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Wednesday 26 April 2017

Tech Tips for iPads

For special education teachers around the world, iPads open up a world of possibilities.  I have been using iPads with my students for 5 years now and am still learning about of all the features on them!  I love using iPads with my students because of the number of wonderful tools built into the system.  The accessibility options are perfect for a special education classroom like mine.  But, I am guessing that some of you, like me didn't know they existed or how to use them.  I have compiled a list of 20 tips and tricks to help you in using iPads in the most effective way with your students.

1)  Protective Cases

Before you start using iPads with your students, I would suggest you do some research and get the appropriate protective case.  My students are rough on iPads and I know that they will be dropped, stepped on and thrown.  We invested in Otterbox cases because of their durability and the lifetime warranty that comes with them.  If the case gets broken, simply take a picture and send it to the Otterbox company and they will send you a new case free of charge! Other cases that I like are Griffin Survivor, Gumdrop, iGuy and Big Grips.

2)  Labelling the iPads

Each of my students have their own iPad that they work on.  They contain specific apps for that student to use to work on IEP goals and reinforcing apps that are geared to the student's individual preferences.  In order to easily identify which iPad belongs to which student, I changed the desktop backgrounds.  All you need to do is go to Settings >  Wallpaper, and then tap wallpaper. From here, tap "Choose a New Wallpaper" to change the lock screen wallpaper and the wallpaper you'll see behind your app icons on your home screen.

3)  Apps, Apps and more Apps

There are a ton of great apps on in the App Store, some free and most at a cost.  It is easy to get overwhelmed or carried away with all the cool apps.  When I first got my iPads, I downloaded so many apps that I thought were great that we quickly ran out of storage space and the iPads were confusing to navigate.  My advice:  do some research and choose apps that are versatile or have many levels and get progressively more difficult so you can get more use out of fewer apps.  Some of my favourites are Bitsboard, Ready to Print, I Like Books, Special Numbers, and Special Words.  Also, look for apps that are customizable and allow you to enter your own content.

4)  Get Free Apps

We all have limited budgets, so when I can get things for free, it make my teacher heart happy!  Alligator Apps offers free apps, for a limited time, when you join their free app club.  You will receive emails notifying you when their apps are available for free.  Their apps are structured in a similar manner to running discrete trials, which are perfect for my students with ASD!

5)  Group Apps Into Folders

Variety is the spice of life!  I like to use a few different apps to work on the same skill to keep my students interested and engaged.  To make these apps easy to find and to declutter the home screen, I group them into folders.  To do this, touch and hold your finger on the app icon until you enter edit mode (the icons begin to jiggle). To make a new folder, drag the app icon on top of another one that you want in the same folder.  A new screen will appear with a suggested title at the top.  Tap the word and type to change it.  For existing folders, simply drag the app icon to that folder. 

6)   Download Previously Purchased Apps

As my students make progress, I often delete apps that they no longer use from their iPad.  When I get new students, however, I find that they need that particular app and I have to put it on their iPad.  Fortunately, I do not have to buy this app again.  I can simply go into the app store, tap on "purchased" at the bottom of the screen and see all of the apps that I have already purchased.  From there, I just tap on the cloud with the arrow and it downloads the app onto the iPad.

7)  Create Shortcuts

For students who cannot type on their own, I like to make shortcuts to their frequently used websites on the home screen.  To do this, tap on the Safari icon to open a webpage.  Type in the address and then tap on the box with an arrow beside the address box.  A menu of options will appear, tap "Add to Home Screen" and then "Add".  An icon for that website will appear on your home screen.

8)  Restrictions

Before you put an iPad in the hands of your students, you may want to turn on some restrictions.  I didn't know about setting restrictions when I first got my iPads and one day I had to delete 829 photos that one of my students had taken.  With restrictions, you can limit what your students have access to on the iPad, including the internet, camera, the iTunes and App stores to name a few.  To set restrictions, go to Settings > General > Restrictions.  You will have to enter your 4 digit passcode to enable restrictions.  From there, you just move the switch to turn certain features off.

