How to be a TERRIBLE iPad Teacher

The following is a list, written in the first-person, of ideologies or stances from a Terrible iPad Teacher:

1. I own an iPad and I use it in class. I am, therefore, an effective Twenty-First century educator. Things in life don’t come easy. Nobody masters an educational tool overnight. Simply owning a piece of technology doesn’t mean that you use it well. An iPad can revolutionize the way you plan, deliver lessons, assess and manage your classroom but these will not happen instantly. True change must be meaningful and stand the test of time.

2. I assume that I know and can do everything on the iPad. Often when you are handed an iPad from your IT department, there is often an assumption, that as a Twenty-First century educator, you are already an expert. Do not buy into this. The key to being a great teacher is to also be a lifelong learner; there is always room for improvement. The growth of iPads in education today is exponential. Something you learn about iPads today, while probably still relevant two years from now, is only the beginning of your professional development toolkit.



3. I use an iPad in my teaching and therefore I am an effective iPad teacher. Remember, simply putting a piece of technology into your hands is not the same as using it in a meaningful and real manner. Perhaps you use your iPad as just a glorified overhead projector. An iPad should make you rethink and reshape your teaching and not simply do old things in new ways.

4. I only put educational apps on my device because it is a professional tool that I use for my teaching practice. If your IT department tells you that you can only install educational apps or perhaps are not able to install any of your own apps, fight to have that changed. If you can't download your own personal apps that fit your lifestyle, how will you discover new apps that might benefit you and your students? Remember that, with over 700,000 apps in the App Store, there is a wealth of applications that could be used in more ways than you could imagine. Chances are your IT department has not exhausted all possible uses. Keep in mind, like anything in teaching, if you are not passionate about what and how you are teaching, that fact will be shown through to your students. An iPad is no different: you should be passionate about your device. If you can't personalize and make your device your own, how will you become familiar with it and demonstrate a love for teaching through it? Go download games or any other applications for personal use to play/use during your free time. The more you use it, the more you'll grow to love it and the more adept the integration into teaching it will be.

Above: A search for “Education” in the App store yields over 10,000 results.
5. I now have more time through new-found efficiencies with my iPad; I have time to check emails and surf the web during class. If you are using your iPad for assessing students, make that known to them. When using it for teaching, mirror your screen so that they can see what is being taught. While an iPad might revolutionize and change your teaching and as unbelievably wonderful and amazing an iPad is as a teaching tool (in our completely unbiased opinions), it is not a replacement for human interaction. As most teachers know, a key to effective teaching is building relationships with their students. Take those new-found moments of time to interact even more with your students. When you begin to have a solid rapport with them, and they know that you care about them as more than just a student, they will be even that much more receptive to the new technologies in your iPad teaching. Save email checks for lunch or after-school. Parents are already very appreciative if we get back to them within twenty-four hours. As Vicki boldly put it in her article: “Multitasking is a lie.” Your students deserve your best attention. Save the extraneous iPad work for your private, non-teaching hours.

6. I simply use my iPad as a reward for students.When they have behaved or achieved something, they get to play a few minutes of games like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope. The iPad is an amazing educational tool, so if you are just letting students play games, you are missing the mark. Having kids play games, as an occasional reward is fine, but remember: most kids who own iPads will use them almost exclusively for games at home already. Our students, although young, are often shocked that we as teachers do not use our iPads primarily for gaming. This is an issue we see a lot in our schools. The lack of quality iPad training will lead teachers to just let students play with their iPads as if they were Nintendo DS systems.

Above: Explain Everything records visual and audio for your classes

Above: Haiku Deck offers beautiful (and free!) photos for presentations that even students can easily make

7. I only use content-specific apps for my lessons. As there is such a vast selection of apps teachers will often only focus on apps tailored specifically to the current unit of study as opposed to finding creation-type apps in order to pass along information. Teachers will approach us and ask: “What apps are good for teaching Math?” Which apps are great for social studies?” While there definitely are great apps for specific subjects and themes, teachers should be trying as well to use content-creation apps such as iMovie or ShowMe to impart their knowledge through these apps. While there is no denying the amazing wealth of content specific apps don't merely rely on these but also, use your previously learned knowledge of the subject to create a presentation using Keynote or Haiku Deck, or record a lesson using a screen casting apps such as Explain Everything or Educreations.

8. I have mastered the use of iPad apps. A well-versed educator realizes that it takes many hours to fully master any educational tool. Apps on the iPad are no different. Who, for example, can truly say that they are a Microsoft Office expert, with all of its many functions and features? iPad apps range from the simple to the very complex, and while a lot of apps are very intuitive, to use any of them in a meaningful manner will take time. Once you’ve become familiar with one app, there are the other 699 999 apps that are available to you (and that number is growing every day).

Above: While the pre-installed apps on an iPad are great, there is just so much more available

9. My iPad came pre-installed with great Apple apps, so I won't bother looking for others. Some teachers will simply use these “stock” apps almost exclusively and do not bother spending time researching quality apps that will enhance teaching and student learning. There are people we know who refuse to pay for apps. They have a stigma that says: “I’ve paid this much for my device. I don’t want to pay more for apps. Like we have previously mentioned, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of apps. Why are so many people willing to pay $5 for a latte at the coffee shop, but are yet unwilling to drop the same amount on a quality app? Read app reviews, read teaching websites to find out new apps that will aide in your teaching. Find out from your tech-savvy colleagues which apps they utilize.

10. I feel that I utilize my iPad well, so I don’t bother to look for other tech (and non-tech) tools. While the iPad is without a doubt a groundbreaking device, it is not the only form of technology that you should be using. There still has to be a balance between focusing all efforts on incorporating technology in your teaching and still teaching the basic fundamentals that you are required to teach. While we all love technology, in the end it is a tool, not a “be all and end all” to teaching. Our students will be engaged if we are engaged in what we do and how we act around them. There is definitely a lot of technology out there to be discovered. Technology is changing the way we teach and the way our students learn. However, a lot can be said for positive human communication and regular positive reinforcement with our students, on a day-to-day basis.

All of us have been guilty of at least some of the list at least once. This post was meant to encourage both new and seasoned iPad teachers, and was not in any way meant to offend anyone. We can honestly say that we brainstormed these ten ways reflecting on our own faults we made in the past.

Further reading:

iPads: Creation vs. Consumption, part 1

iPad is right for PE!

iPaddiction: Creation Apps Used on the iPad

Do you have any other tips for iPad teachers? We would love to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments!

Did you like this post? Please do not hesitate to share this article with your colleagues and PLN!


Steve Lai (@sly111) is a French Teacher from Richmond, British Columbia, Canada in his twelfth year of teaching. He is always looking for ways to engage his students using technology. He teaches almost 400 students at an independent school from Grades 1-5. Visit his iPad blog at

Matthew Przybylski (@iphysed) is a PE Teacher and the onsite IT support/help person from the same school, in his ninth year of teaching. He has used an iPad in his classes since the iPad first came out in 2010. Check out his iPad blog, with many tips for PE teaching at

Steve and Matt have recently begun giving iPad workshops, and look forward to doing more of it in the near future. Please contact them through Twitter or email ( if you are in the Lower Mainland area and are interested in having them come in and give a workshop for your faculty. They will provide relevant and authentic ways to incorporate the iPad in the classroom. They are excited to be able to share what they passionate about.


18 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul says:

    Great post, Steve and Matt! I appreciate your insight on this topic. My staff already needs to stop breaking some of these rules!

  2. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
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