The iPad in the Classroom and 20 favorite Ed Apps

Sep 27, 2011 by


iPads are undoubtedly cool, but are they just another gadget, or can they be used meaningfully in a classroom setting?

I should preface this by  saying both my sons are currently using parent-provided iPads as their school computer and as part of 504 plans.  The advantages of the iPad over a traditional netbook or laptop computer include:

  • Instant on- there’s no waiting for the computer to boot up at all.
  • Long battery life- with 10 hours of battery life, a charge can last a day or two, and certainly throughout the school day.
  • Lightweight- it’s very lightweight and portable, even if you add on external keyboards for better typing with either a standard bluetooth mac wireless keyboard or a case that includes a bluetooth keyboard like the Zagg or Logitech case.  These essentially turn the iPad into the equivalent of a Mac Book Air.  You can literally take the iPad anywhere.  While 3G is needed to allow internet access outside of wi-fi areas, we’ve found that wifi only is just fine for everywhere we use the iPad outside of the car and ebing on the road with athletic events or field trips.
  • The Apps Themselves– a variety of apps have great functionality for kids in school- some of the ones my kids have had the most success with include:
  1. iHomework- a great agenda program that helps them keep track of their work, due dates and managing assignments and projects.
  2. Flipside HD- a flashcard app that lets kids create their own flashcards, mix them around, and even share them with others as needed.  Much more fun than making traditional flashcards and trying to keep track of them all. Goodbye 3 x 5 cards!
  3. AudioNote- This allows a student to take notes in class and record the lecture at the same time, syncing the audio and the notes together.  For kids who are learning to take notes, or simply cannot multi-task well and aren’t great notetakers, this means they can review stuff they may not have been fast enough to take down, take more outline notes, and focus more in class on what the teacher is saying.  While some teachers seem to dislike the concept of being recorded in class, I do have to ask whether during a lecture you are trying to test their note-taking ability and ability to listen and write at the same time, or are you more concerned with them learning the information you are imparting?  In which case, shouldn’t a student be able to rewind you to try to take in everything you are saying?  Certainly, the rate of your speech and the rate of their transcription are bound to be out of sync at least some of the time….
  4. Idea Boards- a great app for helping students to gather ideas and organize information
  5. Comic Life- a fun way for kids to experiment with making cartoons- editorial cartoons for social studies, and more.
  6. Lab timer- great multi-timer app for labs in science
  7. imemento – another flashcard app, but we tend to prefer Flipside
  8. Pearson education has a bunch of SAT prep apps, and there are some great algebra tutorial apps from the Florida Virtual School which can help reinforce concepts with kids
  9. iThoughs HD: a mind mapping app, also good for projects, organization of information and studyinh
  10. Paperdesk- allows students to create their own notebooks of ideas, organize them and export them when needed
  11. The Apple iWork Apps- Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Garage Band, iMovie, etc.  All of these apps are available for the iPad, and are fully compatible with the same applications on the Mac.  You can even email the documents created to yourself, a teacher- whomever, allowing for quick turning in of assignments, along with a date stamp, meaning teachers know exactly when the assignment was completed and mailed.
  12. Storylines- an app where people can essentially play the old fashioned game of telephone and pass a story back and forth, each adding something to the narrative.
  13. Word joust- a vocabulary building app/game, available for different age groups.  The SAT Vocab builder has been great to play with, and I’m excited that they’ve come up with one for younger grades as well.  This is the best vocab app game I’ve seen, using both definitions, spelling and inverses to reinforce the words.
  14. Morris Lessmore- the first truly interactive and captivating storybook I’ve ever seen.  Amazing.  Makes you feel like you are in the book, and if you want to see what the future of children’s literature will be, look no further.
  15. Google Docs- you can access gmail and google docs easily from the iPad, and this makes it equal, often, to the computer.
  16. The Kindle, Nook and iBooks apps- turns the iPad into a walking library, and let me tell you- letting kids get the books they need in a few seconds over driving to the bookstore makes me happy.  Not all titles are always available, but enough are that it has been a life-saver and convenience for us.
  17. The iPod functionality also lets us purchase audiobooks through Amazon or
  18. Dragon- allows kids to dictate to the iPad and have it converted to text.  Not perfect, but pretty darn good.  Just make sure to export those files, so they don’t vanish.
  19. Skype- my child has run study sessions with his friends over skype, using the iPad at home.  The mobility of it means he’ll always be able to find a quiet place to study
  20. Prezi- one of  many teacher’s favorite presentation applications, Prezi, is now also available on the iPad, helping kids and adults to create better looking presentations.

