IATEFL 2012: How to teach with an iPad

Damn the Posterous template automatically making the “i” capital in the title of this post!…..

Er, anyway, just seen Steven Bukin talking about how to teach with an iPad.  Especially interested in this as our school’s just got one!  Here’s how it went (notes typed, as usual, while session’s going on, so forgive any typos, unclear comments, apparently random mixing of tenses, etc…) (my comments in italics)

Started by overhearing a guy saying his school director (in Japan) is very excited and wants all his teachers to start using iPads.  Several hundred teachers all teaching using iPads is his dream!

OK, talk starting.

The first thing he sees when he walks into his classroom is a bunch of young sts on various digital devices.  Goes something like this:

Teacher (Steven): “Hello!”

Students (one of whom is tapping away on 3 phones): [radio silence]

Is this a problem?  He says no.  Let’s harness it.  In his words…

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Some terms:

Ambient intimacy: we have the possibility to communicate all the time, 24/7.  No downtime.  No time for reflection.  We are always curating our digital selves.  In the past, people created tools that were an extension of the physical self (hammers, etc.).  Now digital tools are an extension of the mental self.

Nomophobia: No-mobile phobia!  A fear of being without a mobile, or being able to be contacted by one.  66% of people in a recent survey by a newspaper said they had this.  Greater percentage among young generation (age 18-24).  59% had 2 mobiles.  We check our mobiles on average 34 times a day!

Dual-screening: people watch something on one screen and comment on it on another screen at the same time (much like I’m doing now!) 😀

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device.  According to Steven, the biggest thing coming into education technology now.  Students bringing in their own devices to class.  One modern concept reflecting this: the “flipped classroom”.

He proposes: IWBs will become redundant, obsolete.  Tablets will take over – because the same functions can be replicated.

Contents of session today:

1. Presentations can be given using an iPad (as Steven’s doing in this talk!)

2. iPads can also be used as a visualiser – i.e. scanning documents and showing them on a big screen.

3. …and as a remote desktop.  You can use your iPad to connect to your PC and control it remotely, using programs that don’t normally run on an iPad.

4. Finally, you can use iPads as voter response systems, working interactively with students in the classroom.

(4b.) Oh, and he’ll share a few apps, too. 🙂

And, he’s off!  Here we go……

To wirelessly connect an iPad 2 with a projector, you can use an Apple TV.  It also connects with iPhones, so students with iPhones in class can hook up, too.

One free app: Skitch.  Made by same company that makes Evernote.  You can put a photo or any document on the iPad, then annotate it on-screen on the iPad.  (Guy in sesh next to me checking out Skitch on his iPad right now!) 🙂

Another free app: Whiteboard Lite.  You can connect 2 devices so 2 people can write.

Another free collaborative app (though not particularly user-friendly): Groupboard.

And another: Paperdesk.  You can prepare your lesson, annotate things, record things… good for preparing a grammar lesson before class, for example.  The free version only lets you record 3 pages, but if you pay you get more access and it’s not that expensive (about $2?).

Steven’s using Keynote for his preso today.  (Mac equivalent to PowerPoint, for those who don’t know.)

You can also use Prezi.  You can’t create a presentation on Prezi but you can view it on the Prezi Viewer App.

Another thing you can do: screencasting.  You record what’s happening on screen and add audio commentary just by speaking into your computer microphone.  Two examples he likes: ShowMe and Explain Everything.  You can record something on your screen, annotate it, etc.  He shows an example of Explain Everything, which allows you to draw shapes, text, etc. on-screen.  In his example, he has bubbles representing stressed syllables and you can slide words (typed-in text) underneath them to match the stress patterns.  e.g. “vegetables” = 3 circles, first one biggest.  You can also record yourself saying these words so when students drag the words into the right places, they can hear the pron and check their answers.

Importantly, you can also share this!  So you can email images, lessons, whatever, that you’ve created to your students.

Visualiser function now – the iPad has an in-built camera, so you can take a pic of a coursebook page for example…

…and he sort of trails off.  OK, you can project an image from the iPad on-screen of something in the classroom – but why not just get students to come cluster around that actual thing in the classroom?  The iPad seems a bit of a pointless addition here…

OK, another app: iThoughtsHD.  You can create mind maps on-screen.  e.g. vocab topic: “travel” in centre-screen.  You can branch out in to different areas around the screen (how?? demo, please!).  You can also upload images to accompany this.

For note-taking: Evernote.  It’s a way of storing info, storing notes.

How to connect your iPad to your desktop computer?  Doceri.  It allows you to connect to and control your computer from an iPad.  So if for example you have some software that won’t run on an iPad (e.g. anything with Flash!!), you can show it on the iPad by using this program.  It’s a bit fiddly at first but simple once you get the hang of it.  You can mirror what’s on your computer on the iPad screen.  It’s PC- and Mac-compatible.

