Are your kids always staring at screens?

IMG_0651I’m a father of two girls (7 & 10)  and like many fathers in developed world in 2015, school holiday time has become “constant screen time” for my kids. Unless I painstakingly structure every minute of their day, given the choice, they pick screen time before considering other activities. They are kids after all and it may have been 1987 and it may have been an Atari ST, but I was just the same.

The 70s gave us screen time, the 80s brought it home, the 90s expanded the choice and the 21st century has now given many young people the power to download further screen time options when they feel like it.

What’s good for kids?

If most parents are allowing it, is it ok to deny your own kids (as a parent or teacher) the access other’s enjoy? What long-term effects will show themselves in 20 years? Will they be positive or negative? You can find news stories and studies to prove any case you’d like to.

So, what do we parents and teachers do with a generation who have increasingly higher expectations for how much screen time is considered normal? I have written before on categorising screen time to give more value to creative pursuits and this has helped family time in my house considerably. But here’s other ideas I’ve had that help in this increasingly challenging debate about what is good or not good for children.

Children generally think of the games first but are also naturally curious and creative and often just need reminders of the more productive activities available. Here are some ideas for how to structure these reminders.

Idea 1: Make rules & reasons clear

Folders screentimeRealistically, most families I know would allow a couple of hours in any day for iPadding. Organise apps into folders based on family rules about screen time. As examples: 20 minutes playing games; 40 minutes playing ‘thinking’ games; 1 hour of these creative apps. Using the Control Centre (swipe up from bottom of screen) you can quickly access the timer to ensure the kids get an alarm to say ‘time’s-up’. I also use Emoji characters to help the kids remember why they’re categorised (see pic). It seems sometimes that screen time becomes the issue more than worrying about exactly what’s on the screen. and my kids will move onto more productive activities, if it means more screen time. (Sad, I know)

Idea 2: Make them earn this precious resource

Yes, they will do almost anything for screen time and so use this to your advantage and make them earn it. The parenting advice on this also changes week to week, depending on which book, expert or website you follow but generally, publishing a list of ‘good citizen’ tasks that all earn screen time works well. It puts the onus on the child to carry out good deeds before the earn device time. My daughters have very tidy bedrooms, we have an automatic filling dishwasher and the fire wood was transferred to it’s winter location all because of the desire for the screen. I’ve had no arguments about work around the house if it’s weighed up against iPad time.

Idea 3: Become master of the games you want your kids playing

Here are some games I’ve recently become very good at, so as to spark discussion and competition within the family.

land of vennMath: The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense This is a great game where young kids learn and draw geometric shapes as weapons against monsters. It quickly had my 7-year-old daughter using math vocabulary she might never have used at home. Lots of extras to win and spells to purchase with your winnings. Cleverly designed to award more power to the more complicated shapes. Great fun and sparks good conversation.


English : Sentopiary

sentopiaryThis was a great distraction that both my daughters enjoyed as it reinforced things they’d studied at school and was interactive enough that even I learnt a few things regarding grammar. As the app states: “Guided by Common Core standards, it is intended to be used both at home and in classrooms and works well in environments where iPads are shared.” This is true as it also sparks conversation between 2 people looking at it.


Languages: Duo Lingo

duo lingoWe’ve made it a family challenge to learn Spanish using this app. My elder daughter has now decided that after Spanish, she’s ‘gonna learn Russian’ :-). Make it a weekly challenge to work through a particular number of lessons. The app is very carefully crafted to make sure you build your knowledge and skills in successfully in written, reading and spoken forms. There is discussion about the teaching of languages dying out in schools but this app and gasified online system could be the saviour for language learning.


Art: Sketchbook Express

Sketchbook ExpressThis free app gives you advanced tools presented in a straight-forward fashion. Even I could reignite my liking for art with some nice first steps tracing a photo using the layers available (see pic). This immediacy and extra safety (kids don’t like to mess up their pictures) of this layering made it an instant hit with my 10-year-old daughter.




