The Ultimate Guide to Using iPads in the Classroom

Congratulations! Your school district or principal has just decided to use iPads in your school. But how do you make sure this new technological tool enhances learning, while tying in with your lesson plan—and doesn’t just provide another way for students to spend too much time playing Candy Crush or connecting with friends on Snapchat?

Ipads in classroom image

Image from Flickr via Sean MacEntee

Why Use iPads in the Classroom?

Before we explore the many different ways educators can use iPads with their students, let’s first talk about the benefits of giving students hands on access to this technology.

Since iPads were released in 2010, numerous studies have examined the impact of their usage in schools. Some of the results include:

  • A study on kindergarteners in Maine that found that those who used iPads got higher scores on tests of literacy, and showed more excitement about learning than those who didn’t use the devices.
  • In Houston, researchers found that 8th graders who used a digital iBook for studying math at home instead of using a traditional hardcover as part of a flipped classroom scored 49% higher in proficiency than their counterparts.
  • Teachers at a Minnesota elementary school found that their kids with special needs, even those who were severely disabled, were more engaged and experience accelerated learning when they used iPads.
  • Research through the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics found that the iPad helped students understand scientific concepts that were often difficult to explain, such as the size of the universe.

Although many teachers appreciate the advantages their students gain from using iPads, they are also very conscious of remembering that the devices are simply tools—the cart, if you would, and not the horse.

In a school in Zurich, Switzerland, where every student from kindergarten to 8th grade was given an iPad—600 in all—the emphasis is not on what kids can get from the iPad, but on what they put into it. iPads are used as video cameras, audio recorders and multimedia notebooks that contain the students’ creations. For example, students were told to find an example of a system and make a video that explained it.

At Buck Lodge Middle School in suburban Washington, D.C., students use the tablets to shoot videos, create presentations and use educational software as part of their lessons—with good results. 175% more students who use the iPad are at advanced levels in math, versus similar schools that do not have iPad programs.

These studies and anecdotes are just a sampling of the research that indicates iPads  can be a very useful tool to have in your educational arsenal.

Becoming Familiar with the iPad

Technology moves swiftly, and there’s no shame in not being knowledgeable about every device. And yes, your students may be more comfortable with an iPad than you are—at least initially. Luckily, here’s a handy cheat sheet on operating the device. And remember, even if the kids are more familiar with the devices than you are, you still can create the bigger picture of new ways to use the devices for learning.

We talk a lot about how students can learn using iPads and their apps, but let’s not overlook the ways iPads can help teachers teach. The Teacher’s iPad Spectrum provides a jumpstart to help educators think creatively on how to use iPads and other technology.

Integrating iPads in the Lesson—The Pedagogy Wheel

With the understanding of how iPads can benefit students and teachers in a learning environment, the next question is how, exactly, to use these tablets to enhance education.

What iPad apps, for example, work best to promote creativity, analysis or understanding? Allan Carrington, from the University of Adelaide, created a Padagogy Wheel using Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and a list of applicable educational iPad apps. This wheel helps connect different aspects of teaching while using iPad apps, in an easy to digest format.

Padagogy Wheel

Customize and Use Your iPad

By selecting your own apps, you can create an iPad that matches the needs of your lesson plan. And with over 80,000 educational apps in the Apple App Store, it’s a virtual playground for free or low-cost  learning.  Educators have found many ways to use their tablets by combining apps with lesson plans, such as:

For learning:

  • Read aloud and share a story, such as The Toy Story Read-Along—a free interactive eBook.
  • Help young students learn shapes through Mia’s Playground.
  • Use iFontMaker to encourage writing by letting students create their own fonts.
  • Help pre-readers create stories by converting speech into text with Dragon Dictation.
  • Help students write their own stories using Story Buddy 2.
  • Use Puppet Pals so students can create simple animated movies.
  • Encourage students to practice math skills with Super 7.
  • Spark interest in reading through Strip Designer and other apps that help students create comic books.
  • Make a movie, conduct interviews, or create a podcast or role play using iMovie.
  • Use Star Walk to point your iPad at the night sky and the app will identify stars, planets, satellites and constellations.

