iPad in the Classroom – Can we make it simpler?


With many educational institutions choosing to use tablets for learning, it can be quite intimidating for teachers when faced with so many applications. The diagram below serves to illustrate that less than 20 core apps can play a significant part in the learning process and hopefully temper any trepidation.

iPad Key Tools

(with thanks to Greg Hughes @deepexperience1 for his ideas and input)

The apps indicated serve to enhance or modify existing practice with scope to be transformational. The extent to which the learning environment can be changed is up to the educator and students.


Twitter and Skype are part of many students’ lives, with immediate contact and communication a must. There is no reason they can’t be utilised in the classroom and to support learning at home. A class twitter account provides an easy way to convey links/information and is simple to set up and make private. Skype provides a free way to collaborate with peers and indeed experts in a subject area with little technical know-how.

A PDF annotator and Skitch (with the ability to annotate images) might take a little more getting used to, but are invaluable to the educator with tablets in the classroom. Existing resources are easily modified and the ability to redo and share can’t be underestimated. Students quickly learn shortcuts and the learning process can be enhanced with minimal attention paid to the technology.

Perhaps the most important collaborative tool however is GoogleDrive. Leaving GoogleApps aside, the sharing options and collaborative documents make GoogleDrive a really powerful app and one worth spending some time learning all about.

(with thanks to dc12norfolk)

As the video illustrates, GoogleDrive is a very powerful learning tool with transformational possibilities for students and educators alike.


I firmly believe that the reason why the iPad is the right choice for schools lies with two unique applications – iBooks Author and iTunesU. The ability to collate all existing and new resources into an iBook with iBooks Author and set out a course and its administration for a period of time in iTunesU will change the way some schools work. If you add to this the simplicity with which educators can create screencasts for their students using Explain Everything, then you have resource applications that are far beyond current methods.

Once an iTunesU course or iBook has been created, students just require a link to be able to download it to their iPad. A real plus is that any changes made by the author are automatically synced to any subscriber’s iPad. No more queuing for the photocopier!


Plenty has been written about Edmodo and Socrative as tools for learning and I concur, they are superb. Socrative will provide plenty of information for the educator with exit ticket reports (a real winner when planning for the next lesson). Edmodo also provides the ability to receive/annotate and grade assignments without any need for paper and students receiving their feedback as soon as it is completed by the educator.

(with thanks to Ron Bosch)

If educators only get to grips with these two applications they can have a real impact on the learning process and also the day to day management of workload.


Attention to detail is always enhanced when a student believes their work might be displayed to their peers. AppleTV allows any iPad on the same wireless network to be mirrored to a projector. This means that apps such as iMovie, iThoughtsHD and Notability allow students to create and share their work at the behest of the educator. It’s amazing how, after a couple of attempts, students’ work ethic improves when they have the opportunity to receive immediate feedback on their creations.

(with thanks to XMA4education)

I’m not suggesting there aren’t other generic apps that are very suitable for the classroom and I could have included many more. There are also countless subject specific apps that can really help educators and students alike to convey and discover information. The point of this post is, hopefully, to illustrate how a few apps and a 1:1 iPad environment needn’t be a daunting prospect.

All thoughts very welcome.

About Daniel Edwards
Director of Innovation & Learning at the Stephen Perse Foundation schools, Cambridge, UK (stephenperse.com). Interested in global connectivity for all and risk taking in education. Keen to discuss all aspects of learning and digital strategy. Also @syded06 on twitter.

37 Responses to iPad in the Classroom – Can we make it simpler?

  1. Pingback: Daily 04/13/2013 | READINGPOWER

  2. cgparkin says:

    Great work Daniel – love the depth of content here and the fact you’ve incorporated a range of sources and strategies

  3. Very true – a really useful article and a concept that many schools just don’t get. I regularly see schools with iPads struggling under 80+ apps. Now if teachers want to add an app to our ‘permanent’ app rota I recommend that they lead a quick briefing sharing how they’ll use it!

    • Thanks Rebecca and good of you to take the time to comment. I do think over-excitement about the latest app can mean nothing is embedded properly. I can see a model where HOD’s chose subject specific apps to add to 20 generic school wide choices.

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  7. michaeldye says:

    Great work! This seems to be secondary specific… are their similar articles etc for upper primary/elementary classes – 1:1 ipad use? Cheers!

  8. Great post Daniel. I genuinely believe that it is much more effective to have a small collection of apps that can be used effectively across curriculum areas. The apps you have listed have diverse classroom application and generally result in increased emphasis on higher order thinking.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Shane.

    • These apps also allow for creation of a product and others responding to that creation. Whether it’s the teacher or the student creating the product or the process used to generate that product, you’re right a few powerful tools are worth the whole collection of auxiliary apps that do not do much more than duplicate the early drill and practice, tutorial, and like-style programs we saw when we were first using educational software in the classroom. We just need those few special apps that enable us to generate, create, interact, and produce. These kinds of apps have also sorts of possibilities and lots of adaptability. Some are even fine in the elementary grades, as was raised as a concern my Michael. With iMovie on the iPad, young children, for instance, can create movies, and they have already created iBooks. Seymour Papert early one encouraged us to use the technology in ways that allowed for creation, production, and interactivity. It’s not the number of apps, but the specific apps and how they are used that created powerful learning environments. It is also good to see Skype and Twitter on this list because with these technologies we create global learning environments.

      • Good of you to take the time to comment Judy and I wholeheartedly agree. Creation is what makes the iPad stand out as a tool in the learning process.

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  13. Great read. I also agree with the point about iTunesU – We are just setting this up at my current school and I can see SO much potential in it!

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  28. Helena says:

    Hi Daniel, great post! I would strongly recommend a classroom management that you might be interested in checking out- http://www.radixsmartclass.in

  29. Pingback: The iPad Toolkit for Learning? |

  30. Tablet or Ipad save the school lots of money,replacing text book work and time. Ipad Classroom Management software enables teacher to easily manage and easily control the class or training room environment.if you can video demo so read more on http://www.radixsmartclass.in/

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