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Has the iPad revolutionized education?

Options:     Print Version - Has the iPad revolutionized education?, part 4 Print view

Article Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. A new age of learning?
  3. The early adopters
  4. Using the iPad in teaching and learning
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

Using the iPad in teaching and learning

Whilst there may yet be no conclusive proof that the iPad stimulates the deeper aspects of learning, its affordances offer plenty of scope for creativity. 

In addition to its portability, accessibility and ease of navigation, the iPad's other advantages are its relatively long battery life, and its crisp full colour visual display which is excellent for graphics and photographs. 

There are also assistive tools, for example an audio reader for those with a visual impairment.

Content: using and generating

Generally speaking, the iPad is more suitable for searching, browsing and annotating content, rather than creating it.

Ebooks will be dealt with in a separate article, but the following are useful for reading text:

  • iBooks, Apple's bespoke ebook reader, unlike the Kindle, can display colour. Objects can be enlarged, and it is also excellent for reading PDF documents.

  • Kindle, Amazon's ebook reader, is fine for books in black and white only; you can store a large number of books, and vary the background and type size.

There are a number of word processing and spreadsheet apps:

  • DocsToGo, which is a cut down version of the Office suite.

  • Pages is a more powerful word processing application, with templates, layout tools, and touch commands. You can store in folders or on iCloud.

  • OfficeHD is another document editor, enabling you to view, edit and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

  • Numbers creates spreadsheets.

The iPad is also becoming popular in labs for collecting, recording and analyzing data (Venable, 2011). The iPad 2 has an excellent video recording facility, making it a useful vehicle for assignments and portfolios that rely heavily on digital material.

There are also many apps that carry various types of content.

  • World History Documents includes 350 primary source documents and speeches, from the Bible to Obama, as well as 19 audio and video recordings.

  • ElectricLit was created to keep literature vital in the digital age, with video-enhanced stories by contemporary authors.

  • Classics gives the "100 most popular books" (although it doesn't say according to whom). Has bookmarking and highlighting facility.

  • Dictionary.com is a must-have reference tool with nearly two million words, definitions and antonyms, as well as audio pronunciation and spelling suggestions.

  • World Atlas provides complete world coverage, and you can also download continent maps.

Interactivity and exploration

The iPad is not just a reading or recording device: one of its major strengths is that it provides for interaction and exploration, both of which are excellent for learning.

The Elements: a Visual Exploration, is created from a print book and indicates the potential of ebooks. The home page shows the periodic table; click on an element and you get a 3D image which can be rotated, so that all sides can be seen.  Further facts are also available through a link with Wolfram Alpha.

Image: iPad screenshot 1

Star Walk for iPad is an interactive astronomy app which will label stars as you point your iPad at the sky; it also has excellent graphics and won an Apple Design Award in 2010.

Cram is based on flashcards and offers a good, interactive way of learning new vocabulary.

The iPad's ability to display rich content is one aspect that makes it useful in distance learning. Additional advantages include cloud computing and the ability to chat over IM and VoIP, and perform a wide range of tasks that a computer can do (DCCCD TeleCollege Online Blog, 2010).

Using the iPad in teaching

The ability to create presentations, and to navigate with ease around varied content including PDFs, photos, pod and vodcasts and videos, make the iPad useful for lectures and seminars. It can also be linked with an interactive whiteboard.

  • Slideshark allows you to view and show PowerPoint presentations.

  • Explain Everything and Educreations allow you to create screencast presentations or video lessons. Explain Everything allows you to include both videos (your own and imported) and live web pages, and has an excellent editing facility.

Media academic Tara Brabazon (2010) identified a number of uses for the iPad in teaching:

  • Small groups – screen size is ideal.
  • Vod- and podcasts can be downloaded from iTunes.
  • Useful for foreign language material as subtitles appear at the appropriate size.
  • As a teleprompter.

ProPrompter enables you to download a script onto your iPad, useful for lectures and less obvious than reading from paper!

Image: iPad screenshot 2

One of the most common uses of technology in teaching is the Learning Management System (LMS) , which provides access to course documents and communication. With the right software, this can also appear on the iPad.

Blackboard Mobile enables the student to see course information on a wide range of mobile devices.

Image: Image: iPad screenshot 3

Screenshot showing one of Blackboard Mobile's sample courses.


Apple, however, has itself got in on the LMS scene by creating, in January 2012, a revamped version of iTunes U, which, it claims, offers the functionality of an LMS.

The iTunes U app offers access to courses created by other schools (Duke, Yale and Stanford all created courses specially for the revamp), as well as allowing institutions to build their own courses.

Image: iPad screenshot 4

Staying organized

One of the first requirements for both studying and teaching is organization and time management.  There are plenty of apps to help with this.

  • Course notes helps you take class notes, and organize them so that you can later search them. You can also export them via email.

  • Evernote (free) allows you to take notes, compile to do lists, take photos (for example, of the whiteboard). The notes are searchable (you have to provide tags) and you can sync the notes across computers and other devices.

  • Voice memos allows you to record your thoughts instantly, as they occur to you.

  • iStudiezPro is an organizing tool that will help you keep track of classes, information on faculty, assignments etc. The day's tasks are then summarized in the Today view.

  • Things for iPad is another organizing tool or task manager which is quite expensive, but is easy to use with powerful features.

One of the main drawbacks of the iPad is its lack of file management. The following apps may help rectify this deficiency:

  • Dropbox is a free cloud-based service for storing files, which can then be accessed on whatever device.

  • Team Viewer allows you to view files remotely.