Movie making: iMovie

iMovieUsing siblings, pets or classmates to put together a story introduction using iMovie’s Trailer option is a popular activity that I find with some theme prompting from me always gets my kids outside and ‘acting’. The other day, all I had to say was “what about using our chickens for a trailer?” and they were off!




Logic & Coding: Kodable & Thinkrolls 2

IMG_0642Both these apps challenge the brain for logical thinking. They present themselves as games but in such a way that the kids have to pause and think rather than just react on instinct like typical gaming.

Kodable is a great introduction into coding that both my daughters will play for the full 30 minutes overtime they’re reminded of its existence.



screen322x572Thinkrolls 2 looks easy to start with but quickly gets very challenging and is cleverly designed to deliver challenges in quick succession that my kids will choose to play this without reminding.

This means WAR!

Yes, as a parent or teacher you might feel you are in a constant fight and you may win some and loose some battles but if we are careful, I believe we will win the war. With some thought and a positively mindset, this screen time might create a generation of thinking, creative and collaborative people. By setting up structures to help the children self-manage their screen time, I am hoping that I can already see the benefits of what these apps have to offer transferred to ‘real-life’ with two girls who are happy to help, keen to solve problems and create projects of their own design. Make sure you make some time to showcase the results of their more productive device use and it will encourage more.

Good luck everyone !!!

iPads for Teachers – The Unboxing

unbox iPadI’ve been asked a number of times to help with iPad “unboxing” sessions in schools and it can get messy if you try to do too much. It is temping to download and run through numerous “amazing” apps and quickly showcase all of their abilities in transforming the classroom. But from my experiences, I have learnt that many teachers are unaware of fundamentals that others understand as everyday knowledge, so be careful. Keep it simple and avoid needing the internet as much as possible during the session. I know of a school where they asked everyone to get iMovie, which is 500MB! This not only killed the internet but the rest of the session also! For me, the important fundamentals are iCloud, Photo, (small) App download and messaging. Photo Credit.

I recommend everyone get a new email during the iPad setup screens and use this as their Apple account to ensure they aren’t restricted from using any of the Apple services. Restrictions can crop up later if you use something like a Gmail. The smallest of task can take a while when a number of people attempt it at once. A simple task that more advanced users can help the novices through works much better.


imessageIntroducing teachers to the idea that free web-based messaging is available using the iCloud accounts is something I think is important. It can greatly reduce the pressure on the school email and people quickly get used to it and many often prefer the format of messaging over email. Group messages can be started between 3 or more, which can help department discussion too. Get your school leaders messaging as a group and they will love iPads forever :-)

Here’s my list of do’s and don’ts:

  1. pair-up the less confident with a more confident buddy.
  2. For your first session task, only attempt to use pre-installed or free apps that don’t rely on the internet connection after they’re installed (reduces problems by 80%)
  3. Make sure people get the best from the iPad by setting up an email account using the iPad setup screens (easiest way to setup the account) Advice: use the same email name as your normal (most used) email name, e.g. =
  4. Other than the iCloud account, don’t spend too much time with other account setup. It’s more engaging to get on with some fun first.
  5. Make sure they have at least taken a photo, downloaded an app and sent an iMessage. (iCloud based iMessages can reduce the strain on the email system and only use wifi)
  6. Make your first tasks are fun and use a small number of apps
  7. In most cases, don’t let the technician run it. In my experience too many technicians focus on technical issues like server connections and file transfers. This can kill the fun and initial desire to use iPads.
  8. Have instructions in writing (with screenshots if possible). Relying on verbal instructions to any audience gets very messy very quickly.

The main aim is to have a task that everyone can enjoy, regardless of the ability level. Photo Booth and Pic Collage are both simple but fun apps that all can enjoy and this is why I included them in my resource below.

