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Monday, October 19, 2020

iPads for Stations: Making the Most of Shared Technology

Many classrooms have access to one or just a few iPads for daily use by students. Sometimes finding the best activities for these devices can be a challenge. If we’re not careful, these devices can be relegated to babysitting or ‘free time’ without any true educational benefit. Using iPads as a center can be useful, but finding the best apps and ideas that will engage students in learning activities is worth the time to explore.

Below are some suggestions to consider for making the most of iPads when used as centers.


  • Expectations is always important when students begin using technology. Before students pick up an iPad, be sure you have an answer to these questions: What will the students be doing? How long will they have to do it? What is the goal or objective of this time? Will students be accountable for the work they are doing?
  • Monitor what students are doing while they are using an iPad. Technology time without any oversight can be dangerous.
  • Consider the use of Guided Access to keep students locked to an App. You can use Guided Access to prevent students from leaving an app.
    • Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Learning > Guided Access
    • Turn on Guided Access in the settings and then you can leave the settings
    • Open the App you want to lock your students to use
    • Once the app is open, triple click (click – click – click) the Home Button to begin Guided Access
    • If this is your first time you will be asked to set a 4 digit passcode. This is very important: Do not share your passcode with the students but don’t forget it either. This passcode will be required to set the iPad to regular use.
    • Notice the options below. You can set the options for which buttons will work, if touch is off, and even set a time limit.
    • To end Guided Access, triple click the Home Button, enter your passcode (set above) and select End on the screen which displays. Your iPad will resume normal activity now.

Guided Access Options Screen

Math and ELA Applications:

news-o-matic-app iconNews-O-Matic: This free app (10 editions free after installing but EDU subscription available) offers daily nonfiction current events reading for students. Each day an interesting set of articles is presented with media such as photo slideshows, maps, games, read to me, and video. As a center these stories would be great for student choice reading with a follow up activity. Students could choose articles and write about it later or share with others what they have learned to practice presentation and comprehension skills.


Wonderopolis IconWonderopolis: This free app offers daily multidisciplinary content presented in a daily question to get students thinking about the world around them. In addition to the app, they also offer a webpage with the same stories at http://wonderopolis.org/. Wonderopolis would be a great tool for a center where students can choose a topic of interest or selected by the teacher and respond to it to test for comprehension. It could also become a great activity to help students learn unfamiliar vocabulary. With the web version, teachers can display the reading on the board to prepare students for what they will read on the iPad during centers time.


EPIC! app icon EPIC!: EPIC! Is an online library of eBooks for kids. With a free educator account, teachers can sign in on an iPad and give students access to thousands of books categorized by format and age. While it does not offer tracking ability for measuring comprehension and how much students have read, it will provide a big library of books that your students are sure to find interesting. EPIC! is another app which can be easily managed by using Guided Access to help students focus on using this app and not leave and go to other apps. Educators can sign up for a free account here. Parents can sign up for an account with EPIC! and for a small charge use the service at home.


A+ Spelling App iconA+ Spelling Test: With this free app, teachers (or students) can create spelling lists where students are prompted with a quick recording of the teacher saying the word. Students would then enter the correct spelling for the word. Paired with Guided Access this could be a great station where students are practicing weekly spelling words with their teacher’s voice and responding with correct spelling. Classroom student helpers can also help the teacher get the spelling list setup for each spelling list. The paid version adds additional features for $.99 but many teachers will be able to use the free version without lacking much.


sushi monster appSushi MonsterSushi Monster is a fast paced, free math fluency app from Scholastic which presents students with sequenced levels of math drill. Students will be challenged in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Students are forced to quickly find the numbers which equal the requested number from the sushi monster. This app paired with Guided Access would make a great math center where you can be sure that your students are only working on the math skills within the app.


Math Kid app icon Math KidMath Kid is a free math app which quizzes students in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Several nice features about the app include a number of settings which allow the teacher to customize the app. This app also gives visual hints to the student if they struggle to answer the question. It also asks for an answer with a keypad which greatly resembles the keypad used in state testing.


Number Frames Number FramesNumber Frames is a free virtual manipulative app which creates many ways for students to represent math problems with the onscreen tools. Manipulatives can be changed to characters, shapes, and different colors. Not only can students add objects to represent a problem but they can add text, frames, and draw directly on the screen. This app would be great for a math station where students have math problems and can use the iPad to solve a problem. Ask students to add their name on the screen and take a screenshot to make a quick assessment from this app. The screenshot will go to the Camera Roll/Photos App.


Apps that are not content specific:

QuickVoice app iconQuickVoiceQuickVoice is a simple voice recorder which gives users the ability to quickly and easily capture sound recordings. QuickVoice would be a great tool to use for reading and self assessment when reading a passage to listen for fluency.



QR Reader App iconQR Reader App and QR Code Scanners: QR Reader is a free app which allows you to scan QR codes which can link to websites, videos, or text on the web. Using a QR creator you can create QR Codes (like the one to the left) to post around the room for students to interact with content. QR codes can be used for scavenger hunts, posting answers to questions where students scan to check an answer or they can send students directly to websites and internet content you want them to read, watch, or listen to.


Aurasma ICONAugmented Reality: Apps like Aurasma can be very effective and engaging apps to use with an iPad station. The idea of augmented reality is that you can take almost any paper or flat surface and to turn it into a trigger which will activate when using an app like Aurasma. The camera on the iPad sees the trigger and begins displaying content on the screen. Videos, animated characters, or 3D images can literally come right off the page with augmented reality. For some ideas check out this post on augmented reality on the ICATS Site.


iMovie iOS iconiMovieiMovie is a free app created by Apple (free on many iPads) that allows you to create movies and edit video directly on the iPad. With iMovie, users can add credits, titles, cut out sections of video and share the video for watching later. As a station, students could create videos (individually or in groups) using the camera on the iPad and explain concepts, science experiments, or summarize learning activities in a fun and engaging way. To raise the bar, student videos can be shown to the class as an evaluation of their learning and to create an audience for their work.


Garageband iOS iconGarageBandGarageBand is a free app created by Apple that allows you to create and edit audio. Unique to GarageBand is the ability to take loops, or premade music and sounds and add them to a project to create professional sounding music without requiring much musical skill. At the simplest level, students could use GarageBand to record fluency reading but with more time students can create radio/podcast shows or audio for iMovie projects.


Subscription based Tools:

While the tools above are free to download and free to use, there are a number of apps which are also free to install but require a subscription to use. Schools may have subscriptions or consider adding subscriptions to these programs.

Reading EggsReading Eggs is an app which gives access to the Readingeggs.com program on the iPad. Reading Eggs is a fun and engaging early reading app. Readings Eggs can give teachers insight into student progress and data.

Scholastic Reading Counts!Scholastic Reading Counts! is an app which gives access to the K-12 digital reading program from Scholastic. Offering assessments, student data, and reading practice, a subscription to Scholastic Reading Counts! could make great use of an iPad station.

Raz-KidsRaz-Kids brings the Reading A-Z library to the iPad. Books are organized by levels A-Z and offer assessments and the ability to earn points which can be spent in the game store.

Do you have a favorite iPad app or idea you use with stations? Share you idea below in the comments!

Featured image from: http://zamoranoarts.blogspot.com/2013/09/back-to-school-eve.html, edited in Canva.com

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