMovie, Book Creator and Photo Editor by Aviary.
 STEAMing into STEM lists the variety of Apps available for STEM activities in the classroom.
Coding, Programming and Sequencing lists Apps that can be used for “coding” activities suitable for Prep through to Year 12
Augmented Reality lists Apps that can be used to highlight the potential of Augmented Reality to engage students in different ways to stimulate writing and research and also offers another option for students to present their knowledge.
There are also Apps for literacy, numeracy, history, geography, art, music, health, special needs and so on – too many to list here. The Contemporary Practice Resource has more information.

Download the iBook Evaluating Apps for the Classroom to help guide decisions.

Curriculum Support

Where to find help

Apple have created the Apple Teacher Learning Centre a free professional learning program where teachers can log in and build skills using a variety of iPad Apps. It is self-paced with curated resources, learning collections, lesson ideas and hints and tips from other teachers.

As well as blogs and the Contemporary Practice Resource on the Learning Place there is a large community of teachers around the world that are happy to share resources and ideas. Many of these resources can be found as eBooks on the iBooks Store or courses on iTunes U.

In the iBooks Store you will find “how-to” guides for various Apps as well as more general eBooks on using iPads in the classroom.

In iTunes U there are courses on everything from how to draw comics, learn to play music, learn to code as well as courses on education research, school transformation and using iPads in the classroom.

Apple also have an education page for teachers with examples and information on Apps.

Finally, there is a discussion list dedicated to the classroom use of mobile devices (the iPhone discussion list) … you can subscribe here.


Enhancing the iPad experience …

One of the first accessories that many schools purchase is a case or cover to protect the iPad (particularly the screen).

Some cases allow the iPad to be dropped (even protected when run over by a car) while others allow small hands to grip the iPad more securely. Some covers are purely decorative while others include a keyboard.

If you are using the iPad for making movies or as a document camera, then you will need a mount to attach the iPad to a tripod to keep it steady. There are images and links to some of the mounts in the iPads in the classroom blog.

There is also a mount that adds a microscope to the iPad – the Proscope Micro Mobile. (see the image of moss under the Camera possibilities section)

There are a variety of keyboards available for the iPad. The image on the left shows the special iPad Pro keyboard, but there are a variety of Bluetooth keyboards that work well with all iPads. There are also wired keyboards with lightning connectors from companies such as Belkin and Logitech. Some low powered standard USB keyboards can also be used if plugged into a Lightning to USB adapter.
The stylus is another common accessory. The image on the left shows the one designed for the iPad Pro called the Apple Pencil. There are many different types of stylus – some with soft tips, some with hard tips, some with plastic discs. Some, like the Apple one on the left, are shaped like a pencil, others are more like a pen – there are even ones shaped like a large crayon for small hands.
There are a multitude of Bluetooth enabled devices that can be controlled and/or programmed with the iPad – including the Sphero robotic ball (and its siblings SPRK+, Ollie and BB-8); Dash (pictured on the left) and Dot; Parrot Drones; Lego We-Do and EV3 devices; and other devices like OSMO (with a variety of educational Apps including: Words, Numbers, Coding, Tangram, …); and many, many more devices.
The Apple TV (pictured on the left) allows the iPad to connect to large displays wirelessly. If that is too expensive or the Wi-Fi is limited, there are a range of cables and connectors that allow the iPad to be connected to data projectors and large screen monitors. Other connectors such as the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter not only allow the iPad to connect to cameras but also to connect to USB headsets, USB keyboards, USB microphones and even USB Ethernet adapters (so the iPad can have a cabled connection to the school network).


Before you rush in

Although the iPad performs many of the same functions as a computer, it is ultimately a different sort of device. While that opens up many possibilities for its use both in and out of the classroom, it also means that it needs to be set up and managed in different ways as well.

The Device

The iPad was designed as a personal device rather than a multi-user device like a computer where users can log on and have their own “space” to save work. On the iPad, individual Apps (for example Book Creator) save inside the App itself – meaning protocols need to be in place to ensure students do not lose work.

Another issue to consider is the fact that the iPad “caches” proxy username and passwords and this can mean that for the next few hours students are using the credentials of the first person who used the iPad for that day. This can make it difficult to trace inappropriate internet use. It is also an issue if a teacher uses the iPad before the students, so the teacher’s extra internet privileges are available to students (e.g., access to YouTube).


Before purchasing any iPads, seek the advice of your local Regional System Technician regarding your current network infrastructure and the most suitable management option for the school’s proposed fleet of iPads.

The different ways of managing the devices can cause extra stress for the person who is responsible for managing the technology in the school.

In small schools that can be a real issue – often the person managing the technology is only given limited time, so having a whole new second system can be overwhelming. Even in large schools with a dedicated technician often times they are already “snowed under” managing the current Windows fleet and have limited capacity to be involved with new platforms.

There are blogs with links to “step-by-step” guides and “how-to” videos to help with the management of iPads, but they will be of little use if the person involved is not ready to embrace change.

For small numbers of iPads, it is possible to set them up individually on the device itself. Here is a link to a step-by step guide to setting up iPads individually. This also entails setting up an Apple ID for each device and purchasing iTunes cards for each device to purchase Apps.

Once a school starts building up its iPad fleet (some regions suggest this means any more than six devices), it is more efficient and cost effective to manage them using either Apple Configurator 2 or a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution and purchase App licences in bulk using the Volume Purchase Program (VPP).

Note: some schools are still using the older Apple Configurator (latest version 1.7.2) but this does not run on the latest versions of the Mac operating system (macOS Sierra – 10.12) so will need to be replaced.

Schools are also finding the older Apple Configurator is having issues when updating iPads or preparing new iPads.

Apple School Manager

Apple have a new deployment solution – Apple School Manager (ASM) – which incorporates both the older deployment programs:

  • Volume Purchase Program (VPP)
  • Device Enrolment Program (DEP)

The Volume Purchase Program allows Apps to be purchased in bulk with savings of up to 50% for most Apps when 20 or more licences are purchased.

The Device Enrolment Program allows devices to be set up wirelessly out of the box using the settings from the school’s chosen Mobile Device Management solution (at present there are still issues with the Device Enrolment Program and the DET proxy).

There are instructions for how to enrol in Apple School Manager on the Service Centre Online. The instructions also show how to upgrade to Apple School Manager if a school has already enrolled in any of the older deployment programs.

Apple Classroom

Apple also released the Classroom 2.0 App which can monitor and control iPads in the classroom (even in BYOx classrooms). However, it will only work with devices running iOS 10.3 or later. More information can be found on the Classroom Help pages.


Apple Schoolwork is here… sort of

The best way to learn is by doing and making. The Schoolwork app helps you and your students more effectively use the creative power of iPad. You can easily distribute and collect assignments, keep an eye on student progress in educational apps, and collaborate one on one with students from anywhere, in real time. It’s easy for students to use, too. Assignments automatically appear on their iPad, organized by class, due date, and priority. And Schoolwork helps you keep track of how everyone in class is doing — so you can tailor your teaching to the needs of each of your students.