I thought I’d put together a quick resource that you might use if issuing a number iPads to teachers in your school. Hope you find it useful and good luck! This JPG links to a PDF version.

iPad handout PD-iPadWells

How to Keep iPad children safe online

5670717552_5b4766bb55_zHas your child got an iPad from Santa? I may be an iPad teacher calling myself @iPadWells and running this blog on iPad use but I’m also a father of 2 daughters with all the normal excitement and fear that comes with that. One of my daughters soon reaches the magical double-figure age of 10 and there is talk of her maybe (insert usual “if she’s a good girl” rhetoric that usually gets ignored) having an iPad for her birthday.

The thought of her sitting alone in her bedroom with access to all that the internet has to offer scares me just as much as I’m sure will the day she steps into the first boyfriend’s car. But I’m calm. If there’s one person who can keep her safe on an iPad, it’s gotta be me or I may as well stop blogging. Photo credit.

Where to begin?

restrictionsThis topic is another reason I continue to recommend the iPad for young people, schools and families. The iPad has so many settings built-in to it’s iOS (Operating System) to keep children safe from both adult content and health issues like RSI and hearing loss. Google too has many filtering settings that can be applied to an account. These days, independence starts online before it might do in real life and online Apple and Google accounts seems scary but is necessary if a parent is to maintain a level of control. As a parent I can use the legal requirements that an online account creator needs to be 13 as a way to explain why both the iCloud/App Store account and the Google Account’s passwords must be only known by the parents.

Which Age?

11607904776_dd1a338324_zChildren still need to be able to explore the world online and also discover apps that might be of use. I think free-reign on purchasing from the App Store before 13 has gone wrong for many, especially if the child isn’t earning the money themselves. Saying that, I would want my child to be able to explore the store for potential tools and games and justify to me why they are worthy or productive.  Given what we teach to 13 year-olds in New Zealand about sex education and the like, plus what will be discussed in the school playground, I decided that 13 would be the age I would start to relax restrictions on content but until then I’d like to know things were filtered a little. Photo credit.

Filtering & Restrictions

Make sure when you turn on iPad Restrictions (see help sheet below) you at least turn off restrictions on Safari, Camera & Airdrop. Kids need: the web to learn 21st century citizenship; the camera to make films, trailers and photograph events in their life and Airdrop is useful for transferring files (like photos) between devices. Once the iPad’s website filtering is applied, websites can be unlocked with a passcode and even listed as permanently ok. I will simply tell my child she can see me to unlock a site.

Music can be filtered for explicit content and under General – Music settings, the max volume can be limited which is great for anyone but especially young people who are proving around the world to be suffering from noise-induced hearing loss due to regular earphone wearing.

Why Google and Apple Filter?

The iPad will filter the sites from loading but not the Google search results. You need to separately log the child in to Google and turn on search filtering for the account so all searches show appropriate results only. This filter can then be locked with a passcode. (See help sheet)

Below is my quick click-by-click guide on getting started with filtering for safe iPadding:

(This is version 1.1 – no black arrows on step 4)


Next step?

PLAYING-MAKING-iPadWellsOnce your child is using the iPad you might want to have a discussion about screen time and how it might be limited. Here’s a previous post and poster about the discussion/agreement I had with my kids: iPad Screen Time


Safer Schools with Creative Commons


Teachers and their students are moving more and more online. Kids are blogging their learning as an excellent way to build confidence, reflect and gather feedback. Schools are showcasing the best of their students’ work on their websites.and the educational world is benefiting from a collaborative worldwide connections.

That’s all exciting and positive but we have one important question:
Who owns the material and it’s components when it’s published?

This is where we must all be careful. A quick Google search will find a growing number of cases where people have sought damages for even single images republished on both blogs and social media like Twitter. This link tells the story of a bad photo taken on a phone that was found on Google and used In a blog Post resulting in an $8000 out of court settlement. Every photo is owned by the photographer automatically and if you choose the wrong image you can loose out substantially.

So let’s look at how we should manage this and what schools can to to encourage staff and students to understand and use licensing.

