Using Tablets in Teaching

An article by Richard James Rogers (author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management).

I remember when the first iPad came out. As a chunky, cumbersome device that seemed to defy the goals of most other devices (maximizing, rather than minimising space), it lent itself mercilessly to all manner of jokes – many centered around sanitary towels.

In an educational context, however, school leaders and teachers were quick to see the benefits that tablets could bring to the classroom. They had large screens, longer battery life than smartphones and seemed more robust than laptops.

I’ve just purchased the latest generation of iPad – the iPad Pro 2018. It’s a beautiful device and I’m finding that it is helping me with a number of things in my job as a teacher.

I’d like to share my findings with you.

Parents’ evening

In the past I would bring student notebooks, data printed on paper and my own thoughts and suggestions to parents’ evening. This was inefficient, and involved quite a lot of heavy-carrying.

Now I use my iPad Pro and it’s brilliant:

  • I scan student work to my iPad using the CamScanner app (this is an app were you basically take a photograph and the iPad scans the photo like a document). I can then show the parents the student work on my iPad screen – I can even zoom in to show specific details.
  • With a simple ‘double-tap’ of the Apple Pencil on the home screen, I can open a notes page allowing me to write things down that I discuss with parents
  • My iPad can link to Google Sheets, so I can literally show the parents the latest assessment data for that class and discuss the progress of the student

Here’s a screen shot of some notes I made in a recent parents’ evening on the IPad Pro:

Some notes I made with a parent at a recent parents’ evening. As you can see, I’m still getting used to writing with the Apple Pencil.

Annotating student work

Probably the biggest way that the IPad Pro has helped me with my job is by allowing me to quickly annotate student work with the Apple Pencil, and then save that work as a pdf.

I teach IB Diploma Chemistry and one of the IB’s requirements is that student coursework be uploaded to their system in pdf format, and annotated if possible. Some teachers simply mark the work by hand and scan it, whereas others annotate the work with typed comments using Adobe Acrobat. I personally prefer the flexibility and depth of color of annotation that the Apple Pencil allows me. Just look at these examples below:

Where I see work annotation going in the future

I must admit that I am already amazed at the amount of printing and hassle that VLEs like Google Classroom have saved me. However, I see the ‘paperless’ classroom going a step further with tablets that have sketch capabilities, such as the iPad Pro. Students will be able to use these devices to annotate each other’s work (peer assessment) and annotate their own (self-assessment). The need for printing may be removed altogether, which saves trees and cuts costs.

But what about apps?

Ah yes, no good blog post about tablets would be complete without a list of favorite apps. Please allow me a moment on this.

Along with the advantages of using tablets that I’ve already mentioned, including the capability of students to annotate each other’s work, a number of great learning apps exist that can really take student achievement to the next level.

One of my favorites is the Gojimo app.

Gojimo contains question banks from a wide-variety of subjects and exam-boards (including IGCSE and A-Levels). It includes loads of multiple choice questions with model answers when kids get the questions wrong. There’s even a live-chat feature that students can use when they’re stuck.

I like using Gojimo on my iPad during private-tutoring/mentoring sessions. It’s a good way to get students focused and provides lots of source material for revision.

Another of my favorites, already mentioned, is the Noteability app:

I like this app because it has basically replaced all of my notebooks, and my wife is very happy about that!

I use Noteability for a wide-variety of things including:

  • Lesson-planning
  • Making notes in meetings
  • Annotating student work

For students, I can see Noteability being using in a range of creative ways:

  • Making revision notes
  • Annotating their own work, or each other’s
  • Creating assignments and presentations (Noteability allows users to copy content from the web seamlessly using ‘split-screen’ mode)
  • Making notes in class

There is the possibility that tablets may even replace traditional school notebooks in future too – removing the need for 11-year-old kids to carry really heavy bags around school all day (and this has already been linked to back problems).

Using Noteability to make classnotes in ‘split-screen’ mode

Conclusion

Tablets have the power to really take over many aspects of teaching, and this can save teachers and students time, energy, hassle and paper! I’ve only scratched the surface of what tablets can do in this short blog post (I haven’t talked about movie making with iMovie for example).

I’m glad I purchased my iPad Pro. It cannot replace all of the features of a laptop, but there are lots of cool things it can do!

Author:

High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK).

4 thoughts on “Using Tablets in Teaching

  1. Thank you for this really interesting article. I always like to read about what cool things other teachers use to make life easier

    1. Thank you, vyvienn. The internet and tech companies are still slow to adopt the new iPad technology, but progress is being made. The iPad Pro has definitely been a worthwhile investment for me – especially when it comes to annotating student work.

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