Making shared iPads work (without losing your mind) #coetail


Although I teach in a technologically rich school, there is no 1:1 Programme below year 6.

Instead, we have a set of 8 class iPads and a trolley of MacBook Pros (shared among 3 classes). Having a mixture of devices is interesting.

Given the choice, the kids will always reach for a Macbook over an iPad even though the iPads are:

      in the classroom
      always available
      turn on quickly

In fact, the kids will often wander up to me wondering what they should do when the laptops are all in use. Getting an iPad to complete the task, which in a lot of cases is accessing the Internet or drive, seemed out of the realm of possibility.

A big problem for the kids was accessibility. Unlike  MacBooks, signing in and out of Google drive is not at all intuitive for the kids (although this improving).

So here are my tips and tricks for making shared iPads work.


Because the iPads are shared there really needs to be clarity from the kids about what is acceptable use for iPads. Especially as eventually the iPads are going to fill up and files need to be deleted. Here’s my class’s agreement:


Taking turns is a huge issue for kids. Fortunately the timer function works well here: let the kids negotiate a fair amount of time for a task and then they agree to hand it over.


Assign iPads to kids. iPads can get lost easily. By having an assigned iPads, it is easy to track down who last had the device. Especially when said device is left on the floor.

Non-assigned iPads make care someone else’s problem as the kids can always find another devices to use. Assigned iPads put the onus of responsibility back on the kids as they have ‘ownership’ over the device.

Finally, assigined iPads is also a good opportunity for peer tutoring by having more tech savvy kids mentor the children still developing confidence. However an important rule for the beginners to learn – if you want to learn, don’t let the geek touch the device!


This one is likely to raise the ire of tech directors but I let the kids stay signed into their Google account. Signing in and out of accounts on the iPad is fiddly and sucks up learning time.

Learning to switch accounts is a lot easier for the kids to manage. We also have a shared Flickr account for storing photos signed in to all classroom iPads. Children need to be taught to curate which images are worth uploading.


The first thing the kids do after getting their iPad is to take a selfie. The selfie then becomes the iPads lock screen.


Also a bit of masking tape on the case with the kids’ names is also useful. I also have the kids rename the ipad in the settings folder to class name + their names for easy digital identification.


Airdrop is a nifty little feature that enables files to be shared via blue tooth and also between MacBooks and iOS devices. One of the first skills the children learn is airdrop between devices – because if they happen to be working on the schools bookable iPads they need to get their files transferred over. This is also why get the kids to rename their iPads in settings – easy for them to digitally locate.


There can be a tendency in schools to load up iPads with a whole lot of educational apps – ‘just in case.’ In a shared ipad environment where time and device it is critical that the apps are used to support learning rather than as a glorified worksheet or set of flash cards.


Do you know what the apps on your classroom iPads actually do? If the answer is no, then delete it! There are a lot of educational apps on the market that are little more than glorified worksheets and flash cards.

Teachers often ask me if I know a good spelling or reading app. My response is always ‘what is it you want the kids learning?’ Often other Teachers are surprised by how few apps the kids in my class actually use.

I break them down into roughly three categories:


Show what you know – audio, imovie, pictures, skitch (picture annotations), doodlecasting, book creator, keynote, Google docs

Workflow  – easy blogger junior, Flickr, drive, blogger.

Lets get Creative – Colour splash, pic stitch, path on, paper, Adobe draw – this list is endless!


Before the kids start creating, make sure both they and you know how they are going to access content. Shared iPads often hit their memory limits quickly so it is important that kids know how to share photos to the cloud. In my class the kids use:

Flickr for sharing photos. Each device is signed in to a class account. The children then tag photos into their own folders. They also know how to download photos that others have taken to use (great way to teach fair use). Often apps allow for sharing photos to Flickr within it rather than saving to camera roll saving more time!

Easyblogger junior for sharing videos. Each child in my class has their own blogfolio which I’ve set up and made them authors. Easy blogger has a really simple interface. However the downside us the videos are compressed down.

Drive. I use doctopus to share out folders to kids for specific things we are working on. The kids then upload file to the folder and it is all one place for everyone.


Shared iPads will enviably get full quickly. Make cleaning out the iPads are regular item on your agenda. Every Monday the kids go through their iPads uploading files to Flickr/Easyblogger/drive, tagging photos into their albums and deleting old files.


This last one is important message. Say no to vertical video syndrome!

Click here to view the embedded video.



from Teaching the Teacher

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