The first day that the students receive their iPads is very exciting. While distributing iPads to students it is good practice to let them have about 20 minutes of exploration time to check out apps and share with each other things they discover. A lot of the learning that happens in the classroom is based on sharing amongst the students. This exploration time should happen daily for the first few days so students can have time to acclimate to using the device.

Setting Boundaries

Part of the process of integrating technology is accepting that students are more knowledgeable of the technology. There is a middle ground however. Students will test the limits and the teacher needs to be able to reinforce what those limits are. Most teachers in our first year program set non-negotiables that they agreed on with the students. This way if the student chose to go outside the agreed upon rules there was a consequence. Students losing their iPad for a certain time was a great deterrent for others to stay within the agreed-upon area. This still reinforces the management of the classroom environment without having to have total control. Students must be held accountable for their behaviors and if those definitions are all agreed upon it is easier to manage. When creating the list try not to overload with too many rules and try to keep them in positive phrasing. If students create the rules with the teacher they tend to have more buy in.

Students are ultimately responsible for the device and most students took this very seriously last year. iPads are protected by the cover, but are not indestructible. Stress the care of the iPad and accessories from the first day. Be firm with rules in the beginning. This will set the tone for students right away and will provide all students with examples of consequences for breaking rules.

Introducing Apps

One of the biggest insights that was gained from the first year of our iPad project was the role students played in learning the apps on the device. The model of having to take students to a computer lab and teach them how to use software is gone. Students for the most part only needed an introduction to certain apps and would expand their knowledge on their own or with the help of fellow students. This was especially true if there was context in which the student were using an app. For example, students that had an interest in trying out iMovie to make a video would learn the functionality of the app much better than students who were just casually trying it out.

If students had iPads the year before they may already know how to use some of the apps on the iPad. You should survey your class to determine which apps the students know how to use and which they don’t.

There is not a suggestion to just let kids “play” on the iPad until they find something they want to do. The teacher providing the context will be a much better guarantee that students will go deeper than students finding through exploration. Both types of interaction should occur. For students that are not as bold in exploring the iPad encourage them to try things out and take risks. There is not much they can do to break the iPad or the apps.

Choosing an introduction project that utilizes one of the creative apps is a good way to setup a chance to review the basics of an app and to set expectations for creating content on the iPad. This is a good model to set for the students as they will still need guidance in the instructional application of using the apps. Many of the teachers used Keynote or Pages as a first app as they are similar to Word and  PowerPoint.

Another practice that has been used by teachers is to have students become experts on a certain app and teach the rest of the class. This gave students a project to work on at the beginning of the year and also created some “go to” experts for other students. You could take this even further by having the students use the app Explain Everything to make an instructional video on using as app that they can share with the rest of the class. This video could be posted on the class Edmodo library for others to view.

Encinitas Union School District Student iPad Survey (2013)

Students clearly showed a preference for learning apps on their own, but many times that learning included help from other students. Another creative way to introduce apps is to have students that were in the iPad program last year do the training for your students. You can arrange a time with their teacher to have them come in during the first few weeks of your implementation.

Getting Know Some of the iPad Functionality


Students can essentially take a screenshot of anything on the iPad by pressing the front home button and the power button at the same time.  They will need to release right after they click together. The screen should make a flash and you will a camera snap. This is a quick way to capture what ever is one the screen for sharing or inserting into a project.

Camera Roll

The camera can take still images, as well as video. Students will most likely not need instruction on using this, but it always good to have a student demonstrate it to others when the iPads first arrive. Any shot taken on the camera goes into the “Camera Roll” which can be accessed in the “Photo” app. The Camera Roll functions as a centralized repository for all images and video on the device. It is accessible through many apps either for importing pictures and video into an app or for exporting pictures and videos out of an app. When using Safari students can save images directly to the camera roll by placing a finger on top of the image and holding for about two seconds. A menu will will appear that will allow the image to be saved to the camera roll.


Students will have several screens of apps to look through to find an app. One way to organize this is to have students make folders with apps that are similar or have similar functions. They may put all their apps for making projects in a folder together or may decide to put educational games in a single folder. Many students did this on their own without any prompting, while some teachers gave some students some direction in how they wanted the apps organized.


If students are having difficulty locating where a particular app is, they can perform a search. To access the search screen, they will need to place their finger on the center of the screen and swipe down. A search field will appear on the very top of the screen. This function will often increase the speed in which students can get to an app.

Set Realistic Goals

If this is your first year of implementing iPads, set realistic goals for yourself. The teachers in the first year of the Encinitas Union School District One to One program for the most part exceeded their expectations, but are more mindful of what they would have done differently in the end.chart_1-1
Encinitas Union School District Student iPad Survey (2013)

You may not start having students take tests on Edmodo until a few months in or may have students work out all their math on paper or a whiteboard. You will find a comfort level and a place where you can see what the best tool is for you and your students. Some things like turning in assignments and taking tests on the iPad in the long run will save time and give students immediate feedback and are worth the front end effort to start to move in this direction. Think of the first year as year 0. You are learning how to adapt to a new learning environment and will be able to experiment with your students. If you can let your students help lead the learning, you will find that the burden will not rest squarely on you.