Let's face it. iPads are pretty cool. Initially, I had my doubts about them, but they're a pretty useful tool. They are fantastic for consuming content produced by third parties, and there are a lot of great interactive educational apps to engage students. They can also help accommodate learners with different needs. That being said, if you're looking for a tool to write an essay on, this may not be your best choice. A regular keyboard still works better in my mind. But there are some very useful apps out there.
The iPads can access most sites on the internet, but unfortunately are limited in that they will not show any Adobe Flash content (you can read Steve Jobs' thoughts on this here).
The school's iPads have a large selection of Apps already installed and organized by category. Many apps
are free, but some have a small cost (from $0.99 - $9.99). Free apps can be downloaded using the
school's username/password. If you need a pay app, talk to Tim or Deb about how to get it. You could purchase an iTunes gift card and download it.
If you really want to learn about the iPads, take one home for a weekend or over a holiday. Explore the apps that are on it, and download a few of your own to try out.
One thing to keep in mind on the iPads is if you sign in to any of your accounts (email, Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, etc.), sign out when you are finished. That way, a student won't be able to get into your accounts.
They can use speech (though a microphone) to allow students to complete searches in dictionaries or online. How frustrating is it for the student who is told to look something up in the dictionary if they don't know how to spell it correctly. That's the issue! Not so bad if you're using a dictionary with only a couple hundred words in it, but if you're using a junior dictionary with tens of thousands of words, it just doesn't make sense. Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com's free apps both allow students to speak words rather than typing them in. Some students also have issues with typing in search terms properly for Google resulting in "interesting" results. The Google Search App allows students to search using their voice as well.
One of the first apps that students use on the iPad is the camera. It's fantastic to have a built in tool to take pictures and make movies with, and then share them. Students get very creative, very quickly when you put a camera in their hands (and yes, sometimes silly), but this can allow an alternate format for students to be creative and express themselves. A free app like Skitch allows students to mark up their photos.
One of the great things about the iPad 2 that our school has, is that you can output the screen image to an LCD projector using an adaptor that we have at our school. That way, interesting and engaging apps and media can be shared with your whole class. Unlike a Smartboard, you can't touch the projection screen to control the iPad, but you still control it using the iPad.
Keep in mind that anything written on an iPad may be overwritten or deleted by another student (or simply erased during a reset). Students and teachers using iPads for things that they would like to keep will need to use Web Based tools such as Google Docs, Evernote and/or DropBox which require accounts to save their work securely.
Google Docs (or Google Docs for collaborativeschools.net users) allows students using an iPad to sign into their Google Docs account and create and edit text documents and spreadsheets online. It doesn't have the entire feature set of Google Docs on a computer, but it does save their work automatically and they will be able to access it on school computers, home computers, and/or other devices.
Evernote is a great free tool for taking notes. One of the nice things about it is that you can type notes, take pictures of things, record audio notes or add pictures from the web. It also works with the GPS in the iPad to tie notes to different locations.
Notemaster is another cool notetaking tool that can be synced with with Google Docs. The benefit of this software is that it allows you to add sketches within you notes. There is a free version that limits you to 7 notes, but this would likely be fine for the classroom environment.
Both of these tools could be combined with Dragon Dictation (see below in the accessibility section) to use speech to text.
There are a couple of more advanced Office Suite type products out there. Docs to Go is an app that will create and access Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well as sync them with Google Docs and Dropbox so you can access them on any other computer. CloudOn is a free app that isn't in the Canadian App Store yet, but it can be added to your iPad. It recreates the full feel of MS Office on your iPad.
Skitch (iTunes) is a free tool that lets draw on a blank page, or mark up photos, maps, websites by drawing on them with simple tools.
A more advanced free drawing tool might be SketchBook Express.
ShowMe is a free whiteboarding app that allows students or teachers to demonstrate something using the iPad as a whiteboard. It records audio while the student draws, or explains something that is happening. It can be saved on the iPad or uploaded to the ShowMe site. You could also add photos that the students could mark up to explain a concept or procedure.
Wikipedia is a great first step in research for students. Of course, they should check the sources and verify the information, but it is generally a good place to begin. Although Wikipedia has a built-in mobile view, a couple of apps help make the site more engaging and improve readability. Discover - Wikipedia in a Magazine is a great free app that makes the website look beautiful! Qwiki takes content from Wikipedia and other sources and turns it into a beautiful multimedia experience.
3 Views of the Wikipedia Article on Wayne Gretzky
Voicethread has been around for a while as an online digital storytelling app and recently added an iPad app. Students use photos that are already in the iPad's photo library or take new photos. They can then add comments to the photos in the form of text, audio or video. The VoiceThreads are then saved to your online VoiceThread account. You can upgrade to a free VoiceThread account through ABEL.
Check out this great post describing the Top Ten Ways to Use VoiceThread.
There are a variety of blog publishing tools available for the iPad. If you have a Wordpress blog, there is a free app for that. It will work with Edublogs if you have a pro account there, but it won't work with your free account. I use BlogPress which cost about $5 but is super simple and works with a variety of kinds of blogs including all Wordpress and Blogger blogs.
Although the iPad has a great built in YouTube app, you won't be able to use it at school because of our firewall. This doesn't mean that you can't access YouTube content though. Browse to YouTube in Safari and search for your video that way. You will still have to fill in your YRDSB username and password, but you will be able to watch and share content from YouTube.
There are apps available for almost any topic or activity. A lot of programs that run on your computer or websites that you use frequently likely have apps designed for them. The best way to explore is to get ahold of an iPad, get online, and play with it. Choose apps that work well with the way that you currently teach.
One of the things that can make iPads more useful in your classroom is to connect to online accounts. This gives your students and you a place to save work created on the iPad that can be accessed from any computer.
The two most important online accounts to have are probably a Google account and a Dropbox account. Visit the Web Tools page to more about these accounts.
Dragon Dictation is a free app that converts speech to text. It works very well with basically no setup. You simply talk in a regular, clear voice, and it will type out what you say. You can click on any word that isn't spelled correctly to see a list of alternatives. When you finish your writing, you can simply copy and paste the writing into another app or online text editor such as Google Docs.
Voice Over is a screen reader that comes built in to the iPad. This would be useful both for students with vision issues or learning disabilities. It takes a little getting used to because it changes how the iPad controls work in many ways, but it is a free solution.
Speak it to Me is a free app that will read text that you type in or copy and paste into the reader. It doesn't sound great, but it does the job and doesn't change the functionality of the iPad.
Speak It! Text to Speech does the same thing for $2, but sounds a lot better and isn't supported by ads.
There a a variety of features built in to the iPad that will allow it to interact with hearing devices or show close-captioned movies. These are described on the Apple Website.
A number of features in the iPad can help students with physical disabilities use it effectively. These are described on the Apple Website.
My Voice allows students with challenges in speaking to use a create phrase libraries for a variety of situations (it is even location aware, so that if you set it up, when you're near a Tim Horton's it will suggest "I'd like a double-double please")
I follow several teachers who blog about the technology tools they use and I selected a couple of posts that give examples of different apps and how they might be used.
Idea Sketch: Free Basic and Effective Mind Mapping Tool — for iPad and iPhone
Links for Apps