What do you think of the iPad as a personal learning tool?  I think it has limitations as a classroom only tool, since it’s not really possible to set up different user accounts on an iPad, meaning the work of many kids may be mixed up, and it would be hard to guarantee each child got the same ipad in class the next day.  However, as a personal hone to school to home computer and learning tool, the iPad is proving to be a great asset for my kids.

Have I missed any of your favorite apps?  What would you include on this list?

Related Posts

Cell Phones in Education

Mar 1, 2011 by

Here a a few facts from The Pew Research Center about teens and cell phones:

  • One in three teens send over 100 text messages a day- that’s 3,000 a month!
  • 72% of all teens (that’s also 88% of teen cell phone users) text message.
  • 75% of all teens ages 12 – 17 have their own cell phone, up from 45% in 2004.
  • While some teens are avid texters, a full 22% are not, sending only between 1 – 10 text messages a day.

You can take a look at one of their recent slide presentation on Teens and Cell phones below:

Given the largely ubiquitous nature of the cell phone,  it’s natural that educators would start thinking about them as a potential learning tool.  And even for teens without cell phones, many have adopted devices like iPod touches, which have texting capability, as well as access to apps, which provide yet another window to try to leverage existing technology to squeeze in a little more learning around the edges.
Liz Kolb has written a book called From Toy to Tool: Cellphones in Learning for ISTE. She is an instructor at the University of Michigan, and has a PhD in Learning technologies, and her website, From Toy to Tool, has fantastic resources about the potential of using cell phones for true learning.

One of the interesting things I learned about from Liz’s site was a new web based service called, where students can essentially create study questions, share questions with classmates, teachers and more, and have questions texted to them at different intervals, to give them additional practice or prompts. I’m going to give this one a go with my own kids, to see if this additional prompt helps them use their long bus ride a little more effectively. While I see this as basically a “flash card meets texting” app, for vocabulary and math facts, it may be really useful, but time will tell.

Overall, I’m intrigued by the creative ways folks are finding to make use of technology already in the hands of many students. Recently, I was at a presentation and SMART has a beta trial of software that would let you use almost any internet-capable device- cell phone, ipod, etc. as an audience response “clicker” device in the classroom, allowing for on the fly assessments and interactive quizzes, using devices already in the hands of most students. This could be a real benefit for school districts all over, feeling the financial pressures growing, and not sure where to get the most for every dollar spent on tech. This would help leverage the devices a majority of students already have in their pockets for something more than entertainment.

The days of every handheld device being a mere toy or distraction are ending, and instead, we’re finding ways of using the available tech in innovative ways to enhance student learning, which is exciting.

Have you thought about where the cell phone fits into education? What do you think are the pros and cons? What would you like to try?

Classroom Design is Important, Too.

Nov 19, 2010 by

I was at a meeting yesterday, and there was discussion of what a 21st Century classroom should look like. I remembered seeing some information about a “Node” chair that gave lots of flexible seating options in the classroom and seemed to be a better solution than most of the desks I see in classrooms today, which make chiropractors cry- both from the pain they cause and from the money the doctors make straightening out people afterwards!

This point was also highlighted when I read The Principal’s Page blog which spoke about how twitter may be changing education but not school desks, and that we could even have kids pay closer attention if we didn’t treat them like veal. It’s a good read- please check it out.

I’m excited enough about this Node chair to be interested in trying one at home for my own kids, but unfortunately, they are not yet available to the public as a “buy one” option- but they may be after January- I can’t wait!

Check out this Youtube video about the Node chair to better understand not only how design and classroom design helps inform instruction, but how a more flexible seating option might really change how your class interacts.

Great Video featuring Sir Ken Robinson

Nov 6, 2010 by

The best part of this video is not only how it dissects education and the problems we face, but how it exemplifies visual learning at the same time.  Let us know what you think!