iPads and the Transformation of the Second Grade Classroom



Recommended Apps

Comic Life

Students created comics as part of a “How To” tutorial building project.



Reading came alive when students used the new trailers templates to create book trailers as a book report.



By creating videos to explain their understanding on topics, students were able to offer insight into their thinking processes.


Students quickly learned to adjust the difficulty settings to meet their individual level.


Too Noisy

A simple way for students to monitor noise level. Really effective when projected for the class to see.

A Better Interactive Whiteboard: an iPad and the Apple TV


The Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) promised a rich learning experience, but the reality of classroom use has, by in large, not lived up to its billing. An IWB has a natural bent towards “sage on stage” style teaching, and while some teachers do use it constructively, IWB use tends to reinforce a teacher transmitting information to the class. Student use of an IWB is usually very limited, and student use is limited by the logistical need to be at the front of the room.

Technology is disruptive, and the AirPlay feature between an iPad 2 or later and an AppleTV has to have IWB manufacturers concerned. Now with a sub-$200 purchase and 5 minutes of install time, any student can, from their seat, wirelessly project to the class. Collaboration flows much more freely when the presenter can change instantaneously from student to teacher and back.

Not only can the iPad replace all of the functions of an IWB, but it brings so many more options. Need a document camera? Snap a photo and on the screen it goes. Skype or FaceTime has less setup time when there’s no cords to fiddle with. Apps are released constantly, and developers are starting to add specific AirPlay features. Penultimate, for instance, has a distraction free AirPlay display so the focus is on the content, not the delivery.

HDMI to VGA Adapters

The AppleTV is primarily a home-entertainment device, and uses HDMI-out. New projectors may have HDMI inputs, but many older or more inexpensive projectors may only have VGA inputs. Thankfully, a few great adapters are available. The AppleTV is so small that often it can be mounted on the projector itself. Below are 3 recommendations.

Kanex ATV Pro – $59.95


The best option, requires no power and offers the smallest footprint, but also the most expensive.

Monoprice HDMI® to VGA & R/L Stereo Audio Converter $38.25

The cheapest option, but still great quality. Audio output is RCA and it does require power.

WOWParts HDMI to VGA + audio $39.99

Good quality. Requires power. Audio output is 3.5mm.

3 Taps is all it takes to mirror your iPad

  1. Double-tap the home button (or four finger swipe up if multitouch gestures are on)
  2. Swipe to the right.
  3. Select the AirPlay icon and choose mirroring for the AppleTV you wish to connect

AirPlay menu with Mirroring option ON

IWB vs. AppleTV & iPad

IWB AppleTV+iPad
Primary User Teacher All class members
Location of use Front of classroom Anywhere
Cost $3,000+ (IWB with projector) $960 (projector, AppleTV and iPad)
Upgrades after install Occasional Hundreds of apps released daily
Installation Costly, invasive 10 minutes, small footprint
Function Interactive Whiteboard Interactive Whiteboard, document camera, personal productivity device, eReader, and more.

 Recommended Apps


Solid handwriting app with a custom clutter-free AppleTV display.



Wirelessly stream almost any video type from your computer to your appleTV.


Explain Everything

Easy to use, yet powerful. Offers plenty of options to export your narrated presentations.



Drawing app with style, fun to use and focused.

Free, but all options unlock at $6.99


Splashtop Whiteboard

Turns your iPad and computer into an interactive whiteboard.


Tips and Tricks

  • Heavily filtered or restricted networks may cause issues with AirPlay.
  • Both the iPad and the AppleTV must be on the same wireless network.
  • In the AppleTV settings, it’s possible to set a password to connect to AirPlay. Consider using one to limit who can project.
  • Classroom management skills are needed to manage who is connecting to the AppleTV. Students can “bump” each other off the AppleTV if they try to connect when another student is connected.

The AppleTV + iPad combination is an amazing example of technology helping to amplify sound teaching concepts. With the introduction of OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion, AirPlay support will come to MacBooks and Desktops, making its use even more exciting. There are times when technology makes you feel like you’re living in the future. This combo has potential to fundamentally change the way information is exchanged in the classroom for the better. Consider giving it a try before installing or replacing another IWB.

6-27-12 – Updated the table to reflect the fact that IWB manufacturers do update software and that hundreds of apps are released daily. Previously the table had stated that no updates are released for IWBs.


Word Count vs Pages


Light ReadingCreative Commons License photo credit: quattrostagioni

“Turn in a 3 page paper, size 12 font, 1 inch margins.” How many times have we heard those instructions for the length of a writing assignment? I never understood why we define a length requirement in pages when it’s so easy to modify. You can change line spacing slightly, adjust the margins just a bit, use two spaces after a period or the particularly devious trick of just changing the font of periods. And that’s not to mention all the filler writing students add in to get over that page requirment.

I’ve always found myself conflicted on requiring a length on writing. The goal of any writing isn’t the length, but the quality of communication. Students often hit the length requirement and stop, as if the length were the goal, instead of editing and whittling down their writing to a focused, concise point. As Mark Twain said, “If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today.  If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.” Perhaps we should be requiring student writing to be shorter, not longer.

I’ve always framed my lengths as a suggestion – that in order to answer the questions presented, most students would find their paper would need to be a certain length. If I were to require a length in a piece of writing, I had always required a word count on papers. It’s so quick to do a word count in Google Docs or Word, and you can’t cheat the system. There’s still the issue of filler content, but my evaluation for quality would account for that.

So why do many teachers use page requirements instead of a word count?

It wasn’t until only recently during a conversation that I realized the painfully obvious. I chose word count because my students turned all their work in online in our class Moodle. I’m sure I would be using pages as a measure of length if I were collecting dead tree papers – who has time to actually count every word on a writing assignment? Having digital copies of student work made taking work home to grade a breeze, checking for plagiarism quick and allowed me to add comments without marking up the work permanently. That’s not to mention the environmental impact of all that paper and ink we saved across my classes.

Even the fact that we call them “papers” shows that the physical printout is what we’ve always been concerned with. Digital definitely has analog beat in this comparison, and it’s about time that every teacher ditches the paper and collects student work digitally.


How Not to Plagiarize


1680927_3fea5fb0d6_m.jpgLifehack.org has a great article on how not to plagiarize.Some highlights:

  • Don’t paste formatted text into your papers.
  • Don’t use writing that is much better than your own.
  • Don’t copy entries from Wikipedia.
  • Don’t hand in a bunch of really well-written stuff that has nothing to do with the course or the assignment

It might be worth-while to discuss with your students why plagiarism is an awful idea, and then to actually discuss some of the common ways people plagiarize, and why it’s so easy to catch. While it may sound counter-intuitive to show students how to plagiarize, it will show students that you know the all their tricks (which they probably already knew already). This strategy of talking about the methods of cheating might prevent cheating in the first place.