Click here to see the iPad edition of iTips for Teachers

Click here to see the 5 part video documentary I produced as a mobile learning project during the 2011 Australia & New Zealand Apple Distinguished Educator’s Conference in Newport, Sydney

It is important to understand that an iPad is not a laptop replacement. It is also not a shared device, not really suited to a class set however it a wonderful personal asset for teachers and students in the classroom.

I’ve been lucky to have had an iPad now since day 1 in Australia and I’m a big fan of them as a support for teaching and learning. I see the iPad and devices like them being essential companions for students and teachers in the near future.

In one device, a student and a teacher has their diary, their address book, their email, their Internet access, their word processor, all their text books (interactive and/or PDF), their PDF reader, their eBook reader, their iTunes, their music, their movies, their games, their photos, their education apps of which 100s are being created daily, their facebook, their school learning management system, their Google apps & maps, their YouTube, their class notes (handwritten with Penultimate via stylus or typed using Evernote), their voice recorder,  their free link to major news events around the world via Sources, their App store, their Dropbox, their dictionary, their thesaurus, their guitar tuner, their guitar effects unit and recording studio, their spreadsheet, their calculator, their access to 100s of Web2.0 tools, their language translator, their access to their other computers (Windows & Mac via LogMeIn), and the list goes on and on.

I can’t imagine my working life without one now.

The above list are some of the iPad apps that I use each day in my teaching, admin, learning and creating. I use my laptop for large file manipulation like video editing and image manipulation. The iPad is not the be all and end all, but it comes close.

iPads rely on having access to an iTines account and a computer (Windows or Mac). File transfer and application management is generally done via iTunes when the iPad is connected to a ‘real’ computer. They also need charging each night after being used all day, the ’10 hours battery life’ really struggles if it hasn’t been charged the night before. So, ideally the iPad is a personally owned device by the student/teacher who charges it every night and backups up all files and applications via a dedicated computer and iTunes account at home.

Some schools are looking seriously at asking parents to purchase their choice of iPad for their student then adding the required applications and text books on the book-list at the end of the year. Depending on the subjects, the saving on purchasing expensive full version, hard-copy textbooks could work out to be equivalent to the cost of the initial iPad over a period of two or three years.

There are three things I like most about the iPad for teaching and learning:

1 – it is not an expensive and heavy laptop that teachers feel pressured to use in every lesson, it is a personal assistant for the student and teacher that can easily be hidden in a school bag.

2 – it lies flat on the desk so that a teacher can easily see what is on the screen while walking around the classroom.

3 – it boots up instantly, very handy when lesson time is really valuable.

I believe it won’t be long before we see iPads and equivalent replacing laptops and laptops replacing desktops in schools. The days of the traditional school computer laboratory are numbered.

Dr Tim Kitchen
Head of Learning Technologies
Strathcona BGGS

28th February, 2011

More thoughts on the iPad

Financial advantages

The base model iPad2 is currently $579. I recently calculated how much our parents are asked to pay for stationary (including a calculator) in Years 9 and 10 and it totaled about $10 short of the price of an iPad2. I then calculated how much the average parent is paying in textbook costs if their child is studying one language. When this total is added to stationary costs, it works out to be more than the price of three iPads. Of course not all textbooks are purchased as new and not all stationary items are always required and it is important to outline the extra costs associated with an iPad such as the case, the apps that do cost and possibly extras such as a stylus and Bluetooth keyboard.

Publishing companies around the world are realising that the days of parents paying for expensive and heavy textbooks are numbered. Some schools are starting to take up a ‘textbook free zone’ policy, where the concept of being forced to teach to one particular reference source, because parents have paid lots for it, is considered draconian. Coburg Secondary College in Melbourne has gone one step further, not only do they not have textbooks, they also don’t have a library, such is their reliance on mobile and Internet technologies to resource the needs of their students and teachers.

Many popular textbook producers are using ePub and Web2.0 technologies to turn their resources into living, breathing, multimedia rich and engaging references that can be regularly updated. These new educational resources are not only more engaging for students and teachers to use, they are generally cheaper than the tradition textbook and the option of purchasing chapters rather than the whole book is now a reality. The iPad is an ideal tool to view and interact with this new style of resource and more and more schools are looking seriously at making the change.

I recently downloaded Al Gore’s eBook Our Choice ( which claims that it will change the way people read books. It cost $6 and is an incredibly rich source of text, image, video, map and interactively all based on the topic of global warming. It is an ideal ‘text book’ and a fabulous reference for any student or teacher interested in learning or teaching this vital topic of world wide interest. If this is a taste of what is possible in the world of publishing and education, then it really is an exciting time to be a student and a teacher.

What can the iPad do?