Creative Commons is an organisation that manages and promotes a set of globally recognised licences for original creative works, such as any photo taken. It helps you set up licences for material but also helps you find and use the correct material that is truly ok to use in school work.

When teachers and students produce new material that they will be publishing online they will normally be happy for people to share it but need to be specific about what is and isn’t ok. For example, all my material on my blog is free to use but I I have embedded the license on my home page that notifies people they have to credit me, not make money and repeat my licence on their copy.

Here’s a quick summary of the options for school work.

Creative Commons by @iPadWells

Finding free images and giving credit

field for CCOn the Creative Commons Search Page you can choose from a number of known sites including Google and Flickr and it will automatically apply the sites’ filters to locate related images that are nominated by the owner as ok to use. One permanent rule is that you will always be expected to credit the owner by name and in the case of publishing online, this will imply a link to their profile. I got this image of a wheat field from Flickr (The Youtube for Photos). Flickr is a great site for safe image searching as it has built Creative Commons into the upload process for all photographers.

Here is the Photo Credit to Kevin Lallier

Practice what you preach.

How can schools not only inform but encourage the school community to start using licensing and working safely to avoid being prosecuted?

In New Zealand a number of schools have officially signed up as Creative Commons schools and have Written policies that inform teachers that their classroom material, although owned by the school is free to share with the agreed Creative commons license badges attached. This is a much more relevant and 21st century approach to copyright and sharing. It also helps any school teaching digital citizenship practice what they preach.

CC policy

The teachers are then applying Creative Commons, discussing copyright and students can see the licenses on a daily basis. This helps prepare the whole school community for a rapidly changing online world where the legal ramifications are being automated by companies and people need to be prepared.

Understanding what is and isn;t ok is a crucial skill for all to learn and I hope this information helps schools get more confident with publishing material online.

Here’s a Slideshow I used when talking through this on TeachTechPlay in October 2014.

… and here’s me presenting (in a hurried fashion) the first half of it:


Why recommend the iPad for schools?

ocKids-iPadThis blog is nearly 2 years old and I thought it was time to revisit the reason for its existence. I am still teaching 11 to 18 year-olds everyday in BYOD classrooms (not iPad only) and can claim a significant experience in the various pros and cons of all types and brands of devices. When I’m considering which students are supported the most in their learning by their device, I still conclude the iPad and its eco-system is my recommendation for handling the full breadth of activities and opportunities undertaken in 21st century schools.

I do appreciate that during the last 4 and a half years it has become fashionable in education to proclaim “the device doesn’t matter” but each week I experience a at least one moment where it does.

10 Reasons why I still recommend iPad

Issues 1 – 5  – Tablet format over Laptop

  1. Filming
    filming-iPadThe first one is easy and takes into account that an individual learner’s ability to film and edit, either to learn or reflect on learning is such a important tool these days that the device must be able to be used as such. Young people live their lives through instant access and ability to take photos and videos on the move. This is where my students on laptops and Chromebooks are left stranded at their desk. Photo Credit
  2. Active learning
    outsideIt’s not only the resulting photos and films that come from tablet devices but that the learners can be on the move so easily during the process of learning. This extra flexibility that the tablet format offers my students allows them to move from inside to outside as they need, often on the spur of the moment . My students work outside for both the sake of the project requirements and/or that of just comfort. It’s often highlighted that if a learner’s not comfortable, they wont learn.  Photo Credit
  3. Touch
    drum machineWho said you can’t teach both programming and digital citizenship with drum machines? I do. Be it a sliding control, a drum pad or an paint effect, the learning opportunities that touch offers far outweigh any outdated argument that young people can’t comfortably type vast amounts of text by tapping the screen. After all, they tap 30,000 words per year into Facebook alone, mostly on the phone! Touch offers a much more connected, real & enjoyable experience during activities. It often removes from the mind the fact that tech is even involved in the process.
  4. Tilt & Flexibility
    spiritThe iPads ability to physically replicate so many tools in the hand, such as a spirit level, microphone, test tube, moving paint, bouncing ball and any number of physics experiments, never mind the wow factor of green screening on the move also means the laptop student is left to imagine and not experiencewhat physical effect one thing might have on another.
  5. Augmented Reality (AR)
    iPad-ARAR is already becoming a major feature in education and iPads have made a great start with a a number of great apps and systems like Aurasma and Layar. To make the most of these systems and also create your own, you need a device that can be held on the move. This has become a major part of my arguments for iPads over laptops. Photo Credit

