The ‘Evergreen’ iPad: Why all your apps should fit on one screen

For instance, students could create a math tutorial or a virtual tour of a historic site using Explain Everything, a powerful screencasting app. Or, they might create a multimedia book report using Book Creator, an app that allows users to record their voice and put videos in their book. Students could create a lively Spanish vocabulary presentation or digital story using Animoto. They might film and edit video of their science lab with iMovie, or create a song for music class with Garage Band. Students could collaboratively comment about images and any topic using VoiceThread. Young students might draw stories with Doodlecast.

On Vimeo at, you can watch a first grade teacher at the Burley School Technology Program in Chicago practicing something resembling what you and I might remember as “story time.” The teacher is reading to her students, and her students listen sitting quietly on the floor. But where mouths are silent, minds are busy. With heads bent over their iPads, her students trace their fingers along bright screens to create girls in pink dresses, jump ropes, clouds, and numbers—all visualizations of the details in the story, which, in this case, is a poem. Later, students are asked to offer explanations of their visualizations and take what they learned to craft their own poems.

With a simple change in approach, this teacher transformed “story time” into a “writer’s workshop”—and she didn’t do it with a poetry app. Rather, she used a screencasting app and brought in her own content—content that could morph into illustrations of the water cycle for a science lesson or the hands of a clock for portraying time.

With a screencasting app such as Explain Everything (or the simpler ScreenChomp app for K-2 students), students have a blank canvas to write, draw, type, or add pictures, audio, video, and special effects. They can create just about anything and do it easily. Thus, the real challenge is not the content in the app itself, but rather the act of brainstorming ways of putting students at the center of the content creation process.

Connection: To become true 21st-century learners, students must learn how to share and collaborate both digitally and physically. The challenge with the iPad is that it’s not a computer—there’s no hard drive or USB port—and apps are not designed for separate accounts, so educators and students must rely on cloud computing. Dropbox provides cloud storage and facilitates sharing, but Google Drive is hands-down the best app for collaboration. It’s free, and not only does it allow up to 5GB of storage, it enables students and teachers to create and edit papers, presentations, and more. And multiple people can work on the same document, at the same time, anywhere in the world.

A relevant iPad classroom

If educators keep these 4Cs in mind as they evaluate apps, they can begin to tap into the iPad’s creative potential. The key is seeing it not as a gadget or something to perpetuate teacher-centric instruction through new mediums, but rather as a device with the power to shape students into active and adaptive thinkers. Moving forward with a powerful framework for iPad integration, teachers can—and will—put students into authentic, relevant, and creative learning environments.

Tom Daccord is the director of EdTechTeacher, a professional learning organization, and has worked with K-12 schools and universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

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