iPads in Education

Innovating education with technology.

"The best way to learn anything is to teach it to someone else". Isn't that what you've always been told? It's true ... and also a great philosophy to apply in the classroom. Most educators spend a lot of time honing their skills as teachers, expecting students to absorb and learn what they are taught. Sometimes however, students learn more effectively when empowered to learn and then teach complex concepts. There are quite a few apps and techniques that can allow students to express their knowledge by creating mini tutorials on the iPad.


Who are they teaching?

Students of all ages can create tutorials. There are several different models you can employ:

  • Students can "teach" you. Take Math as one example. It's one thing to have them work out a problem and return the answer to you. Instead, try having students record a tutorial explaining the concept behind the solution to a particular problem. Taken one step further, what if they were asked to actually create a problem that illustrates a specific principle and then solve it?
  • Students can teach each other. Why not build a curated library of student tutorials? 
  • Students can teach/learn in groups by interacting with tutorials in a participatory environment such as VoiceThread (see below).
  • Students can teach parents. One of the finest examples of tutorial software use I've seen was when students scanned in their work and narrated it for parents to view on parent-teacher night. 


Creating Tutorials

There are many alternatives for creating tutorials on the iPad. Most of the discussion around these apps has focused on how teachers can use them to create tutorials for students. Let's examine how three powerful and easy to use apps can be used by students to create tutorials.


ScreenChomp and ShowMe


Both ScreenChomp (left) and ShowMe (right) follow a simple, similar template. You have a whiteboard area that you can use for writing or to display any image. You then select a pen tool and record yourself as you speak and write on the board with a finger or stylus.

In the example on the left, the student is explaining how the solution to a problem in math. Each step is written on the board while the student explains the reasoning. In the second example, an image of a frog is displayed as the student explains some of its anatomical highlights. It's a stark contrast to that stale old written assignment and likely to spark a lot more engagement and learning. You can step through your recording in several stages, pausing as many times as needed to erase the board and/or load new images. 


Of course, people tend to work more effectively when they are performing for an audience and both apps encourage you to share your tutorials. In both cases the final tutorial is uploaded to your account online and you can share the link with others.


(late revision) A new addition to the field of screen recording apps is Educreations. The concept is extremely similar to ScreenChomp and ShowMe but it allows you to create multi-page tutorials and has a simple and slick interface for integrating images into your tutorials.


VoiceThread is a wonderful web based service that has been available for several years and they recently released an app for the iPad. It's a first release and not quite full featured yet but it's still a powerful tool for creating multimedia tutorials and discussions. According to their website, a VoiceThread can be defined as follows:

"a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways - using voice, text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too."


You start by opening an account with VoiceThread. You can then record your VoiceThread directly online or by using the iPad app. VoiceThreads are media based so you begin by uploading any media - images, documents or video (video is not fully functional on the iPad app yet). As with the other apps noted above, you can write over your media while recording a VoiceThread (they call it "doodling"). VoiceThreads can be multiple slides and you simply navigate between slides by pressing the Next arrow.

What differentiates and makes VoiceThread especially powerful is its "participatory" nature. You don't just watch the VoiceThreads created by others - you're encouraged to comment on them. You can see from the image above, the list of icons in the left and right columns represent people that have watched and added commentary to the VoiceThread. You can comment using the same set of text, audio, video and doodling tools that are used when creating VoiceThreads.

Not only can you watch the original VoiceThread but you can also listen and read the commentaries left by everyone else. Imagine a scenario where the teacher poses a problem in VoiceThread and asks the students to each explain their solution (using the VoiceThread moderation tool, you can control when the commentaries become visible). It could be a straightforward math problem or something like an image from history that asks students to explain their understanding of the event. 


Turning students into teachers can lead to deeper learning. What other ways can you think of to use student tutorials? Share your thoughts below.


Sam Gliksman


Twitter: @samgliksman


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Comment by Jane Batham on May 23, 2012 at 1:28pm
I used Voicethread a few years ago with Year 4 and thought it was a great tool then. We had some technical issues back then and couldn't record voice but we did use it by typing our comments.
I can't wait to try this on the iPad.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and ideas for application in the classroom. It is most inspiring!
Comment by Elizabeth on December 18, 2011 at 5:56am

Thanks for not only the tip on apps but a good way to use them for learning. Another one I just uploaded is called Notability which has many ways of communicating; text, touchscreenwriting,take a picture, upload picture, audio recording voice....

Comment by Reshan Richards on November 28, 2011 at 5:05pm

Check out Explain Everything (www.explaineverything.com) for making iPad tutorials.


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