George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Teaching and Learning: Using iPads in the Classroom

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator
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Updated 01/2014

If I had thirty iPads in my class, what would I do with them? How would I use them to help my students learn better and help me teach better? Perhaps a better question is what would I do with them that I could not do with other tools that are available and cheaper? Certainly iPads are cheaper than computers, desktop or laptop, and they are more mobile.

Speaking of computers, they were supposed to be the transformation of teaching and learning as we know it. In some ways there has been a transformation, but the basics of teaching and learning have remained unchanged. Perhaps, the iPad will be the tool that really does transform classroom practice. With that, I'd like to share some of the unique features of the iPad and apps, some free, to take advantage of and explore.

Kinesthetic Learners

The iPad has a number of unique features that provide for interesting possibilities in teaching and learning. The motion sensor of the iPad has a number of intriguing applications to learning. Most students today would be classified as bodily-kinesthetic learners. The motion sensor allows students to use their hands in guiding the iPad to equilibrium, balance skills, or remote control of real or virtual robotics, hovercraft, or other vehicles. Students can use the Clineometer app for measuring the level of a wall, or surface, and also the precise angles of incline, or decline. With the internal accelerometers in the iPad, physics experiments of acceleration or change in force can be measured. Imagine taking the iPad with you on a roller coaster ride. Imagine calculating angles and force and then shooting odd birds from a slingshot, destroying buildings and colliding with green pig heads (ever heard of Angry Birds?) Rubberized iPads and iPods in gym class can measure levels of exertion, balance, and repetitions.

As a completely portable learning tool, the iPad camera allows documentation to be taken to a whole different level. An app called Field Notes LT not only allows students to take copious notes of their observations, it attaches the date, time, GPS location and photographs of what is observed. These notes can be instantly shared, collaborated, and published in the field.

Students can also attach videos, and voice recordings to their field notes. They can dictate to the iPad using the Dragon Dictation app and it will type their words. With the iPads in the same network but in different locations, using the Assemblee app, students can create a collaboration web to share findings and discuss conclusions about different perspectives of the same project.

In math class the GPS of the iPad establishes locale in ways that are profound. Students can use the included Map app to calculate the distances, compare routes, and actual speeds of the westbound and the eastbound trains common in word problems. The mathematics involved with trip planning and decision-making are brought to life with actual real-time photographs, maps, and weather data provided by the Google Earth app, Big Blue Marble HD, and many others. The App called TourWrist allows students 360 degree views -- "tours" of locations of interest throughout the world. With DerManDar the students can take their own 360 degree pictures of places they visit.

Connecting Beyond the Classroom

Of course, the mobility provided by the iPad's wireless telephone connection capability allows the unprecedented access to the Internet anywhere students are. This is truly information on demand. As questions arise, students can google for clues and insights to begin their studies. Even more powerfully though, through the iPad phone connection, students can have access to volumes of primary source documents and data to help in their investigations in or out of the classroom, on the bus, in a restaurant, or at the football game.

Because iPad's do not have USB ports, disk drives or CDROM/DVD capability, methods for sharing data with other computers and devices over the Internet or "cloud" have been developed. Drop box allows students set up a personal account in which they can store iPad created documents, photos, fieldnotes, etc. And they can access those documents from any other computer or Internet capable device. Evernote will help students keep track of their notes and Mendeley will organize their research documents and let them take their research done on their computers with them, wherever they are going. The Project Gutenburg allows students to download thousands of classic books to be read on any number of free book reader apps available. With the HMH Fuse app, students have at their fingertips the entire Houghton-Mifflin Algebra One book along with exercises and tools for learning algebra.

While walking around the classroom and interacting with students, teachers can control their computers from their iPad with the Remote Mouse app. With a simple cable, teachers can use their iPads to present their unique and creative Prezi presentation made on their computer by using the iPad application called Prezi Player. The teacher can control the document by simply pinching, twisting and sliding their fingers across the face of the iPad.

Aside from the gazillions of games, tutoring, and pointless apps available for free, a diligent teacher can find treasures of apps for their iPads that engage and challenge the student minds in creative ways. Some of my favorites are Lasers Free, Trainyard EX, Play Chess, Words with Friends, and Contre Jour (not free, but worth the $.99).

How do you use iPads in the classroom to help teaching and learning?

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Comments (38) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Amanda Jensen's picture

Thank you for sharing the information about the Field Notes LT app and the Prezi presentation app! Do you have any specific elementary math application suggestions?

Brian's picture
Math Teacher from MN

I think the fact that the iPads are portable is a great asset to the tool and it would be fun to take out of the classroom and use in the fields for math and science classes. I think it would be fun to record and report out of the classroom and bring the classroom into the real world. I also think that it is great fro the students thatget to use the iPads at home or anywhere else. What are some other ways that iPads are a better buy in school than laptops?

Kelly Warren's picture

HELP PLEASE!!! My students had netbooks last year, and now they have ipads. I used edmodo a lot and had much success! Is there any app I can get on the ipad that is like edmodo? I have the edmodo app, but it is not compatible with Apple.

patruett's picture
Instructional Technology Specialist for Beaufort County School District

I have 30 ipads in an ELA classroom and am in search of apps for English, reading, vocabulary, and grammar for grades 7 & 8. We have a few digital libraries, which are limited. My students have suggested that we download the kindle & nook apps so they can read their books.
The district is in process of acquiring Google drive accounts for each student and we use Edmodo. In the meantime, please share any apps that you have found to be instructionally worthwhile. More apps may be requested, which is why I need suggestions. Thanks in advance for sharing!

Helena's picture
Education Technology Specialist

Hi, do check out Radix smartclass at which I found to have a great portfolio of features for classroom management. With its help you can monitor, control, create tests and reports, save them on a file, use media broadcasts and improve your teaching experience and make it simpler for you and your students.

Brooklyn Smith's picture

It is so interesting to view all different views of the use of Ipads and how you all utilise them or wish to utilise them in the classroom. I hope to have the opportunity to use some of these resources. As a 21st Century teacher it is essential we grasp the new technologies and really embrace what they have to offer. I hope to have at least 1 IPad in my classroom to allow students to engage and collaborate ideas. I would use the IPad along with social networking to involve students in blogging which also enhances their literacy skills.
Hope to see some more great ideas.

Anita Patel's picture

I have been using Radix SmartClass software last 2 year for my school. Radix Smart class is the smart way of teaching.

Fethi Kayalar's picture

I completely agree with you. The students now live in a digital age of communication. Most of the teachers, parents and students communicate with each other by means of mobile tools. I have just carried out a study on technology integration into classroom, I found out that some of the teachers are not so willing to communicate with their students through social networking sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Messengers ect. In fact, these facilities enhance the effectiveness of communication between teachers and students. As the digital communication tools develop teacher-student interactions, the devices like iPads should be used extensively at school and at home.

Allison Jefferson's picture

What a wealth of information this post is!! I have been teaching internationally for 2 1/2 years at a school that is 1:1 with iPads grade 3-7 and 1:1 with laptops for grade 8- 12. Moving from a public school in the U.S., this was initially very overwhelming. I had no idea how to use the iPads effectively within the classroom. It's posts like yours that help teachers navigate the wide world of apps to use with our students. I will definitely be saving this article to reread in the future. Thank you!

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