Why iPad for the English classroom in education?

By September 8, 2011 21 Comments

I’ve been asked to make a case for the use of iPads in English by a member of my PLN, @learningspy (David Didau) or more specifically, how they could be used.
This could turn in to a very lengthy post if I was to write my entire case for the iPad, but I’ll break it down by making this statement: All choices to do with technology in the classroom should be directly linked to the benefits that it will bring to the students and how it will improve learning.
In the following seven examples of how iPads can be used in the classroom, I hope to make a case for how using these devices, learning can be made interesting, fun, relevant and powerful for the students in the classroom.
I cannot take credit for all of the ideas that I’m giving here either – and where due, credit will be given.

iPads in the English classroom

1. Kindle app

Ok, so you could go out and buy yourself a Kindle device – they’re great things, but with an iPad and the Kindle app, not only do you have your books that you can read anywhere and take anywhere but the built in dictionary feature is fantastic. Imagine being able to automatically look up a word that you don’t know the meaning of. Rather than the student having to (perhaps) embarrass themselves asking the meaning for the word, they can simply press on the word they want to learn about and a definition automatically appears at the bottom of the page. Also, words and passages can be highlighted. Specific segments of books can also be shared via Twitter and Facebook. Not to mention the plethora of free classic novels that an English department would normally have to pay for copies of. No longer will students have to have the battered hand-me-down copies of Pride & Prejudice, but they can get their own electronic copies, for free, on their device. A saving that over time will reap benefits in itself too. (Formulated from ideas by @MrsThorne)


2. Puppet Pals


This app can be used in many different ways. The premise behind it is that you can control characters on your iPad whilst providing voiceovers over the top of the action, with different backgrounds etc that can be added easily. This app has proven to be of great use in different examples:
a) In plenaries – students recount their learning from the lesson or in a project using the characters
b) Students re-enact scenes from plays / novels / poems, that further enhance their knowledge of the text
c) Students creatively create their own scenes which can then be turned in to pieces of creative writing
d) Students can use the app to act as a minimal storyboard of a plan for a script or a movie they might create as an English/Media piece of work


3. Garageband & iPad

This post leans heavily to the example given by @JamesMichie on his blog here: http://jamesmichie.com/blog/2011/07/ipad-garageband-ftw/

In his example, James uses the iPad with Garageband to help improve the quality of writing of students in his Year 8 classes. I quote him verbatim below:

“I’ve been using iPads with my Year 8 class to record narrative writing that they have created. I had the students draft a piece of writing based on Down the Rabbit Hole by Lewis Caroll, which they recorded using the iPads. I wanted the students to see how punctuation effected the way they read because after reading the first drafts, I was none too pleased with the standard of their writing.
I uploaded the recordings to the VLE and asked the class to peer assess each other’s work. Using those comments and some live assessment in Google Docs” (which can also be accessed on the iPad) “from me, they created improved narratives with more accurate punctuation and improved vocabulary.
They then recorded their final drafts which we burned to discs. While the drafting/redrafting process is not unusual in the English classroom, recording and evaluating their written work in this way added a new dimension to the learning process. It ensured that every single student’s work was shared without the embarrassment that some students feel standing in front of the class. By putting the audio on the VLE, every student received feedback, which due to time constraints would not happen in a traditional classroom setting. What’s more, I could further differentiate my support by listening and focussing feedback where it was most needed.
To complete the unit I wanted them to present their work effectively. They created a CD cover using drawn or found images, with their narrative writing printed up on the reverse. Giving them a physical artefact to take away that represented their effort and progress was highly motivational and also contributed to the quality of the finished work.
It was a great project to end the year with and the use of the iPads and GarageBand made a huge difference to the quality of the students’ work.”

To hear examples of some student’s podcasts, visit the link above.

4. Comic Life

An app with a comic book feel to it, this app has oodles of inspirational appeal when asking students to create comic strips and look at the genre of the comic. Using Comic Life, students can easily and creatively, create their own comics that not only look amazing, but will inspire them to create the best that they possibly can. Comic Life comes with lots of templates too so students don’t spend their time ‘playing’ with the look of the comic, but can concentrate their time on the writing, which of course is the main purpose behind the activity.

(ref: http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/files/2011/05/h.jpg)


5. iBooks

iBooks is Apple’s very similar version of the e-reader, Kindle. Offering similar features, it will too of course really enhance the English classroom. Again too, lots of classic texts can be gained for free – hundreds of free titles, which are often on the English syllabus, can be added to the iBook catalogue for free, e.g. Wuthering Heights. An added bonus of iBooks is that it has a built in PDF reader – therefore, any notes, handouts, worksheets etc that students might previously have been given on paper, can be added to iBooks for reading at any time. Many resources online are in PDF format too, by downloading them using the iPad – these are then easily viewable.

6. Reading


This part isn’t really about a particular app, but about how the iPad can revolutionise and inspire learners to read more and more from different types of audiences. Here are just a few of the many apps that can promote reading: BBC News, Zite, Flipboard, Feedly, Taptu, Mashable, Sky News, SpringPad, Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Economist, Engadget, eduTecher, British Library, IMDB.

With so many free ways to read what you want, when you want – the iPad is a brilliant way of getting students to read and engage more with the world around them through words.


7. Blogging

If you’re really looking to get students to communicate then creating a blog using an iPad (although there are other ways of doing this to be fair) is a fantastic way to engage students. What makes blogging with the iPad so powerful however, particularly for students, is that with the built in features of the iPad – the two way camera, photos, clipping of online resources, etc. Blogging can be done quickly and powerfully. The power of having students writing something which can be commented upon, not just by the other members of the class, but by anyone else in the world, is a true motivator of students, to ensure that their best work gets put in to the public forum. Initiatives such as those set up by @DeputyMitchell with his Quad Blogging where teams of schools comment on each other’s blogs, provides a real audience that will definitely communicate and comment, with these comments guaranteed to come from peers. Apps for the iPad such as Posterous and WordPress, enable students to quickly set up their own blogs and then get cracking at putting their creative and reflective works online.

I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this – please do so!



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