Teaching With Tablets: Best Practices for Using iPads in the Classroom

By Scott Sterling

In just a few short years, iPads have become almost as ubiquitous in classrooms as whiteboards. Yet even though they’re incredibly popular, plenty of teachers still get lost in the idea of using them to impact student learning. In many cases, it’s kind of like handing someone car keys and telling him or her to go to an unfamiliar destination without a map.

Learning Sciences International’s book, iPads in the Classroom, is that map.

Written by the co-founders of EdTechTeacher, Tom Daccord and Justin Reich, this book fills the gaps in iPad adoption for the technophile teacher, as well as the educator still using paper copies from 20 years ago. To that end, it ramps up the discussion gradually. The book progresses as sort of a taxonomy for learning how to integrate iPads into your curriculum.

What the book is–and isn’t

iPads in the Classroom is not, a list of cool new apps for you to try or innovative lesson ideas that you need to shoehorn into your curriculum. Those do appear, and are quite good, but that isn’t the sole meaning behind the book.

The purpose of the book is to help teachers integrate iPads deeply into their teaching—not provide quick fixes that may not affect student success. This is a discussion meant to change or improve the minds of educators.

What, exactly, can this tool help teachers accomplish?

Obviously, today’s students come to school with a lot of experience at using technology, but many haven’t used it in ways that will make them marketable members of the 21st-century economy. It’s our job to educate them in these ways of work just as much as it is to educate them in math, reading, science, history, etc.

This book includes  a discussion about the things iPads do well and how those mesh (and sometimes work against) best practices in teaching. You cannot bridge gaps without knowing what those gaps are.

Tablets are almost purpose-built for consumption

Otherwise, the App Store wouldn’t have nearly as many goodies within. Meanwhile, the top of most educational taxonomies is for students to be able to create new things out of information they have mastered. That is a significant disconnect, but one the book sees as key to solving.

Finally, we get into the meat of the book. The authors have coined three “Cs” that form the basis of iPad use in the classroom: consumption, curation, and creation.

  • Strategies and techniques to help students consume ideas via the iPad
  • Best practices for both teachers and students to curate ideas
  • Ways for students to exercise their creativity to deepen their learning

Is the book just a philosophical discussion on iPad use?

Of course not. There are actionable steps that help make the tool more effective in the classroom, including settings hidden in the iOS operating system that can have broad effects on student usage to examples of student work. Yes, certain apps are discussed, but keep in mind that the world of software development, particularly for iOS and definitely in education, changes on a daily basis.

Overall, the book accomplishes its goal and then some. It is accessible for the technology newbie and insightful for the teacher who already has everything connected remotely. It contributes something new to the education technology discussion: a discussion not only about what to use and how to use it, but when and, most importantly, why.

IPads in the Classroom is the perfect book to accompany a new set of tablets, but also meaty enough to complement a techie teacher’s established lesson plan–and it’s available at the Learning Sciences Bookstore. Get your copy here. 

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We believe that the most important thing a teacher or leader can do is to fuel each student’s passion for learning. When this is achieved, a lifetime of accomplishment becomes possible for that learner. Through partnerships with schools and districts throughout the country, we help educators and leadership transform each classroom into a powerful learning environment that prepares students for lasting success in school, the global workplace, and beyond. Our vision for the future is big and bright, and we love helping schools get there. Learn more about Learning Sciences International.