If you’ve had an iPad (or several) in your classroom for any extended period of time, you’re probably familiar with the many practical ways this technology can be used as a central hub for learning. You know all about storing materials in iCloud, and collaborating via Google Drive. You know about the main apps you’ll need to run a classroom, as well as the best apps for World History, English and Math.
But these applications are just the very beginning. You can hack your iPad into any number of instruments, or use its current apps and capabilities in unexpected ways to encourage learning. Here are our top 10 favorite creative uses for iPads in the classroom.
Sure, you could buy a simple magnifying attachment for your iPad at any toy store, but why not go a step further and build your own microscope? This hack from Instructables is meant for an iPhone but is easily adapted for an iPad, and it only requires about $10 worth of materials.
The hack itself would make for an excellent group project, but that’s just the beginning of what you can do. Of course, any kind of scientific exploration or experiments you would normally do with a microscope can be done here, except now you can take photos and video of the action. As described in the Instructables video, students will be amazed to witness plasmolysis in red onion epithelial cells with time lapse photography. Or, take your iPad microscope out into the field for real-time magnification in the elements.
The fun doesn’t stop here. Students can then take magnified photos and turn them into photo projects, drop them into presentations or books, or even animate them for a creative story. The possibilities are really endless.
Field trips are even more fun when every step that brings you there is part of a treasure hunt. Orient students to the area by creating pins on a Google Map, whether they pertain to the local history or interesting aspects of the local geology. Then designate clues or objects for each point you’ll be visiting, send students the map so they can pull it up on their own iPads, and then give them time to hunt when you come to a marker. If your treasure hunt will stay near to your school (and its Wi-Fi), have students communicate with each other over Skype like they’re on walkie talkies.
Take pen pal projects up to the next level by having your pals or the whole class video conference with a sister classroom halfway across the world. Relationships will be so much more meaningful when students talk face to face. You can even do group projects together on air, brainstorm great ideas, and celebrate your respective holidays together. You can even archive the sessions via Hangouts on Air to YouTube for parents to see. While this can be completed on the class computer, student iPads make one-on-one hangouts a much more feasible possibility.
If your school has a robotic program or Maker extracurricular club, it’s likely that students are already getting their hands dirty in constructing their own drones. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from there into controlling that drone with an iPad with this amazing hack:
“What’d you do at school today, honey?” “Nothing, just augmented reality or whatever.”
With iPad apps like Layar and Aurasma, this conversation will soon become the norm. Augmented reality apps are fantastic for demonstrative purposes, and they’re great for studying as well. Want to help students learn European geography? Have them scan a blank map with their iPad camera for a sneak peak at the answers. Add as many rich layers as you want and create a unique experience that blends the digital and the physical world to drive the lesson home.
You already know that the iPad is a fantastic tool for customizing the learning experience; this is especially true when it comes to teaching digital storytelling. Have a student who learns best just by listening? Encourage them to make an audio diary of a big life experience or interview family and friends and turn it into a podcast. Taking the kids on a field trip to the museum? Have your visual learners record via photo and video, your more verbal students take notes on the notepad or in Stickies, and your audio students record everything they hear. In this way, you can use student iPads to customize the learning experience.
However, it is also important to encourage students to explore all modalities to expand their storytelling horizons across their senses. Who knows where they’ll find inspiration?
All of those creative performances may be exciting, but they’ll go even smoother when students have a little prompting here and there. The Telemprompter Pro Lite app, which turns your iPad into a teleprompter, may be a simple concept, but it will sharpen your students’ reading skills in the moment, and reduce the amount of editing your students will need to do once filming or podcasting has wrapped.
There is a distinct period during the learning process when a student understands a concept, but may not have it deeply embedded, making them apt to forget important pieces within the hour. Having students teach other students what they know is a great way to help them form deeper connections — essentially, by having them apply that knowledge in real time. Screencasting is a great way to do this, and it comes with the added benefit of being recordable so you can add your student’s video to the class YouTube channel. Kathy Schrock has a complete listing of iPad screencasting apps here.
Alternatively, you can also use screencasting for show and tell or to let a struggling student tell the class all about his or her favorite hobby. Done the right way, screencasting teaching can be a great confidence booster, teaching storytelling and presentation skills along the way.
With apps like 123D Catch, students can capture everyday objects using their iPad camera and turn them into 3D models. If your school has invested in a 3D printer or has a relationship with a Maker studio, these models can then be printed out. Whether students use this to create their own toys, take a model presentation up to the next level, or miniaturize their own classroom, an app like this will encourage imaginations to run wild.
You know what would make that iPad microscope even cooler? If you could animate the screen while you recorded video of those cells in action. With Stage Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera you can do just that. Point out essential features on live video, add helpful notes, or simply draw a dancing stick man to lighten the mood.
iPads are so much more than what they first seem when you first pull them out of the box. Let us know your most creative iPad hacks in the comments below or via Twitter @Edudemic!