Beginner’s Guide: Week 1 of the iPad Project

Week 1 of the iPads and I’ve become used to people cutting in front of me in the hallways as I squeak my way to class with the IKEA back-wheel drive cart. The iPads were received well in class. After the jokes about students not having $600 for replacing one of them if they have drinks spilled on them, that is.

My challenges last week were to find the right balance between using and abusing the tablets in class. How much is too much? The tendency to play with technology for no other reason than to play with technology is real. I conducted a pre-project and midweek poll with my students through Google Forms, made available to them via my LMS. No logging in was necessary, so feedback was completely anonymous.

Some of my questions for the students and their responses:

ipad survey 1

There was a steep learning curve in the beginning, especially getting used to logging into each app as we used it for the first time. Google Docs was particularly frustrating, since it bears little resemblance to the desktop version. Everyone is helping each other, however; I rarely have to walk over to a student to assist because I’m projecting my iPad’s screen on the projector, and the students can follow along.

ipad survey 2

There are a few students who are not very connected with their devices, but I do not have anyone in the class who is unfamiliar with a smart phone or how a computer operates. The class is an advanced reading/writing English for Academic Purposes group, so providing assistance with verbal instructions should not be an issue. Some teachers have asked whether it would be a good idea to use them with students at lower levels because of their lack of comprehension; I say take the opportunity to transform process of operating the iPads into a lesson on listening and following instructions.

ipad 3

For all that talk about digital natives, I have yet to encounter a student who uses technology extensively to study English. From the information in the bar graph above, the students mostly use their phones solely as dictionaries or laptops for doing homework. So much for digital natives knowing more than the teacher. Myth: busted.

ipad 4

This question I was a little concerned about, but no one hates the idea. I can deal with the nervous but willing.

ipad 5

I’m glad someone responded with collaboration, because that is one of my main reasons for using the iPads. I also like the additional benefit one student mentions – he/she will learn something about technology as we study reading and writing. The student who says “this process will be boring” means the process of learning English can be boring, I think!

ipad 6

The two surveys I’ve done – one pre- and one halfway through the week – show that everyone is on board and is ready to get to work. Their concern is, for the most part, not that we are using iPads, but how it will assist them in learning. I will pay attention to the 20 percent who think we use too much edtech in the classroom and provide a balance or options in most cases.

Stay tuned for the next installment, Week 2 – when we examine a difficult reading task and use the iPads to assist and enrich our understanding of the text.



How to Source 25 iPads with No Money

iPad B and W

This week l began using iPads in my English for Academic Purposes (EAP) ESL reading and writing class; we’ll have them for the next seven weeks. My intention is to reflect here on my blog about what we’re doing and what’s working/isn’t working.

Some Bonuses

Most of the students know me, so they’ve been exposed to my techie enthusiasm and had to deal with it. They’ve dealt with it. Period.

I have access to an ID support staff member for iPad reimaging and technical issues.

I got around the “no extra funds” issue by buying some styluses with petty cash funds.

The variety of free iPad apps is super.

How I use the iPads is up to me. No conditions except a debriefing afterwards.

The librarian doesn’t have to come during a mutually-agreeable scheduled lab to deliver her “Using the Library Database” workshop. Sweet!

The Purposes               

To provide an EAP advanced reading and writing class access to iPads, used for collaborative writing, reading, and vocabulary activities

To see if using technology (a personal device) influences student motivation to do things they don’t usually enjoy doing

To observe whether edtech provides learners with the ability to manage linguistically challenging material successfully, with some teacher guidance

The Objectives

  • incorporate iPad use in the classroom to enhance classroom learning
  • replace some of the need for textbooks by using online sources for reading
  • offer alternatives to paper-based writing tasks
  • provide collaborative spaces for students to read, write, and share research synchronously and asynchronously
  • foster motivation in learning by employing iPads
  • develop research methods through the use of iPads for essay writing
  • use sketchnote apps to annotate and illustrate reading texts (this will be a blog entry on its own)
  • empower students by showing them how to develop their own study tools through iPad apps.

The Apps

The Google Drive “suite”


  • gFLash+
  • Flashcards
  • TOEIC vocabulary
  • Dictionary


  • Paper 53
  • iSketchnote
  • Notepad+

Test Prep

  • TOEIC Vocabulary
  • IELTS Skills


  • Nearpod
  • Socrative


  • Nearpod

Collaborative Writing

  • Zoho Writer
  • Evernote
  • Edmodo


  • EssayBuilder
  • RefMe


  • Padlet
  • Popplet
  • Simplenote
  • SimpleMind+
  • Stickyboard
  • OneNote

Good-to-haves in Anna’s Class

  • ThingLink
  • NPR News
  • EnGrammar
  • Poll Everywhere
  • Pocket
  • Voice Record
  • Twitter
  • Skype
  • Audiobooks
  • Oxford Books
  • Kindle

I’ve given the class a pre-project survey and plan to check in with them once midway and again at the end to get some anonymous feedback.

One sad note: these iPads have been sitting untouched, in plain sight, for six months before today. No one else asked to use them. I have decided to think of this positively and put it out there as a message of encouragement for teachers; there are opportunities lurking to use mobile devices and technology in educational institutions even when there is no money for additional funding. All that is necessary is a set of observant eyes and the right question:

“Can I use these in my class?”

Stay tuned as I report back periodically about my experiences.