18 Basic Tips and Tricks for the Teacher’s iPad

The best thing you can do to familiarize yourself with the iPad is just to play with it.  You’ve got to be willing to explore by tapping, pinching, and swiping away.  One of the core design principles at Apple has been that their systems should be intuitive.  As you learn some of the basic interactions, you simply need to explore these common icons and gestures in different apps. Below are some the most basic tips and tricks that help teachers (and most general users, as well) to navigate their iPad.

1. Launching and closing apps

When you are on the Home Screen, you can simply tap on an app’s icon to launch the app on the device.  Once an app is launched, all you need to do to exit the app is click the home button at the bottom of your device: Apps don’t completely close down when you move to the home screen.  They also don’t “run” in the background unless you have Background App Refresh enabled for the app.  An app will save its state and you can return to the app later. To completely close an app, double tap the home button and then swipe across to find the app you want to close.  To close the app, swipe the app up and away.


2. Accessing the Control Center

The control center is a new addition to iOS 7 which makes it very efficient to toggle on and off certain things.  To activate and get into the Control Center, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

From here you can quickly access settings including Airplane Mode, Toggle Wi-fi On/Off, Toggle Bluetooh On/Off, Do Not Disturb Mode, Rotation Lock (Or Mute), Volume, Screen Brightness, Camera, Timer/Clock, AirDrop, and AirPlay


3. Switching between apps

Current versions of IOS (6 and 7) allow for app switching which means that your apps will save their current state in memory and you can return to them.  This is much like having multiple windows open on a Mac or PC, but you can only view one app at a time.  To switch to a recently opened app, double tap the home button to access the app switcher. Swipe left or right to view apps and tap to open.


4. Accessing the Notification Center

Many apps that you install will request permission to notify you with updates.  For example, Facebook might want to notify you when someone has liked your status.  The Mail app can notify you when you have new mail.  There are three types of notifications in iOS 7: icon badges, alerts, and banners.  Additionally, notifications can play a sound when received.

The Notification Center gives you a quick view of all recent banner notifications you have received.  To access the Notification Center, swipe down from the top of the device.


5. Adding International Keyboards (or just the Emoji)

You can add additional keyboards to your iPad, meaning that when you are in an app where you want to type, you can use international keyboards (e.g., Japanese or Cyrillic).  There is also an Emoji keyboard that includes scores of different pictures (think emoticons on steroids).

Go to Settings and tap General.  Near the bottom, select Keyboard and then tap Keyboards.  Tap “Add New Keyboard…”  Select any keyboard you wish.


To test out your new keyboard, open an app that you can type into.  For example, open the Notes app.  Tap the New Note icon in the top right:


Then tap the “World” key on the keyboard:




6. Downloading and Installing Apps

You can find and download new apps from the App store.  To install a new app, open the App store and search for an app.  For example, to install the iBooks app (Free), open the App store and tap on the search field at the top right and type in ibooks. Then tap Search on the keyboard.



Next to the app you want to install, tap the Free button or the price of the App. Then tap install.  You will be asked to enter the password for your iTunes account that you have set up on your device.  The app will begin downloading and installing and will appear on your Home screen.

7. Deleting Apps

To remove an installed app from the device, you can tap and hold any icon on the Home Screen.  Once the icons begin wiggling, tap the “x” at the top left of an app.


To stop the apps from wiggling, you can tap your home button.

8. Organizing your Apps

To arrange your Apps on your Home Screen(s), you can tap and hold the icon of any app until they start wiggling.  Tap and hold on an app, then drag it to the location you desire. You can also drag one app on top of another to create a folder to hold apps.  You can tap to open a folder and then tap on the name of the folder to change its name.

You can also drag icons to the left or right edge of the screen to move them to another page.  There are also six spots on the main taskbar at the bottom to hold your favorite apps.  You can even place folders on the taskbar.  There is no limit to the number of apps you can place in a folder.

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My favorite arrangement for apps is to have all my most-used apps on the first page of my home screen and then to place all the rest of my apps in alphabetical folders on the second page:

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9. Switching accounts in the iTunes store

Many teachers will be using an iPad that either belongs to the school or has apps that are purchased for them by the School.  It is fairly easy to switch between different accounts in the iTunes store.  This will allow you to install apps that have been purchased with different iTunes accounts.

First, open the App Store and go to the Featured area.   There is a “Feature” tab at the bottom left of the screen in the App Store.


Then, scroll all the way to the bottom of the Featured area and tap the Apple ID button:


Now, tap Sign out:


Next, you tap the Sign in button at the bottom left and then tap Use Existing Apple ID:

image037      image040  

Sign-in with your other iTunes account information.  Then, you can download any apps that you have already purchased with this account.  To view purchased apps, go to the Purchased area using the tab at the bottom of the screen:


10. Muting and Muting, again

There are TWO different ways that sound must be muted to silence your apps.  By default, the slider switch on the side of your device is set to be a mute switch.  If you can changed the configuration of this switch to lock rotation instead, then the mute option will be available in the control center (i.e., swipe up from the bottom).  You can also mute by holding down the volume down button on the side of the iPad.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Some apps will still play sound when the mute option is selected.  To keep them from playing sound, you must also turn down the volume.  You can use the volume buttons on the side or use the slider in the control center:


Also note that if you have any alarms set with your Clock app, THEY WILL STILL SOUND even when the device is muted, the volume is turned down and you have Do Not Disturb enabled.    

11. Taking photos and videos with your camera

If you have an iPad 2 or later, your device is equipped with a camera.  You can take photos using either the rear facing or front facing camera.  Open the Camera App:


12. Taking a screenshot

In addition to the Camera App, all iPads can also take screenshots (a picture of what’s on the screen).  If you press the Power Button and Home Button at the same time, you hear a camera shutter sound and the screen will flash.  You’ve just saved a picture of your screen in the Photo Gallery.  To see your photos open the Photo Gallery App.    

