Ideas for using one iPad in the classroom

EdTech is certainly becoming more and more popular in classrooms around the world. There are many different methods of implementation, including schemes like bring your own device (BYOD), bookable class sets or a set number of devices in each classroom. For greatest impact on both teaching and learning, more devices is better: 1:1 allows learning to be more personalised and provides opportunities for teachers to transform their teaching with the aid of technology. However, due to many factors, this is not possible in every school.

If you as a teacher own a tablet, can it alone have an impact in the classroom? Here I’ll look to share simple, yet effective ways you can make the most of having just one iPad in your classroom.

Before you start…
Although it is not essential for all of the ideas mentioned below, being able to mirror the contents of your device through a projector or TV screen can allow you to be even more innovative in your approach. There is a couple of ways you can do this:

– I believe the most effective method is connecting your device through an Apple TV (click here for more information).
– A wired adapter is a cheaper alternative to an Apple TV and is ideal for places where there is no wireless network infrastructure. The downside is that having a wired connection is not as convenient.
– There are a range of third party pieces of software available at a low price which allow you to mirror your iPad to a Mac or Windows desktop/laptop. Two of the most popular options are Reflector and AirServer.


Making use of the camera
Never overlook the power of your devices built-in camera: it is an extremely powerful tool to use in the classroom! It offers a great way to model responses and showcase great pieces of student work. Why not take a quick photo of a exemplar piece of work and display it to the class? This can model expectations of outcomes to students and can also be used open up a discussion about what should be included in the success criteria for a task. Also, why not take a photo of a students piece of work and peer assess it with the class? In my experience, I’ve found some students to be a little tentative about doing this, so I usually take photos of a number of different responses and then choose one: this seems to ease their concerns. You could even import the photo into an app like Explain Everything or Skitch and annotate it, the advantage being you will have a digital copy which you can keep and share with students if you wish. A simple yet impactful tool!

mzl.cyfzvwwu Explain Everything ™ by MorrisCooke£2.99

IMG_0790 Skitch – Snap. Mark Up. Send. by EvernoteFree

Creating word clouds
Word clouds provide an effective way to identify the key points of a piece of text and present these in an easy to understand way. They are visually appealing and incredibly easy to create on the fly, making them perfect not only in a 1:1 classroom, but also in a one iPad classroom!


The example above was created simply by copying a piece of text from a news article and pasting it into a word cloud generator app. I then removed the unimportant filler words from the word list and it was ready to go. It clearly illustrates the key points of the article, with the greatest emphasis placed on the most important words. Generating this only took a couple of minutes. A great way to summarise the key points of a piece of text in an instant! There are a range of apps which are able to generate word clouds like this available on the App Store, although my favourite is the superb Wordsalad.

512x512bb Wordsalad by Libero SpagnoliniFree

Enhance questioning
Insisting on no hands up has been advocated as an AfL strategy that involves all learners as they do not know whether or not they will be asked a question. It’s a great way to keep them on their toes. Some teachers have resorted to creating cans of lollipop sticks with students names written on and selecting them at random. However, these are time consuming to create and may get lost or broken. Stick Pick takes care of this for you by allowing you to create digital lollipop sticks for your classes. The app even enhances the idea of random questioning by allowing you to differentiate the questions for individual students. It suggests question stems linked to Bloom’s taxonomy for each individual student to ensure that there is appropriate challenge for all. You can even track how many times a student has provided a correct answer using the app.

Other apps, for example ClassDojo (more about this below) and iDoceo (more info here) also have a random student selector built in which could be used instead.

512x512bb-4 Stick Pick by Buzz Garwood£2.99

Capturing (and keeping) the thoughts of students
The humble Post-it note is a staple in many classrooms. It’s a great way to capture the thinking of students. However, they’re not perfect: they can easily get lost and they are not shareable. If you use Post-it notes in your classroom and have found the same problems, the Post-it Plus is ideal for you!

Once you have collected the thoughts of your students on a Post-it note, you can collate them and scan them with your device. This means none of their ideas can get lost and they are no longer confined to your records, they are shareable to everyone! In addition, students can even rearrange the Post-it notes or add additional ones later on.

