The best apps and strategies for a single iPad Classroom

The best apps and strategies to maximise the learning potential for your students, in a single iPad classroom.

There is no doubt that the iPad was designed to be a single user device. iOS 9.3 may change this, but as written about by Fraser Speirs here, they may still spell problems down the line unless schools are willing to invest in large capacity iPads.

1:1 in the classroom opens up many opportunities for spontaneous use from students in order to ensure that technology is not simply an add-on, but a way that a student works. They choose how and when to use their tech in order to organise themselves, dig deeper by accessing research – for technology to have a transformational effect, 1:1 is the way forward. For many schools though, 1:1 is simply not a viable option. Having just one iPad in the classroom often becomes a reward for early finishing students or a glorified digital camera, these obviously are not providing value for money, and in the former, simply counter productive.

Here are some ideas and tools that I’ve learnt from teaching this year with just my iPad that you can use in class in order to make best use of the technology available to you.

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Students should use the iPad as a tool, not a toy

It is frustrating to see the iPad being used as an early finishers activity. I think this sends the wrong message to students that using the iPad (or any technology for that matter) should be seen as a reward. Students should be free to use the iPad when it is necessary. Examples of this could be to use it as a camera, dictaphone, listening post, watch a video tutorial or to quickly look something up online. Children are often given technology as a pacifier, we need to change this view and make sure it is being used thoughtfully and productively.

Share your screen

Undoubtedly the most important app you will ever use in a 1 iPad classroom isn’t actually an iPad app! With the apps Reflector or AirServer you can ‘Airplay’ your iPad screen to your computer. This is brilliant as it means you can share a whole host of material with the whole class, instead of huddling around a single iPad. This could be fantastic with content apps such as the Tiny Bop series, or for using Augmented Reality apps such as Quiver or Anatomy 4D. It also means you can use your iPad as a visualiser. You can share documents quickly on your projector or showcase some excellent work going on in your class. Personally, I use Reflector, which costs $15 US. I love it and often use it to create tutorial videos. Airserver is fantastic as well though and I believe you can buy licenses in bulk making it work out at around $5 per teacher. This is a wise investment and is a fraction of a cost, and more reliable than using Apple TV (in my opinion!) EDIT Reflector 2 also offers bulk license discounts. Please contact them for a quote!

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For a detailed comparison of these two apps, check out this really informative comparison chart from Tony Vincent.

Recommended Apps

ClassDojo by Class Twist – FREE ClassDojo_Icon.png

I’ve blogged previously about using ClassDojo here. I think it is an absolutely wonderful tool as it promotes a positivity in the learning environment in a friendly, fun and motivating way. It is really easy to set up, allows multiple teachers per class and works across all devices. As the teacher, you can select a student in your class on your iPad and award them a point for displaying a positive behaviour trait. I have seen this used fantastically well and students really respond to it.

Plickers by Plickers Inc. – FREE Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 1.21.24 PM.png

iPads can be used really effectively as formative assessment tools. In a single iPad classroom, Plickers stands out as the best option. After registering an account online, and entering the names of your students you can print off ‘Answer Markers’ for each of them. These are unique for each child and allow them to show a multiple choice or True/False answer anonymously. You can quickly scan the room with your iPad’s camera and the data is instantly collected on your iPad screen. It colour codes all of the students’ responses so you can see where students are with their level of understanding. Best of all, all the students’ responses are collated on the website providing you with data of how students are progressing in different areas throughout the year.

SeeSaw by Seesaw Learning, Inc. – FREE (Premium accounts available) seesaw_icon.png

Seesaw is an absolutely wonderful student portfolio platform. It allows students to upload work to their portfolio by taking a photograph, uploading from another app or by sharing a URL. What makes it even more powerful, is that students can record a verbal or add a written reflection for their piece of work.
In a single iPad classroom, either the teacher or students can capture the work and add it to the portfolio to keep a record of it. Multiple students can be ‘tagged’ in each piece of work meaning that drama performances, reading fluency or PE skills can easily be included. An additional idea is to use Seesaw as a tool to improve speaking and listening. Students could listen to an audio file (or watch a video/view a visual stimulus) and add their thoughts about it verbally. This could simply be a great way to carry out assessment tasks for pre-readers.

  1. Listen to recorded teacher instruction
  2. View stimulus
  3. Record own reflection or comments

This is an incredibly powerful app that has many more features built-in. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Voice Notes – Recorder, Notepad by Lin Fei – FREE Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.51.51

This app is an absolute gem. I was initially looking to buy some kind of a talk tracker for my classroom to record the discussion taking place at my student initiated centres. Previously, I asked students to take a photograph to show what they learnt but thought recording would give a greater insight into understanding and though process. I stumbled upon this app and have been pleasantly surprised. There is a very simple interface and the app has a surprising amount of functionality. You can edit, trim and tag audio(with student names) in-app. Most other apps that offer these features cost around £5 so I was delighted with this. I’ve attached a screen shot to show how students can start the recording, then stop when they move onto another group. They then have to click their names in the ‘Tag’ section so I know who has participated (or not) in each recording.

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The audio can then be shared via lots of options (including OneDrive, Seesaw, Google Drive and Showbie!) I’m amazed that more teachers haven’t heard of or use this app.

Evernote Scannable by Evernote – FREE Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.52.18.png

This great app from Evernote allows you to use your iPad as a document scanner. It can automatically detect documents or notes of any size, offers enhancement options, then allows you to share however you wish. There is an optional sign in to Evernote, which allows you to automatically sync all of your scans with your Evernote Notebooks. This is a great tool for keeping yourself organised as well as for sharing exemplars with students via the projector.

Post-It Plus by 3M Company – FREE Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.51.40.png

This is a great tool which can be used to capture any learning activities which have been carried out using Post-It notes. After information has been written on post-its, they can be quickly scanned to make digital versions of them on your iPad. These can then be manipulated (and enhanced). It means that key post-it notes are never lost and it can also be used in a plenary session to review what each group included, again by reflecting the teacher iPad to the projector.

Best Countdown by Serhii Simkovskyi – FREE Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.51.27.png

Whenever groups of students are working independently, I like to put a little timer on their desk to keep them on task. Obviously, a good old fashioned sand timer works beautifully, but this app provides a very good option to provide a visual reminder of time remaining to complete tasks. This can also be used for individual students who possibly have difficulty staying on task, or have processing difficulties. I’ve used this strategy in the past in order to break independent learning time into bitesized chunks of time.

Clarity Innovations Apps – FREE

This isn’t an app as such but a collection made by a wonderful developer. Clarity Innovations have put together excellent mathematical tools which can be used as a resource to support learners or to demonstrate concepts on the whiteboard. All of them are free and are beautifully designed. These are essentials for all iPads in the primary school.

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All of the apps I recommend here are FREE, lightweight (don’t take up much room on the iPads internal memory) and are compatible with multiple other apps. These are things I always look for when selecting apps for use in my classroom. I hope you find it useful!

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