9)  Guided Access

This has been a lifesaver in my classroom!  Sometimes, my students don't want to work on the app I want them to work on.  And being so smart, they know how to get out of the app.  But, thanks to guided access, they can longer get out of the app, until I decide they are finished!  To set up guided access, tap on Settings > General > Accessibility and then scroll down to find Guided Access.  Tap on it and then move the switch to turn it on.  Then tap on Passcode Settings to set the Guided Access Passcode.  Then select an app and triple-click the home button to turn Guided Access on.  You can also set Time Limits with alarms to let students know when their required time in a certain app is finished.  

10)  Create Instructions Using Screencasting

While iPads are very intuitive, sometimes I want to teach my students how use certain apps or features independently.  On of the best ways to do this is by creating a video model.  I have researched different ways to do this and the best method I have come across is by using an app called Reflector 2.  It allows you to mirror what's on your iPad to your Mac or PC and record what's happening on your iPad screen as well as audio of you talking or giving instructions.  It's a bit more work than I'd like, but it's the only app I have found that allows you to add audio.

11)  MultiTasking Gestures

Multitasking gestures can be useful, but I find that they really aren't that useful for most of my students as they have fine motor difficulties and use these gestures more by accident than purposefully.  Basically, these allow you to navigate your iPad a little more easily.  There are three main gestures involving 4 or 5 of your fingers to pinch to the home screen, swipe up to the app switcher and swipe left or right between apps.  If you want to use them, you can turn them on by going to Settings > General > Gestures and moving the switch to on.  You can do the same thing to turn them off.

12)  Limit Max Volume

I don't know about you, but some of my students like to play with the volume and crank to the highest level.  This can not only be annoying, but also damaging to their ears.  That's why I love that I can be in control of high the volume will go by setting a maximum volume level.  The first step in the process is to lower the maximum volume by tapping Settings and then scrolling down and selecting Music. Next, tap Volume Limit and pull down the volume slider to the maximum volume level you've decided on. Then, tap the back arrow until you're back at the main menu.  Then go to Restrictions and scroll down to where it says Volume Limit. Tap that, change it to "Don't Allow Changes" and then back all the way out to the main menu.

13)  Talk Instead of Type

I love this feature for my students who are not yet typing, but can speak clearly.  They can convey their thoughts by saying them and then the iPad will convert that to written language for them!  Use this feature to send emails, texts or write stories.  Simply, tap the Dictate buttonthe Dictate button on the keyboard and speak your words (including punctuation), then tap Done.

14)  Let The iPad Read For You

This is a great feature for kiddos learning to read.  The iPad can speak selected text, or the entire screen. Explore the options in Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech.

15)  Remove Webpage Clutter

Our students can get distracted, a lot!  This feature reduces distractions on webpages by getting rid of the ads.  Heck, I could use this feature!  The Reader in Safari makes articles easier to read by getting rid extraneous stimuli. When you see the Reader button in the search field, tap it to see just the text and photos — without ads.

16)  Quickly Open the Camera

Have you had a moment when you wanted to capture your student doing something, but it took too long to get to the camera and you missed it?  Well, this may help.  When iPad is locked, swipe up or left to access the camera, depending on your IOS.  Then you can take photos and videos and hopefully capture that special moment.  

17)  Find it Fast

Need to find an app fast?  Can't find it by scrolling?  Search your iPad, the Internet, nearby places, the weather, and more — from anywhere on your iPad. Just swipe down from the top of the screen to show Search.

18)  Close All Of Your Safari Tabs At Once

My students (and staff) have a bad habit of keeping a bunch of webpages open at the same time.  the one drawback of Safari is that it opens new tabs for webpages when you click on an external link on a page.  I have had 15+ tabs opened on an iPad at a time!  It's a pain to have close each one these individually.  Thankfully, you can just touch and hold the Pages button.the Pages buttonto close all of them at once.

19)  Quickly Find A Photo

Photos automatically identifies places and objects in your pictures, so you can search for them. You can search for beach or dachshunds, for example.

20)  Zoom In

There are a couple of ways to zoom in on pictures and print.  The first way is to double tap on the picture you want to zoom in on.  Zoom out by double tapping again.  The second way is to use your thumb and forefinger to pinch in and out.   

Do you have any cool tips or tricks?  Share them below!  Thanks for stopping by!  Until next time,

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