The Top 10 iPad Features That Schools Forget

The 10 Best Forgotten iPad Features for

With iPads, it’s all about the apps, and rightly so sometimes, but not everyone takes full advantage of the native features that Apple builds in to the iPad software for everyone to use. So, for this post I am rounding up ten of the most forgotten iPad features that are awesome for education. No additional apps are required to use any of these features because they work right out of the box.

1. Visual Timer – The Clock app often gets buried in a folder deep among some other apps that you don’t use very much, but if you are looking for a good visual timer, you should look for the Clock app. Just open the Clock app, and tap Timer. You can even choose from a variety of tones to mark the end of your timer. While you are here, take a look at the stopwatch with lap timers for PE, and the world clocks are great for checking the time before Skyping with a class overseas! 🙂

timer ios

2. Dictionary – Did you know the iPad has a built-in dictionary? Press and hold your finger on any word on a webpage, then let go to select it. A pop-up menu next to the word will allow you to select the option to define the word. The default language of your iPad is the one a word will be defined in, but tapping Manage in the bottom left-hand corner of the definition will let you add foreign language dictionaries too! Try the Spanish-English dictionary for a quick translator.

dictionary ios

3. Maps – I think there is a huge amount of potential for using the Maps app in the classroom. Whether it is adding context to a novel you are reading, or analyzing the 3D view of foreign cities in Social Studies. In Math you can use directions to create cross-curricular problems like “How far is it from here to New York and back?” The Maps app is not always 100% up to date, but I would bet it is a lot more up to date than any globe you have in your classroom!

4. Speak Selection/Page – For students that need this accommodation, the ability to have the iPad read the screen aloud is a great option. It works on webpages, PDFs, iBooks and more. To activate it, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech and turning on Speak Selection and/or Speak Screen. Once activated, press and hold on a word to make a selection, then tap speak to hear the words read aloud. To speak the whole screen, swipe down from the top of your screen with two fingers, or tell Siri to speak the screen. The on-screen controls let you pause, skip and adjust the pace. Headphones or earbuds are great to have on hand for just this purpose.

5. Home Screen Bookmarks – There are lots of great websites out there, but not all of them have apps. However, you can make them behave like apps by adding home screen bookmarks. This adds a shortcut to the website on the home screen of your iPad and one tap will take you straight to your favorite educational website. To get started, navigate to the website of your choice in Safari and tap the Share arrow. Choose the Add to Home Screen button and give it a name. The website will then appear as an app icon on your home screen. You can move it around as required or add it to a folder.

home screen bookmarks ios

6. Record Widescreen Video – This is a tip I picked up from Steve Lai’s blog. The iPad screen has a 4:3 ratio. This means that, by default, any video you record on the iPad will be kind of square and have black bars on the side of it when viewed on a widescreen TV, a laptop, or on YouTube. However, you can fix this by enabling 16:9 (widescreen) video recording. Simply open the camera app, select Video, then double tap the screen to change to a 16:9 aspect ratio. Record your video, then share online without the black bars. Genius.

7. Automatic Updates – Are you haunted by the red number on the App Store? Is the password for your school’s Apple ID so top secret that you can’t even update your own apps? Turn on Automatic Updates and you will always have the latest version of all your apps. To check and see if this feature is enabled go to Settings > iTunes and App Store, and toggle the switch next to Updates to enable automatic app updates on your iPad.

automatic app updates

8. Lock Rotation – When presenting with the iPad to a groups of students (or teachers) there are few things more distracting than a rotating iPad screen that flips and turns at the slightest turn of your wrist. If you lock your screen, you can solve this problem. Simply swipe up from the bottom edge of your screen to reveal the Control Center. Then tap the padlock with the circular arrow around it to lock your screen. Once locked, you should see the same lock icon in the top right-hand corner of your screen next to the battery indicator. Locking screens is also a great tip when using iPads with preschool or early elementary students who may get frustrated by all that tilting and rotating.

9. AirDrop – This one won’t be for everyone, but if you have a newer iPad you can take advantage of a great feature called AirDrop. With AirDrop enabled, you can send photos, videos and other files to another iPad or Mac wirelessly and without email. Students could use this to share photos or video clips with each other while working on a group iMovie project, or to turn in assignments to a teacher’s Macbook. Just beware of the space sloth.

airdrop settings ipad

10. Safari Reader Mode – The web is an amazing resource for teachers, but it can be a cluttered and distracting place at the same time. Safari’s reader mode helps with that and provides a clean, easy-to-read text that has no ads, sidebars, or other distractions. To activate Reader mode, look for the four horizontal lines on the left hand-side of Safari’s address bar. Tap them to turn Reader mode on and off and be amazed at the difference!

So, these are ten of my top picks. What’s your best tip or trick for iPad classrooms? Leave a comment below.

20 thoughts on “The Top 10 iPad Features That Schools Forget”

  1. The newest feature, if the iPad has iOS 7 or 8, and the Mac computer runs Yosemite, is the ability to attach the iPad to the computer via the sync/charge cable and mirroring and/or recording what happens on the iPad screen. To do this, open Quicktime, pick FILE-NEW MOVIE RECORDING, and, use the little red arrow to the right of the record button, pick the iPad as the CAMERA and make sure it is also chosen as the microphone. This then mirrors the iPad to the computer screen and brings the sound over to the computer, too. Once you hit the record button, anything you do on the iPad (and any sound) will be recorded by the computer. There are ways to do this via wireless, like using Reflector, but, by connecting the iPad to the computer, any lags or connection issues due to wireless are gone! You or a student are tethered to the computer, but it is a good way to record a student presentation for a portfolio or a teacher lesson for student review or simply to show the iPad screen to the entire class.

  2. How about a surefire way to manage these things before selling them to teachers and administrators? That would’ve been nice!

  3. I noticed you point out the dictionary as a good feature. How do you turn it off for a test? Almost every subject has definitions as part of the test or a question like, What does x mean. It allows every student to cheat.

    1. I am not sure that you can turn it off. However, even if you could, there are obviously other ways of finding the definitions of a word online. Perhaps a better solution would be a test that asked different types of questions…

  4. I cannot get #6 to work. When I open the camera app and double tap, I only see the yellow outline box and the sun for saturation. What am I missing?

  5. Guides Access is a great feature when running communication apps! Locks the screen in so students aren’t seeking out other apps!

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