If you are new to the iPad, then setting up one or more for use by students can be a daunting task. The iPad is a window into the entire world, and with that comes amazing benefits and also things that should likely be left outside of the classroom.
Here’s how I set up the iPads in my own classroom to ensure that students were on the path to success starting from day 1.
Naming Your iPads
If you have more than one device, this is the easiest way to keep track of each one and the data it holds. To name your devices, enter the Settings app and click General and then About, or plug into a computer and wait for iTunes to open. You can be as simple or as extravagant as you’d like with this. I went the simple route and used my last name and numbers.
If you lean towards the more creative side, choose a name after something related to your content area or topics of study. If you are a science teacher, you could name each iPad after a famous scientist: Einstein, Newton—you get the point! Your students will always appreciate some creative flare.
Setting Up E-mail
Make each iPad accessible to other devices by setting up its own personal e-mail. Keep things consistent by making the e-mail addresses similar to the iPad’s name. E-mail can be useful in the classroom for many reasons. I use it to have students submit work and also to deliver links and other materials. E-mail can connect each iPad to an unlimited number of devices and apps. Add your own name and e-mail to each iPad’s Contacts app, making it even easier for students to deliver info back to you via e-mail.
Once you have downloaded a variety of apps, organize them on the home screen by creating “buckets.” Buckets allow you to group two or more similar apps.
Creating buckets not only keeps your iPads organized and simple to navigate, they can also inconspicuously hide apps you might not want to draw attention to during class time. Uninstalling and reinstalling apps can take a lot of time, so sometimes moving a popular app to an unpopular bucket can prevent students from being sidetracked.
To create a bucket, “grab” one app by holding your finger on it until it starts to shake. Drag it over a second app and the bucket (a black square) will appear. Name your new bucket or keep the one your iPad suggests; then freeze the screen again by clicking the Home button.
The Settings app that comes on your iPad is easily one of the simplest ways to make quick, customizable adjustments to your iPad. From hiding unneeded apps to blocking R-rated videos, this app alone has most of the answers for managing your iPads in the classroom.
Adjusting your iPad’s settings and adding restrictions should be the very last step to finalizing your setup. When you are satisfied with the apps that you have (for now), open the Settings app.
Setting Your Pin
Again, find the General tab, but this time look for Restrictions. Immediately you will be prompted for a four-digit PIN. I use the same PIN for all the iPads, but change it every couple months or so. From here you can customize the restrictions on each iPad.
Turning off Installing Apps and Deleting Apps is a must. This will remove the App Store from your home screen and prevent students from buying apps on the registered iTunes account.
Disable the Camera
The camera can also be a huge distraction during day-to-day class time use, and I tend to hide it unless we are using QR codes or completing a special assignment.
You can also use restrictions to censor music and videos, including YouTube (another student favorite). Customize your settings based on your needs and feel free to change it up as necessary! I adapt my settings to the lesson at hand quite often.
Protect Your iPads
Last, but not least, protect your iPads by purchasing a security app like GadgetTrak. Apps like this one will let you register multiple devices, including laptops and cell phones that can easily be tracked if they get lost or stolen. GadgetTrak will even take a photograph of the perpetrator and allow you to submit instant police reports. If you are worried about theft (and you probably should be) at school or anywhere else, it’s better to be safe than sorry. GadgetTrak can be purchased for only $3.99, and it offers a variety of features.
Your students will be excited to use your new devices. Before diving into content, give them time to explore!
I created an iPad scavenger hunt activity that allowed my students to check things out and taught them the basics of the iPad and apps I planned to frequent. You can download the scavenger hunt activity and use it in your classroom. Remember to review and modify the activity as you see fit before sharing it with your students. Create a separate document called iPad Expectations (mentioned in the activity; create a numbered list of iPad expectations for your classroom) and add the document to Dropbox.
Experiment with the settings of your iPad(s) and adjust them as necessary to meet the needs of your classroom! Most of an iPad’s functions—including the ones that can be distractions for students—can be used in productive, highly engaging, and upper-level-thinking ways. Have fun!
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