13. Browsing in Safari

The iPad includes the Safari browser for browsing the web.  To access a website, open the Safari browser and tap on the address bar at the top center.  Type in the website you want to visit:


Once the page has loaded, you can use your finger to scroll up and down on the page.  Additionally, you can pinch to zoom.  One of the nicest features of the Safari browser is the auto-zoom: double tap on a picture or a block of text and the Safari browser will automatically zoom to fit that web element.  Double tap again to zoom out.

You can also bookmark websites by tapping the Share icon next to the address bar:


In the sharing area, you can also perform other actions such as sharing the page to facebook/twitter, adding the link to home screen, copying the link, or printing the webpage.

Another of my favorite features in Safari is the Reader mode. If you are on a website with a great deal of text, e.g. reading an article, you can clear away all the clutter of the page and strip it down to just the article by switching to Reader mode.  To switch to Reader mode, just tap the icon at the left of the address bar:


You can also view your history or visit your bookmark using the bookmarks icon to the right of the address bar:


The browser also features tabs so that you can have several pages opened at once.  To add a new tab, tap the plus sign to the right of the address bar.  To close a tab, tap the “x” at the left edge of the tab.  Tap on the tab to switch to it.


14. Moving files between apps (Open In…)

When you have a file that can be opened in other apps, it is possible to move files from one app to another.  For example, if you have an app like iAnnotate that allows you to write on pdf documents, you might want to surf the web to find the pdf and then open the pdf in the other app.  You can also use this to move files to your cloud storage, like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Consider the following example: we want to save a pdf document for later reading when we might not have internet access.  We are going to find the pdf in the browser and them save it to iBooks for later review.

First, open your browser and navigate to http://bit.ly/wbuipad3

When the pdf first loads, you will see options at the top left to “Open In…”  If you’ve ever opened this type of file with an app, you will see “Open in [That App]” and “Open in…”  If you haven’t, then you will only see “Open in…”  Either way, tap on “Open in…” and then select iBooks.

NOTE: If this “Open in…” does not appear at the top of the screen, just tap anywhere in the body of the pdf and it will re-appear.


The pdf will now be available in your PDF collection in your iBooks library whether you are connected to Wi-Fi or not.

15. Getting Files On and Off of the iPad

If you have files that you want to get onto the iPad or pull off, there are a number of different ways to do this.

Email: Possibly the easiest but least efficient means of getting files on and off of the device is using email.  You can set up your email to download to your device, so you could email yourself attachments and then open in (see the previous tip).  You can also “Share” from whatever app you are in and email the document to yourself.  When you check your email on your computer, you will be able to download the attachment there.

iTunes: If you use your computer to sync with your device in iTunes, you can also use iTunes to download files from different apps.  When you select your device in iTunes, go to the Apps section for the device.  At the bottom of the screen, you will see a list of apps that will allow you to upload or download files.

Cloud Storage: There are a number of different services that allow you to sign up for free cloud storage. The ones that I have used and recommend are Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive (formerly, SkyDrive), and Box.  You can search the web for the service and sign up for a free account.  Then you can install the app for the service through the App Store.  Each app will allow you to search for which files you’ve save to the cloud and then open them in a viewer.  You can then use the “Open in…” Feature to open the files in other apps.  You can also go the other direction and open files from other apps into the cloud storage apps.  Several of the cloud storage apps also integrate with my favorite apps.  For example, OneDrive integrates with the Microsoft Office apps.  Dropbox and Google Drive integrate with iAnnotate.  In each case that means that I can open files in my cloud storage directly inside that app.

16. Using a split keyboard

Not sure how useful this is, but it’s a fun time.  By default, your iPad enables a feature to split your keyboard.  If the setting is not turned on you can turn it on in Settings under General.  Select Keyboard and then make sure that the Split Keyboard is turned on:


Now, go to any area where you would type with the keyboard.  For example, open up the Notes app and start typing a note. When the keyboard appears, place your thumbs on the keyboard and then pull them apart.  Voila…split keyboard!


If you want to return it to normal, put your thumbs on it again and push them together. You can also slide it up and down by dragging the Keyboard button at the bottom right of the keyboard.

17. Creating Keyboard Shortcuts

I often get tired of having to type my full email address.  There are also a handful of other phrases or sentences that I type regularly.  You can configure keyboard shortcuts that work just like AutoCorrect that will replace shortcuts with longer text.  For example, I have my iPad configure so that every time I type “eml” it is replaced with my email address.

To setup keyboard shortcuts, open Settings and go to the General tab.  Scroll down and select Keyboard.  Then tap Shortcuts.

To add a new shortcut, tap the plus sign at the top right.  Enter the phrase and the shortcut then click save.


Now, when you are typing somewhere and you enter your shortcut, you’ll see the phrase pop-up.  As soon as you hit space, it will replace the shortcut with the phrase:


18.  Do not use a Screen Cleaner.

Don’t be tempted to pull out the Windex or glasses cleaner when you see all those finger prints all over the iPad screen.


To clean the iPad, unplug all cables and turn off iPad (press and hold the Sleep/Wake button, and then slide the onscreen slider). Use a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth. Avoid getting moisture in openings. Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean the iPad. The iPad has an oleophobic coating on the screen; simply wipe iPad’s screen with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove oil left by your hands. The ability of this coating to repel oil will diminish over time with normal usage, and rubbing the screen with an abrasive material will further diminish its effect and may scratch your screen.


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