At a recent seminar, a colleague from a near by school said he didn’t really know what he would do if he had an iPad or how it could enhance his teaching. My simple answer was to ask him what can’t an iPad do for him as a teacher and more importantly, what can’t it do for his students to help organize, enhance and construct their learning. Then he told me that he was a Windows user and that his school didn’t support Apple products. I assured him that most iPad users that I have met are Windows users and that as long as iTunes is available, the iPad will work well regardless of the operating system. After a brief chat about my experiences with the iPad he was converted.

There are currently over 350,000 applications available for the iPad and in the past 12 months there have been over 10 billion downloads. New applications are being written each day and a number of schools are having programs written to cater for their specific needs. I know one school that is considering to eventually replace much, if not all, of the functionality of their learning management system with an iPad/iPhone application being written especially for them.

Victorian Government iPad trial

The Victorian Government have been running an iPad trial through 10 of their schools. They outline some of the educational reasons for using the iPad in their web site ( Their initial research is saying that teachers are finding that students are able to have more flexibility in the type of product they choose to use to construct their learning due to the vast array of authoring style applications available in the iPad. They list the following educational advantages:

– the iPad is a personal device that ideally the students keep with them at home and at school as a tool for learning and for living;

– it is reasonably affordable;

– it allows learning to happen anytime and anywhere;

– the wide range of applications allows for access to information on a vast range of topics and interest areas;

– class notes can be kept in one spot and accessed anywhere;

– the touch screen relates to the same technology that many students are already use to  and allows for a high level of interactivity;

– the battery life allows for use throughout the normal school day;

– the instant startup saves time in class;

– there is anytime, anywhere access to a wide range of multimedia;

– the iPad is light and portable, easily carried between classes and to and from home and school;

– heavy text books can be replaced by virtual eBooks;

– documents and tasks can be uploaded as iBooks by teachers;

– texts and class documents can be annotated by teachers and students to enhance teaching and learning;

– minimal technical support is required;

– the iPad can work with peripheral devices such as a bluetooth keyboard if required; and

– there are voice recognition applications available to help students and teachers input large amounts of text if necessary.


Apps resources

New apps for the iPad are being written and published to the Apps Store daily and it is difficult to keep up with the constant stream of development. One key support in this area is the Victorian government website mentioned earlier. They have a section on their site dedicated to reviewing education apps ( This site is well worth a regular visit to see what new education apps are available and how they can potentially be used in the classroom.

Of course it is important to keep in mind that it’s not just apps that have been classified as ‘education’ that are useful and engaging for learning and teaching. One of my favorite classroom apps at the moment is UPAD which is classified as ‘productivity’ ( It offers many of the annotation features you would find in an interactive whiteboard or a tablet PC. You can load a PDF document into UPAD and annotate with a pen and highlighter function using either your finger or, better still, an iPad stylus. The annotated document can then be sent as a PDF via email back to the student or exported as a PDF to be shared via a LMS. Maths teachers who like annotating all over students work as they mark it would love this application. All the applications on an iPad2 can be viewed via a data projector with a VGA or HDMI adaptor so for the price of about $5.00 my iPad has replaced my interactive whiteboard.

Personal device or class set

There is some debate amongst educators as to whether the iPad should be a personally  owned device or part of a shared class set. If you ask the creators of the iPad they will tell you that it is very much a personal device. It is your calendar, your email, your contacts, your work and your apps. It relies on your personal iTunes account to function. In fact, when you turn on your iPad for the very first time it asks you to connect it to a computer and access or create your iTunes account. It is via your iTunes account that all your apps and work are backed up and your personal iTunes account is your main source of syncing your iPad calendar, contacts, movies, photos, music etc with your home computer.

In saying all that, it is possible to run a class set of iPads and many school are doing so.  These would most likely be linked to some generic iTunes accounts and mainly used to run education and games applications. I highly recommend that students who share iPads wash their hands regularly and disinfect the screens each day.

To 3G or not to 3G

The iPad2 comes in three different memory capacities as well as a choice of WIFI only or WIFI and 3G. The advantage of 3G is that you can access the Internet from almost anywhere, you are not tied to your home or school WIFI or the local McDonalds store. The disadvantage is that students with 3G access can override the usual filters and restrictions found in most school networks. Many students already have 3G access on their phones so school are already use to dealing with these issues but I recommend that if the school is going to have an iPad program they avoid the 3G version. Not only does it save the open access to the Internet issues, they are also considerably cheaper. If students do bring 3G iPads to school, it is probably wise to sake them to hand in or lock away their sim cards for the day.

Of course the counter argument which I hear often is that by placing these restrictions we are not really preparing our students for the world outside of school where there are often very little to no network restrictions at university, home and the workplace. Many educators are arguing that we should allow our students to potentially access anything and deal with individual cases when they arise. Others argue that this policy breaches a school’s normal duty of care.

A small sample group of Year 10 students resently asked me to please never allow them access to Facebook on the school network, it would be far too much a temptation and distraction.