512x512bb-2 Post-it® Plus by 3M CompanyFree

Assessment for Learning
Being in a 1:1 classroom makes AfL easy since there are so many great tools around like Socrative, Kahoot and PingPong. However, it is also possible to enhance the way you collect formative assessment data with just one device in your classroom. Plickers achieves this by combining both analogue and digital tools to transform formative assessment. All you need is the Plickers app installed on your device and a class set of Plickers Cards (which can be downloaded here). Once you have posed a multiple choice question, students can vote using their Plickers card: holding the card in a different orientation to indicate their response. Simply scan around the room with your device and it will collect, collate and present the responses from students as a report.

0c8c3b21.PlickersSplash2 (Image Credit: Plickers)

512x512bb-3 Plickers by Plickers Inc.Free

Behaviour management
Add a new spin to behaviour management with the help of ClassDojo. This app focuses on encouraging positive behaviour in the classroom by giving students instant feedback and works superbly well with children at Key Stage 3 and below. Students either receive or lose points (see image below) depending on their behaviour during a lesson. To setup ClassDojo, launch the app, sign up for a free account and enter the names of the students in your class. You can even add your own behaviours and achievements, meaning this can be tailored to best fit you, your classroom and your students. Assigning points is a breeze, simply select the student(s) you wish to assign a point to and select the achievement that applies to them: it’s that easy!


512x512bb-3 ClassDojo by Class Twist Inc.Free

Class Tweeting/Blogging
In my school, Twitter has become a very popular platform for interacting with students and sharing what has been going on in our classrooms. Most departments now have a Twitter account set up and many individual teachers are also following suit. In a one iPad classroom, Twitter can be a great way of getting important lesson content out to students. For example you could add photos, notes or resources that were used for a particular lesson. In addition, you could also Tweet links to relevant information, like news reports, you come across linked to the content that has been covered. To ensure this content is easily findable by students, it might be worth creating a class specific #hashtag and using this in your tweets. That way, students can simply search the #hashtag and any tweets containing it will be shown. Just ensure that it is something unique. This is also a great way to encourage discussion to continue, even after the lesson has taken place.

img_08321 Twitter by Twitter, Inc.Free

Creating a portfolio of student work
As you work through a scheme of work with your students, why not use your device to create a portfolio of their work as a class? A great app to use for this would be Book Creator. What makes this app so great for this purpose is it allows you to create iBooks which include text, web links (useful for providing links to documents stored in the cloud for users to download), images, video and sound. An electronic portfolio created in Book Creator could include photos you have taken with the camera of great pieces of student work, learning activities you have completed together as a class (e.g. annotating a diagram as a class) and resources you have collected or created to support the learning of your students in lessons. This could then be shared digitally with students (or anyone else for that matter) to supplement the work in their exercise books.

5f665176657959995e538e62dff7b839 Book Creator by Red Jumper Limited£3.99

Despite 1:1 being preferable, having just a single device in your classroom can make a significant difference. I hope I’ve illustrated that a single device can be used to have an impact on both teaching and learning, rather than just used as a remote for a Keynote presentation.

Are you using a single iPad in your classroom in a creative way that has an impact on your students? If so, I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.


9 thoughts on “Ideas for using one iPad in the classroom

  1. Thanks very much James – really enjoyed reading this. I am fortunate to be in a school where mist classes have access to individual 1:1 devices starting this year and we are in an exciting (occasionally scary) period of transition. Most of the students though are phenomenal and pick up new systems so fast they’re coaching me and my colleagues:) Loving experimenting with apps and edtech that stimulates and engages students in practical ways. From your blog I immediately downloaded Wordsalad & postit plus & am going to try using them as poetry stimuli (among other things) tomorrow – thank you. Claire


  2. Thanks for this James; I already use a number of these apps in a variety of guises. One I would like to add is ‘Polar Team’ – an iPad only app that allows the teacher to monitor the heart rates of an entire class at the same time. Connecting your iPad to a projector allows students to see how hard they’re working compared to everyone else. Great for teaching about training zones, lactate threshold, aerobic v anaerobic respiration etc. Unfortunately you do need the Polar Bluetooth chest straps (we use the H7) which is a relatively high initial outlay for a class’s of 20, but PE departments should be able to justify that expense quite easily.


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