Issues 6 – 10 – iOS, Apps, eco-system  & learning opportunities

  1. Technology for all.
    6228914346_a84141e62d_qApple has always maintained the same philosophy. “We want you to be you, whilst we worry about the tech.” You may have read my many posts on kids’ programming and think I’m one of those extra-techie types but I have a strong argument for the fact that most people are ‘normal’ and not interested in how it all works. They want to get on being the artist, author or scientist they’d like to be. I have found my non-iPadding students having to do far too much research into if an equivalent app is available or which plugin they require to carry out a task. This slows down to learning process, causes frustration and has many of my students leaving their device in their bag and pairing up with an iPadder. Yes, Apple’s walled garden of a system frustrates geek types, but for the huge majority it means immediate productivity. Photo Credit
  2. Advanced App store with education focus
    app store edThe average teacher and student needs as much support as can be made available when introducing or keeping up-to-date with using their devices to learn. Apple has always led the way with providing this support for education, highlighted by their organised, categorised educational app store. iTunesU has also become a major educational system for many schools and allows for the easy management of content whilst developing student driven programmes. iPads have the advantage of being the primary educational choice and in-turn have the educational app developers investing more time and money into serving schools on iOS.
  3. Kid friendly code learning
    hopscotch screenYou may already know me as a supporter for kids learning to code. There is an international push to have all students learning this craft that forms such a central part of everyone’s lives these days. You can code on both Android and Windows 8 but only in it’s full advanced code form. If elementary / primary school kids want to learn how computers think and how code works, the iPad is still the only tablet offering apps, such as Hopscotch to learn how code works and has many on offer.
  4. Teachers supporting teachers support Students supporting students.
    ipad-helpUnfortunately for the other companies, most teachers I’ve met and know have an iPad (except the really geeky ones). When it comes to professional development, teachers prefer to receive ideas and recommendations from other teachers. This has led to a much stronger knowledge base in how to get things done on iPads than that of other devices. In Education websites, blogs and in professional social-media chats, the dialogue around tablet use will be centred on what’s available for iPad and someone venturing out on this road will find the transition far more easy if holding an iOS device. Photo credit
  5. Technical Management for Schools
    iphone_configuration_utilityNot my favourite topic, but for elementary / primary schools, non-BYOD and any school wanting more control over devices, apps and multi-seat licensing, Apple has now produced a suite of management tools that make this easy. I wont go into too much detail but check out the MDM and iOS8 pages for more info. The competition is far behind in this area, especially in offering educational multi-seat licensing for those apps you want every student to have.


Extra thought – Google Account is a must.

I thought I’d just add that in addition to the iPad, I do still recommend a Google account. The cloud-based document sharing eco-system that Google provide, along with Youtube makes it a must for handling the bulk of traditional documentation, whilst adding the sharing and collaboration tools. The Youtube is also a must of offloading the iPad video content. It’s just a shame that Google went with the business model when designing their Chromebook device, meaning people would require a 2nd camera device to carryout truly active 21st Century education.



I write this from years of personal experience and yes, I know that there will be thousands out there who know one of the other systems inside out and will argue that it’s just as easy and flexible on the other platforms. My experiences tell me that the key difference is the amount of technical information required to setup quickly to learn on the other platforms. This takes time that many teachers & students are not willing to invest.

