How to Make a Student iPad Program a Reality at Your School

An expert walks you through tech and resources to support transformative teaching and learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Sam Weiss

Since its release in 2010, schools have loved the iPad. It’s easy to use, is full of accessibility features and fuels students with excitement. It also enables transformative learning.

But don’t be mistaken, transformative learning isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a real possibility.

And it happens with innovative teachers, proper training, inspiring curriculum and technology (in that order).

There are incredible resources for teachers and districts to make transformative learning a success in their schools.

When appropriately utilizing these programs and collections of content, schools will be on their way to creating well-rounded iPad programs.

Understanding the barriers

One of the most common barriers to technology adoption in the classroom is the teacher’s comfort level, because they often haven’t had the opportunity for ongoing professional development around technology and how to properly implement it into their curriculum.

“One of the most common barriers to technology adoption in the classroom is the teacher’s comfort level, because they often haven’t had the opportunity for ongoing professional development around technology and how to properly implement it into their curriculum.”


Apple understood this and developed the Apple Teacher Program as a way to provide ongoing professional development to educators.

The self-paced, activity-based training program focuses on different ways to use iPads and Macs in the classroom.

With a mixture of online-based learning and Starter Guides in the iBooks store, there is a resource for any learning style. Many principals have even made Apple Teacher a school-wide initiative to help all educators get the most out of their technology. Apple supports these initiatives with valuable resources, including an overview for teachers.

The company’s native applications also have a ton of use cases in the classroom. Between Pages, Keynote, Numbers, GarageBand, iMovie, Safari, Photos and Notes, students are able to accomplish quite a bit! And for even more engaging apps or curriculum, educators can access their Education Collection in the App Store.

This resource provides some amazing apps and supporting teacher documentation that makes it easy to augment current lesson plans with memorable digital experiences. For example, students can take Virtual Field Trips to famous museums and historical sites. And the iBooks Store has a special section specifically for Lesson Plans.

But if teachers still aren’t sure where to turn for the best content, they can use a resource like eSpark, an innovative educational technology company that aligns a school’s curriculum and standards to currently available apps.

When educators utilize this resource, they can align their student’s individual learning paths with the best apps, videos and creative challenges on the iPad. The team at eSpark uses districts’ existing assessment data to diagnose and support students’ unique learning needs.

Teachers can easily integrate teaching Swift, Apple’s programing language, with materials released through its Everyone Can Code initiative, which includes student materials and teacher guides. And for those interested, there’s a full Swift Playground Curriculum Guide. Using Swift Playgrounds, an app that lets students manipulate code, teachers can introduce students to valuable concepts, like variables and functions, in a fun and engaging way.

To expand on the popularity of Everyone Can Code, Apple recently announced Everyone Can Create at its recent education event in Chicago.

This takes the pace and structure of the coding curriculum and applies it to creative expression through multimedia creation and manipulation. These are all things that the iPad is better at than any other classroom device. This truly lets iPad shine in the classroom. You can preview both the Teacher Guide and Student Guide now. The final versions are slated for release this fall.

Using the materials Apple created for teacher preparedness will help ensure educators feel comfortable as they embrace teaching with technology.

Implementing the right tools

Even when schools embrace using Apple devices to implement transformative learning, they must consider the whole picture, which includes a learning management system (LMS). In order to be the most successful with their Apple technology, schools should use an LMS that’s iPad compatible. For instance, iTunes U is a great option. Showbie is another, especially if you want to make sure your LMS supports a homework turn-in workflow that students and teachers can manage entirely from iOS. This will ensure students receive the best iPad experience possible.

After a school identifies and implements an iPad-compatible LMS, they’ll want to confirm their IT department is providing reliable and trusted iPad management tools. They should use a mobile device management (MDM) solution to verify the devices are setup correctly. This will ensure student data is secure and age-specific restrictions are applied.

Without an MDM to manage the school’s Apple devices, students can install their own apps, browse the unfiltered internet and potentially lock a school out of their own device. Jamf’s MDM solution enables the Classroom App, which lets teachers direct students into apps, specific chapters in iBooks or to websites, and also lets teachers lock the devices when it’s time to transition to another activity.

Another recent announcement from Apple was a framework called ClassKit that powers the new Schoolwork app. This allows a teacher to integrate apps into their curriculum, and app-based assignments will automatically appear on their iPad. Stay tuned to this as more becomes public and as more EDU apps adopt this functionality.

Making the vision a reality

At the end of the day, there isn’t a single right way to create a successful iPad program.

Rather, there’s a process of evaluating which talent and tools, when combined together, will help a school accomplish its goals around transformative learning.

Schools should, however, consider a holistic approach.

By marrying the talent of their teachers with robust training and educational materials, they can achieve a refreshed, innovative curriculum.

Then, when supported with the best technology, their fresh ideas and methods to engage all learners will thrive and transformative learning will be achieved.

Sam Weiss is the Apple education evangelist at Jamf, an Apple device management company that supports over 6,000 schools (including six of the top 10 U.S. K-12 school districts) and 7 million students worldwide. He’s passionate about innovations in the classroom, and providing infrastructure to scale amazing educational experiences. Besides changing the world, he enjoys the outdoors. If you get his “Out Of Office” reply, he is probably hiking, rock climbing, or camping.


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