10 Real-World Tips For Using iPads In Education

Great news for our Scotland readers! Your government is seriously considering a massive rollout of iPads across school districts. That’s the takeaway from a recent report by the BBC detailing the current pilots underway. More on that below.

It’s an analogue to iPad adoption across the rest of the world. Schools, districts, and even entire governments are considering a big move to deploy iPads and Chromebooks in the classroom. The buzz is unmistakable and there are already thousands of classrooms (and Edudemic readers) who have successfully deployed iPads.

Let’s pause to learn from their experiences and figure out the best way to roll out iPads in your classroom.

It’s time to take a step back and learn from what others have done. If you’re considering iPads (or really any device purchase), give your due diligence and take a look at the following cases. I went through each of these cases and tried to ascertain the biggest takeaways. Hope they help you in your journey to iPad implementation!

Before You Deploy iPads

Take Your Time
Scotland is taking a delibarate approach to rolling out iPads and Chromebooks. While many classrooms already use the devices, the government is not in a rush to throw money at the idea. There are numerous pilots underway to see exactly what should happen when.

Seriously, Take A Couple Years
A major investment like this should be done at your own pace. Don’t let the hype make you feel forced to adopt iPads right now. They’re sexy, fun, and could have a big place in the classroom of the future. But most schools take a couple years to make a purchase decision (like this one in Hawaii) so don’t feel rushed. Instead, do pilot programs (see above) or BYOD to see how the iPad fits into your classroom. You may surprised at the results.

It’s Not Going To Be Cheap
900 students were given iPads last year as part of a massive deployment in Penzance. Students were thrilled but parents and taxpayers… not so much. The overwhelming response was about the premium price tag that iPads carry. There were also questions about the durability of the iPads / if they’d last an entire year, let alone multiple years.

Source: Urban Oahu

You’ll Want To Beef Up Security (Online & Offline)
1,440 students in Hawaii are getting an iPad at the start of the upcoming school year. Take a look at the picture on the right to see what that many iPads looks like (so many boxes!). But the overwhelming takeaway from the purchase is not the price or the boxes… it’s the security concerns. An investment this large carries a lot of risk and pretty much everyone is figuring out the best way to secure the iPads. We’ve talked about the best ways to secure iPads in the classroom in the past.

Consider Alternative Funding Sources
You may not have to pony up 100% of the money needed for your iPad purchase. In fact, check out the federal Race to the Top competitive grant program (PDF) as a way to get some financial help in your potential deployment.

Be Able To Defend The Decision
There’s a lot of pressure on education budgets around the world. Parents, taxpayers, teachers, and many others decry the cost and return on the investment. Since the product is still relatively new, the jury will still be out for quite a few years. So if you’re either the one for or against an iPad deployment, be ready to defend your stance to just about everyone. How, you ask? By putting together a ‘top ten’ list of reasons you’ve seen iPads should or shouldn’t be in YOUR classroom. You’re going to need to do a lot of legwork. Hopefully this post will help you out.

After You Deploy iPads

Apps? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Apps!
John Spencer (big fan, hi John!) discusses how he’s rolling out various devices this coming school year. But he’s not going to load them up with apps ahead of time. Instead, he’ll be seeing what the demand is in terms of apps and making decisions based on that data. I love this idea and think it’s a great way to prevent cost overruns as well as having unnecessary apps that will simply be ignored or deleted.

It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Synced
Sure, iCloud may sound like the answer to all our iPad-syncing prayers. But it’s not quite there yet. You’ll need to know your way around wired and wireless syncing, securing information, locking down mobile Safari, and the hardware it’ll take to keep all the iPads on the same proverbial page.

Anticipate Your Hardware Needs
Will you be transporting a small number of iPads from classroom to classroom? Will you be letting students take them home? What about cases? Charging cables? There’s a big number of questions to consider and one of the biggest (in terms of cost) is hardware. Figure out if you want an iPad cart, a locked case, podiums, or some other solution. There’s a lot.

