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September 9, 2014 10 Terrific Ways to Use One iPad or iPhone in the Classroom By Christy Crawford
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    If you have only one iPad, use Apple's VGA adapter ($29) to connect your iPad to a smartboard. No smartboard? Grab an LCD projector, VGA adapter, and speakers, if you wish, for your iPad, then check out the simple how-to video below. If you have just one smartphone, pop your phone under a document camera. You can also use an adapter to project the smartphone; however, not all apps will function properly. (Unless a class is using Apple's presentation software, Keynote, I use a document camera to display my smartphone.) Use your single iPad or smartphone to blast content onto the big screen and let kids work together for an engaging mini-lesson. Then have students use the single device when working in small groups, as a reward, or during center time.

    The first thing you need to do is connect!




    1. Get Coding!

    You CAN teach introductory coding with just an iPad. You'll be surprised how easy it is for everyone, including educators. uses blockly (colorful drag and drop blocks), kid-friendly tutorial videos and Angry Birds to teach the basics of computer programming. Connect your iPad to a projector or mirroring device, pull up and get ready for ages 6 and up to write their first program.  

    First and second graders can take turns at your tablet, all while working together to discover how an angry bird can destroy a pig. Young children will enjoy whole-class instruction for the entire Hour of Code (the movement to bring computer science to every student). However, for third grade students and up, complete half of the Angry Bird learning tasks as a whole. Permit students to finish the series in pairs during work choice or center time.

    Is your class ready for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)? The Hour of Code can also be completed on a smartphone! Set sharing guidelines and allow students to work in teams on their iPads or phones. I introduced the Hour of Code to about 250 students in my Title 1 school. More than one-fifth of those students completed the entire Hour of Code a second time using their parents' or grandparents' devices, computers in their parents' workplace, or in the tech area at their local library. is free and has tips and resources for educators.


    2. Easily Make A Stop Motion Movie

    Remember Gumby or Wallace & Gromit? Those characters were created with expensive stop motion animation software. Lego makes stop motion simple and accessible for everyone. Use Lego's Movie Maker app to capture a life cycle study or break down complex events or ideas into digestible pieces. Purchase an iPad or iPhone stand for your device and let your students start snapping shots daily of tadpoles, chicks, or seeds. Use the app and clay figures, Lego people, or card stock puppets to illustrate a math equation, a historical event or as a 21st-century alternative to the book report. Lego Movie Maker is also available for smartphones.  

    (In November, I will post a step-by-step video tutorial of Lego Movie Maker you can share with families, your whole class, or students in centers.)


    3. Easily Make A Video Game

    Code and share your own video game — Flappy Bird! — on a single computer, iPad, or smartphone. (This activity is so much fun, your students may forget they are in school!)






    4. Create A Photography Studio

    Quit your job as class photographer and assign it as a "center" job. Set your iPad or smartphone stand adjacent to costumes, a clean wall or backdrop, and props. Provide simple guidelines such as "Fill the Frame," and let a little photographer do the rest. Grab a couple of antique cardboard or wooden frames to inspire classroom hams. Find the prop frame shown in the photo at left for less than $3 at most craft stores.




    5. Go Green Screen

    Jump into a favorite book with some chroma key magic. Post green butcher paper or a green backdrop on a classroom wall. Record your favorite scene and digitally replace the green background with an illustration from a favorite book. Or have student pairs take turns delivering the day's headlines, lunch menu, or weather forecast. Replace the green background with a scene ripped from the headlines, or student drawings of cafeteria food, or a weather map. Check out FX Studio or Green Screen by Do Ink for your iPad. FX studio is also available for smartphones. See my post about using a green screen in your classroom for a quick tutorial.

    Or just make a plain old movie with your iPad, grab some popcorn, and blast your project on a large school wall. See my post, "Getting To Know Our Community" to learn how you can introduce very important people in your school building.


    6. Code 3-D bracelets On A Class Tablet

    Yes, bracelets! Made With Code is Google's $50 million initiative to get girls coding. Made with Code enables students to set the diameter, width, message, and color of their creation, send it off and get a cool piece of jewelry made by a 3-D printer. Beware, it takes a few weeks to get your bracelets. In the meantime, code animated greeting cards, code some beats, or stylize class gelfies (group selfies) at the site. has excellent resources for educators, families, or kids ready to throw a coding party!

    (You don't need to be a computer science teacher to get kids interested in coding. Read "Coding is a big deal.")


    7. Give an Absentee Play-by-Play Commentary of Any Lesson

    Use Screen Chomp, Show Me, or Educreations to explain a difficult math concept or assist in a tough homework assignment. Have students record their voices while drawing on helpful images or the apps' whiteboard  for a "how-to." Share the link or send the tutorial email to absentees.



    8. Create Professional Presentations

    Forget PowerPoint. Download Keynote or Prezi for your iPad. Kids will actually suggest reports they can complete just so they can make a Keynote or Prezi. See my post, "Digital Poetry Make Words Zoom and Fly Across the Room," for more on Prezi.




    9. Use QR Codes In Your Classroom

    Download a free QR code reader and start swiping. QR codes provide a quick and painless way to bring attention to sight words or student work, or ramp up lackluster centers. See my posts: "Ways to Use QR Codes for Education" and QR Codes in the Classroom for more ideas and step-by-step instructions.



    10. Make an eBook

    Got an eReader? Then you've got an eWriter. Twenty-first century students have the chance to create texts just as professional looking as books from ePublishing companies. StoryKit is our favorite eBook creator; kids can easily add text and photos, illustrate, and narrate their books in less than an hour. During free time, students have created chapter books, chock-full of rich vocabulary thanks to StoryKit. Don't be scared off by the vintage-looking eCovers on StoryKit's opening screens — the app is kid friendly and fun. Plus it's free and available for smartphones.

    How are you using a single digital device to make big changes in your classroom? Do you know of an app perfect for single iPad classrooms? What app or reward system do your students use to take turns using the device? Please share with us.


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