One issue I’ve noticed is that where elementary / primary schools are more likely to be flexible, innovative learning environments, as students enter high school, teachers, concerned with what seems like a long list of content to get through, are more likely to be demanding lengthy written work after hours of lectures. This drives them away from considering the iPad as the appropriate device. I would ask those teachers to take a real look at how the world and especially the young people in their classroom go about their lives. Look at how collaborative, active & flexible we all are these days and consider how your content could be accessed and processed rather than delivered and simple duplicated by the students.

For me, the iPad is still the device to get. It’s not just about business tools and apps, it’s about learning and this is still the are where Apple leads in tech. Education needs it easy and the iPad just works!






iPad Responsible Use


My school had a list of responsibilities in regards to using iPads in school.  So I set about producing a visual version and recently tweeted it to a Tweep friend. The Tweet was popular and got a number of RTs. So I’ve re-titled the slides for general use and here’s the full PDF version you might want to use in your school.

Click image for separate slides PDF file.

iPadWells Responsible Use

9 tips for iPad Teacher featImg

Teachers who just got iPads

83006d6bd421cf420a2fd1aa1e0329eeI had the privilege of holding a Google Hangout with Holly Clark (@HollyEdTEchDiva) and Tanya Avrith (@EdTechSchools). It was a great chat, where we compared US, NZ and Canadian school systems. Afterwards I was checking out Holly’s stuff and came across her great introduction to iPads in Classrooms. I checked with Holly and she was keen I do one of my visual representations of the ideas. So here it is, my visual, albeit briefer introduction for teachers who just got iPads:

Holly Clark

9 Starter Tips for Teachers Who Just Got iPads
PNG (No links – 1mb)   PDF (Links – 2mb)

Teachers New to iPads

Apple TV in Schools

appletv_smallsizeApple TV (US$99) is a box you attach to the projector / TV that picks up the screen of any iPad and displays it without the need for wires! The teacher can walk around their room and display anything that’s on their iPad screen on the Projector/TV. This means the teacher can display from anywhere and even use the iPads camera to show student work ‘live’ without gathering students around one point in the room

I have recently been setting up Apple TV in my classroom and know that many teachers will be having the problems with Apple TVs on networks that are setup with the type of security and extra stuff that one gets on a corporate style network.

Particularly in secondary schools, your ‘techies’ will be using all these silly techie acronyms like “VLANS” and “IP-ROUTING” and “APs”, so ignore them and read this, which I hope to be more ‘teacher-friendly’ (something many techies aren’t!)

Apple TV setup

STEP 1: Connecting the Apple TV box to your projector / TV. 

vga-hdmi-convertBeing all ‘up-to-date’, Apple has only added an HDMI port to the box. That’s fine if you have a modern flat-screen TV as it will probably have an HDMI port on the back. Most school projectors however, only have the older VGA port, like the ones we’ve always had on our Windows laptops (sometimes blue in colour). Apple’s store provides a converter HERE.

For future decision making, I would recommend only purchasing 50″ plasma TVs and not projectors as they work without darkening the room, they last longer without replacing bulbs plus require less cabling setup. This lowers future costs and makes the Apple TV setup cheaper than the alternatives.

STEP 2: Putting the Apple TV onto the same network your iPads use.

configiconIf you have a simple open network that any device can join with a password then you can follow the instructions the Apple TV gives you on the TV screen. But most schools use corporate secure networks with proxy servers for internet. This means that the school network info needs to be loaded onto the Apple TV (a little trickier). On a Mac (either the schools or a borrowed one) you can get an App from the MAc app store called “Apple Configurator”. It’s used for setting up both Apple TVs and iPads in bulk.