For productivity:

  • Use GoodReader to view different types of files.
  • Use Keynote for presentations.
  • Turn your iPad into a mouse with Mobile Mouse so you can control your computer as you walk around the classroom.
  • Stimulate brainstorming through SimpleMind, a mind mapping app.
  • Use EasyBib to take the headache out of citing references.
  • Take notes on smartNote or Evernote to save paper and to keep your information accessible on all devices.
  • Use iStudiez to keep track of schedules, assignments and deadlines.

In Short

iPads can provide plenty of ways teachers for teachers to enrich their lessons. By targeting the apps and activities that augment your teaching, this technology can help your students –and you—approach teaching and learning from a fresh perspective.

Editor’s note: This article is a revision and combination of several older Edudemic articles, updated and re-analyzed to reflect the latest innovations.


  1. English tests

    August 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I think using these devices in a classroom isn’t just simply a good idea, it’s the future. South Korea is a good example. They are turning their entire educational system digital. Kids are provided with iPads even from primary schools. South Korean students are consistently among the top three nations in standardised PISA testing in reading, mathematics and science.

  2. Allan Carrington

    August 6, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    G’day and greetings from South Australia

    Thanks for featuring the Padagogy Wheel in this post “The Ultimate Guide to Using iPads in the Classroom” The Wheel has developed significantly since first published I invite you to check out the latest English version 4.0. It has 122 educational apps featured and linked to many other helpful online resources.

    Also the latest collaborative project is translating the Padagogy Wheel poster into 19 languages so far. We have published English, Spanish, German and Chinese, with 15 other languages in production. Please visit my blog to see these helpful teaching aids.

    If you are interested in helping with research and translating please contact me.


  3. Oriental School

    August 10, 2015 at 5:55 am

    Many see the iPad as a versatile, powerful tool that is changing the face of education – both students and teachers have access to an unquantifiable amount of educational apps that can be purchased through the App Store. Content and material for all areas of learning from kindergarten through to university is readily available, offering a diverse method to deliver instructions and engage students.

  4. Freek Sanders

    August 13, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Greetings from the Netherlands!
    May I suggest Easy Annotate as an alternative PDF viewer and editor.
    It enables teachers and students to work with two documents at the same time, and to compare these.
    More info can of course be found on our website:

  5. Johnny

    August 16, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I am still against this thing of using iPhones in the classrooms. A laptop is handy but an iPhone gives no extra benefits. Would recommend to switch to laptops so the students can type and finish their projects. Browsing with an iPhone is fun but there are faster methods.

  6. Richard

    August 16, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    This is a great post to get started on your journey to education through the iPad, and one that I recommend to people to go to to get information on everything

  7. stanley

    September 4, 2015 at 3:27 am

    Very great post.Because iphone have a Good application,that can help students to meet their educational needs.It is easy to carry than lapttop also.

  8. Vida Barker

    September 9, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Greetings from Canada! I agree that the iPad is merely a tool but it can serve a variety of purposes to help students learn. Using different features to record audio, video and images can help facilitate transfer to visual (iconic) memory and can subsequently be used as visual cues to retrieve new information. iPads are excellent tools for students to practice at their own pace and frequency as well as test their understanding through feedback.

    Research has shown that if you get information in two different ways and encode it using different formats, it tends to be more memorable than if encoded in only one way. Devices like the iPad can bring a textbook to life with words on the page accompanied by sounds or imagery. There is also an emotional and motivational component to learning and using devices like the iPad introduce new and different ways of learning that may be more engaging and interesting.

    Check out the Open Educational Resources site for their growing collection of iPad apps representing a wide variety of curriculum and topics.

  9. Charlie Rice

    November 4, 2015 at 6:56 am

    This is a great article… There is also a great new set of apps from Spiral which help collaboration and social learning in the classroom through ipads and other mobile devices. Do check out to find out more.