Ooh, time for a bit of a workshop thing with the audience.  People with smart devices need to log-in to response.smarttech.com and type in a code, so we can have a go with some of the tech he’s showing us.  (He’s going to test our knowledge of Scotland with some kind of IWB quiz thingy….)

Here’s a screengrab of how it looks once we’re in:


A moment ago, I tweeted this:



But this quiz, I think, is actually worth the extra tech – Steven shows us how sts can do the quiz on their iPads/iPhones/whatever and as they go through the questions and put in their answers, a real-time table of results can be projected on-screen.  Extra competitive!  And a bit flash. 🙂

The tool he used to make this quiz: Socrative.  You can create a quiz before the lesson and get students to do it in-class.

He’s showing us how to use Socrative (or trying to – tech is failing him! app not working at the moment)…. Oh dear.  Kind of undermining the glory of tech he was touting… this talk might have been a bit more impressive if all the tech was working.  Suggestions from the audience as to what to do are revealing quite a few other ‘experts’ in the room…

Let’s move on.

Some good things about using tech tools for voting/quizzes: research (Cutrim Schmid 2005) shows…

– an increased level of student participation

– instant feedback on sts’ understanding

– sts can check own progress with peers

– increased thinking time during lesson

– fosters curiosity in a specific topic

– stimulates debates on subjective issues

– introduces fun in the form of competitive games

(But if I hadn’t included “tech” in the heading for this list, would you have known it was meant to be a list of factors in favour of technology?  Why can’t any of these things be true in a non-tech classroom??  I personally love technology and use it, but this list won’t convince anyone that it’s necessary.  Again, this all appears to just be tech for the sake of tech.)

And some problems:

– it doesn’t always work! (as seen in this session!)

– you have to design your questions carefully (again – true of all activities, not just iPad quizzes…)

– ….

No more mentioned.  Seriously?

More app recommendations:

Dragon Dictate.  Allows you to speak into your iPad and write what you’re saying on the screen.  It’s free!  What he doesn’t say is that you have to train it to your voice, which takes time.  Might be a bit tricky to use with more than one student – I wonder if you can train it to multiple voices?

Rory’s Story Cubes.  This is fun.  Lets you roll a bunch of ‘dice’, each cube with pics on its 6 faces.  You ‘shake the dice’, they fall into a random position showing a random selection of pics.  Students then create a story from the visible pics.  This is really an iPhone application – get the students to download it and they can play in groups.

OK, enough apps.  Let’s talk about the future.

10,000 tablets (not iPads) in 300 Russian schools.  Target: 16.5 million.


e-textbooks are also on the horizon.  Apple has just released free software called iBooks Author, with which you can create your own books.  He doesn’t mention that this allows you to not only write text, but include images AND VIDEO on the pages.  It’s incredible.

My overall verdict: Forgive the seeming immodesty, but I knew a lot of this stuff – and I think he could have done more to really sell it.  There’s a time and a place for tech in the classroom and it needs to be justified.  I’m not convinced by this presentation (and I wasn’t a skeptic to start with!).  But oh well.  Some interesting apps mentioned, a few of which I hadn’t heard of before and will check out when I get back to my school and its iPad. 🙂


About Laura Patsko

Teacher trainer, language learner, language teacher, linguist, researcher. Not necessarily in that order.


  1. Really appreciate this blog for dipping into IATEFL from afar… thanks…. Am unsure about iPads in Education – mainly because of the cost, but think they could be really useful (probably cheaper than IWBs for equivalent effect if that makes sense). Really second the recommendation of iThoughts… blogged a bit about it here: http://classroom201x.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/mindmapping-or-ithoughts-therefore-iam/

  2. Laura Patsko

    Cool, thanks, I’ll check it out!

  3. Laura. This is a wonderful blog post from the IATEFL conference. I really wanted to go to this talk but couldn’t. Very good write up as it is so informative. The biggest problem I have with iPads in the classroom is that they can’t [and shouldn’t] replace good teaching. The applications that are created are great but what we need is a group of tech savvy teachers to create and publish an iPad app for use in the language classroom. I am looking forward to seeing more developments in the future.

  4. Laura Patsko

    Hi Martin,Thanks for the comment! Totally agree that iPads can’t/shouldn’t replace good teaching. But like any tool, they might enhance learning if used judiciously. It’ll take some time, trial and error to find out to what extent this is true of an iPad.Luckily, this week I’ve got lots of 1-2-1 lessons in my timetable and my school’s iPad to experiment with! I intend to write up what I try out and what I learn (and hopefully what my students learn!) and post it on my regular (non-conference time) blog here: http://lauras-showandtell.blogspot.co.uk/…so watch this space! :)Laura

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