The idea is that you setup a ‘profile’ for the Apple TV to store your network’s settings. When using configurator to design you profile the main 2 screens to worry about are 1. WIFI & 2. Certificate (See below). Here’s Apple’s Configurator’s help page

The WIFI page of a profile holds the basic name of the network and any login info the Apple TV box will need to join the network. You might need to get some info from a techie (smile and ask nicely!)

wifi config

The ‘certificate’ page is where you need to give a file to the Apple TV box to say the network and Apple TV are following the same ‘rules’ when talking. This part is the trickiest. On the mac, join the wireless network and you will get the Certificate file. To find the file you can use the Mac’s Keychain Access (1 use Spotlight to find that!) and search for the wireless name (2). See pic below.

cert find

Once you have added the network info and the certificate to the Apple TV profile, you need to ‘Prepare’ the Apple TV with this profile. To do this you use the USB cable port that’s on the back of the Apple TV. It uses the same cable as many cameras use. Once the profile is on the Apple TV and it’s restarted it should join the Network.

Apple Tvs are best on a network cable

Apple TVs work best if the Apple TV box is not actually using the Wireless but is on the network using the network Cable (ethernet). As long as the techie allocates the port in the wall to the same network as the wireless then you half the pressure on the wireless in the room but the iPads can still see the Apple TV box. The ethernet cables are that Yellow/Red/Blue cable the computers sometimes use for network.

3. Sending your iPad’s screen to the Apple TV

1. Make sure you can see the Apple TVs ‘Home screen’ on the TV or Projector first. (See pic)


2. As long as the wireless is strong enough, a Double tap of the iPad’s Home button will bring up the Apps across the bottom (Where you might normally class apps or switch between them). A swipe to the left will send you to the Volume / Brightness settings and also the AIRPLAY options (If the Apple TV is on the network – see pic).

3. You need to switch “Mirroring” on and the iPad’s screen should appear on the TV / Projector.

4. With a really good wireless, even a movie’s sound playing on the iPad will play through the TV as if you had a DVD playing!


I can’t guarantee that following this info will mean you don’t have other problems with setting up Apple TV on a corporate style network but it might help, so here’s that Apple’s Configurator’s help page again! I’ve had issues myself, particularly with the network being shared by so many devices and setting it up so the Apple TV is not fighting too many other students for access to the Wireless box (Access point). This might take a little classroom management and getting kids to turn wireless off on the iPads for a minute or 2. All I can say is Good luck and let me know if you are successful / or if I have approached it wrong and you have an easier way!

Dynamic School Documents

I started thinking about the amount of time I was spending on dealing with files, their types and their availability online. I was being sent Microsoft Word Docs, converting them to Pages, exporting a PDFs and uploading them to websites and the school Learning Management System (LMS).

Problem 1: Managing the availability of your documents and worksheets online can be time consuming and difficult when allowing for  iPad access.

Problem 2: Teachers emailing files to each other for checking and updating and then collating the result is also time consuming.

Problem 3: Re-printing or uploading revisions to worksheets and docs and deleting old copies is annoying too.

Solution? Using a central department or school Google account, I can operate and organise permanent, online dynamic Docs as the standard for the school / department files. From my Google ‘Drive’, Students can download PDF versions for working on in any of the iPad PDF apps. Multiple Teachers can access and update the single copy of any file knowing the existing links to these will access the latest version. No more work is required in updating and uploading new files as the links point to the same live document in Google Drive.

My staff have seen many benefits in the first month and started working much more collaboratively. Here’s a diagram to explain the features and setup.

Dynamic School Doc links

Ensuring school iPad success



The initial goal is to ready a school for the quick iPadding of all daily school tasks carried out by Teachers, Admin and students. The first emphasis must be to get staff and students to move their daily routines onto the iPad and not look back. This realignment will only be quick & successful if staff and particularly members of the leadership team understand iPad best practice.