Learn From Others
You’ve done your homework. You’ve gotten iPads into your classroom. You’ve found some great uses and apps that are really resonating. Now what? My best advice is to tap into your Professional Learning Network, whether it’s online or offline, to figure out what others are doing. After all, the massive buzz about iPads in education has caused many people to adopt sooner than you (most likely). Monitor iPad chatter on Twitter, join this amazing LinkedIn group, add Edudemic to your RSS reader (shameless plug!) or just use your preferred method. Long story short, never stop learning new ways to use the iPad, a device still in its infancy when it comes to just about everything.

Share Your Tips!

Don’t just sit back and casually read… share your tips with the world! If you enjoyed this article, know that it’s a living document that can be easily amended and improved. Just leave your tips down in the comments and I’ll include them in the article so everyone can learn. Thanks in advance!


  1. Sarah

    August 2, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Loved this article, as I’m an iPad/iPod in education enthusiast. I particularly liked the section Apps? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Apps. While I do utilize apps, I use many of the other features a lot more. Apps are a great independent support. And many new creation type apps are rolling out with more frequency, but the true power of the iPad is the instruction and lesson linked to the activity. I just wrote a guest post for Richard Byrne at Free Technology For Teachers called Beyond the App – it tells a few of the ways I use iPads beyond just apps. I detail how I use them for note-making, fluency reads, exit tickets, and music. I hope you and @John Spencer might find a few good tips. http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2012/07/beyond-app-you-found-app-now-what.html

  2. Melinda Hefner

    August 2, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this great advice!!! I was particularly relieved to read that syncing isn’t as easy as it might appear. We have 23 ipads stored in a cart that both charges and syncs the devices, and it’s been rather daunting. The wireless and wired syncing have differences that I did not anticipate. Some iPads when used will come back to the cart with newly downloaded apps that make syncing a challenge when trying to get all 23 on the “same page” as they are used departmentwide.

    Again, thanks for your great articles!!!!!

  3. iainmacl

    August 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    how about Google nexus 7 as less expensive and more ‘open’ alternative?

  4. Mayor, SpellingCity

    August 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I went to ISTE in San Diego and was stunned by the hottest product category on the Exhibition show floor. It was devices to protect and secure the Ipads. Apparently, the buyers couldn’t buy enough of these rubber balls, covers, and trackers. Meanwhile, as a software company, we have a multi-million dollar investment in educational software of which over $100K is directly focused on our new Ipad app. Apparently, a lot of buyers agree with you that this year: “There is NO money for Ipad apps, just for hardware. And covers.” So, since it’s unproductive to argue with customers, we’ve decided to offer our app free for the foreseeable future. Not sure where this is headed but I’m hoping that budgets and mentalities change in the next few years.

    John, Mayor of SpellingCity, Proud Publisher of a new free educational app

  5. Megan

    August 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Great article. You raise some valid points that seem to be ignored elsewhere. I especially like the one about taking your time. Too many schools rush into iPads without fully understanding what the devices can do as well as the limitations they have.

    When budgeting for iPads, I strongly recommend that schools consider more than just the initial hardware purchase. As the iPads are used, invaluable apps will be discovered and you want to make sure you have some room in the budget to purchase the ones that are requested by multiple classes and grade levels.

    Also important to consider is how you will manage content on the iPads. Syncing multiple iPads can be a serious drain on resources. Finding a way to manage this will not only make using the iPads easier, it will remove many headaches associated with licensing issues when media resources (etextbooks) are shared to student’s iPads.

  6. Violetta

    August 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Why not engage students with finding the most suitable apps and get them involved with the process of how to find them, install, remove. With such technology being implemented in the classroom, I think it’s important to get kids involved in some way.

  7. Katie Jones

    August 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    This is a great article. Technology really can make a difference in education and involves students more, rather than just listening to lectures without the use of technology.