In the beginning, at least one senior leader must become fully fluent in how the iPad deals with the daily school tasks. My experience to date tells me that this will be the key decider on iPad success. I find that most school technicians charged with readying school systems for iPads only ‘fully respond’ to senior leaders. Here’s a check list of good iPad practice the senior leaders must understand:


PDFexpertA) DOCUMENTS: How to convert and ensure all documents (forms/worksheets) are shared in PDF format. This includes on the Website, LMS and in shared folders on the servers. We all use apps like Word to create documents but once finished, Word/Pages/Powerpoint should not be the file formats that are shared publicly or internally. Don’t continue to think that because a form or worksheet must be filled in, it needs to be shared in Microsoft Word format. Most PDF apps (both Free and Bought) will allow the staff and students to view, complete, sign or annotate the forms & worksheets and will really start to make the school paperless (a serious ‘Green’ issue). One problem area will be uploading PDFs to the existing school websites / LMS directly from iPad. Some of the LMSs are creating iPad apps and this can help but without clever design, the website might need to continue with desktop updates.

iMessageAppB) COMMUNICATION: Email is dead! Students certainly don’t regularly check emails. New communication tools must be considered. Internally, it’s best using messaging tools like iMessage, your LMS’s messaging service, if its iPad app runs such a service or even Twitter. I find adults like ‘texting’ messages as much as the kids do, you only have to look at Facebook to know that. Externally, the school should also run a Facebook Page for people to follow for community announcements and this too can be run by the senior leader directly from the iPad. It might be with the best intentions that every school aims to run a good website, but for communication, parents rarely check school websites and it’s not the way 21st Century communication takes place. This is one reason iPads have never needed the facility to update website HTML.

PhotosAppC) IMAGES: The leadership must decide on how staff iPads will upload, store and organise photos. This is good for teachers as they can share pictures with students directly from the iPad and good for all staff to share images of student work and activity. Using online services like Flickr or Google’s Picasa, there are ways to ensure images can be uploaded and organised by staff iPads to appear embedded on the school websites etc, without the need for separate login. (See my previous posts)


YoutubeD) VIDEO: This is quickly becoming the new ‘paper’. Young people are experiencing online video as a first step to understanding anything. They also create multiple videos using devices like phones on a weekly basis. If harnessed, this can make any school a lively exciting place where students really show-off their understanding and even start to learn and leach each other through video. The school must have an official system for staff to organise the videos for the courses and where the school can showcase student video work. The one system that the iPad and all the available apps work seamlessly with is a Youtube account. The school should setup a Google account from which it can organise its Youtube channel with playlists for different courses, classes or general school activities. Students and staff can now login or be logged-in to upload video content to the channel. This channel can be embedded in school websites etc, and will automatically update as the content arrives.

wordpressE) LEADERSHIP BLOG & ADVICE: This is a great idea to ensure genuine engagement from all staff and students. A senior leader blogs the schools experiences and advice on using iPads from day 1. This blog is linked to on the school website and can be used by the whole community to find out the latest news in how the school is operating with iPads, including any problems that have arisen. A school “How-to” page is also setup to cover all the basics.


If you can get your school performing the daily basics on iPads, the creative stuff will follow naturally. The more they stick to their old ways, the harder the transition will be. Success and collaboration between members of the iPadding community rely on full understanding and engagement from all parties. And this starts with the basics and from the top!

[Update] Other Considerations:

1. Don’t waste time looking through the App Store. Focus on tasks. Start with only considering all the daily tasks within the school for students, teachers and admin and focus on collaborative systems like Google Accounts and Twitter to bring the new iPadders together.

2. Ensure that all the departments have the basics mentioned above working before you worry about adding extras. The first issue is about building confidence and when staff & students see they can at least do all that they did before but better, the project will really take-off.

3. Get the whole senior leadership team fully immersed by the end of the first year. This will build respect for both the individuals and the project. The school will really come alive if the community see the leaders themselves start moving forward.

4. Build an open approach to web filtering. Like all major businesses, 1000s of schools are now using Social Media and Youtube in the classroom. Other than blocking the ‘obvious’ negative material, it is important that schools are able to teach digital citizenship within school and this requires positive role-modeling in how the internet can be used.