IPads in Art & Design getting the best from individual devices

As a school we introduced IPads in lessons in 2014...the year I was on maternity leave, when I returned to work I felt like a dinosaur and there were words and phrases being bandied around that I'd heard before like 'IDoceo, Google Classroom, Book Creator and ITunesU' I'd left to have a baby and came back to a foreign and futuristic land...so I cried (at first)

This was me at my kitchen table trying to upload a set list to IDoceo!

So I had a word with myself, I'm no dinosaur, I must be a futuristic ambassador ready to lead my department into the digital world! So I met with IT, downloaded some apps and started to see how to best incorporate them into my lessons. No mean feat when you've been in baby-land for 9 months and your small person is still waking in the middle of the night. Luckily the rest of my lovely department had a head start and were more than happy to share what had worked well for them.

This was made by @ICTEvangelist...he was happy for me to use it today :)

As an art teacher I have no desire to move away from traditional media but like other ICT I can see the benefit that IPads have and use them everyday of the week for the following main tasks:


Providing the opportunity for individuals to locate and resource their own visuals and inspiration within the lessons provides more open ended opportunities for teaching and learning. For example in Year 8 a pupil can choose and resource images to work from meaning that you as a teacher have less to prepare. For instance in a recent project about food the group chose their theme then individually resourced good images to work from.

Once they hit KS4 and have more control over their own projects research becomes continual and relevant to the time, pupils and teachers can quickly access inspirational artists without the need to find a computer and login etc. I encourage my pupils to have their own Pinterest accounts but to also be careful of 'over-pinning'!

The other thing I have noticed is their willingness and enjoyment to share their own and others' work on social media, the connection that Instagram has created across year groups is really exciting and pupils get inspired by others in their own school. I think it's really fab that they can get an extra sense of pride through this aspect of social media. I've also noticed that Year 12 follow artists and find other creatives on Instagram too!

We also tweet our pupils' work regularly on Twitter and as a department we follow other schools and teacher/techie blogs to keep us current and connected.


Obviously we are all creative folk and most interested in how we can use our IPads to develop and enrich our students' creative experience. Luckily Adobe are also very on-board with this and have created a fantastic suite of practical applications modelled from their industry stalwarts Photoshop and Illustrator, it uses 'cloud' storage so that your work can be accessed from each individual app. Adobe have clearly realised the 'big hook, little hook' concept and are attempting to reel in a generation of youngters who are surgically attached to their devices, always on the search for the best new editing app to raise the aesthetic appeal of their selfies on Instagram. I'm happy to support this strategy as all Adobe apps are ad-free and constantly evolving; they come with full support and regular tutorials.

(pupils have to be 13+ to have an Adobe Creative Cloud account)

We'll have a play with these apps later...

Although Adobe pretty much have all the bases covered there are other very popular free apps that are also really great and again continually add more and more internal features to keep the competition at bay. Brushes is one of my favourites as it automatically records a time-lapse of your drawing! Digital drawing has the added element that nothing is permanent and there is an undo button should something go wrong. I've invested in several sets of cheap stylus' to loan out during lessons and homework but many pupils have them anyway.

examples of pupils' digital art

In the past year or so many of the free apps have added in the 'layers' feature that allows you to effectively trace a photo underneath. The portraits below have been inspired by Francoise Neilly and the pupils have simplay painted on top to explore colour and marks without the fear of of drawing the face first.

made using Brushes, Paper53, Adobe Sketches & Adobe Capture

One of the greatest features of IPads is that all pupils have access to cameras and video recording equipment which then leads to them being able to use a host of editing apps too. No more using or lending the department camera out! These in-built cameras are powerful and getting better all the time. Having digital images available and in front of pupils also helps to reduce printing & copying costs...yay! IPads have revolutionised my KS3 lessons in this sense and I can happily let them wander the grounds doing perspective photographs or take selfies in the classroom to enhance their portraiture drawing. Then if you want to follow it up with a homework they already have their own pictures to work from.

The video feature is fab too, pupils regularly time-lapse their work, sometimes of their own accord, others when we ask them to, for example, a video to show the process of printmaking works brilliantly and the kids love doing it too. I also sent Year 8 out last summer armed with a bunch of random props and their IPads with instructions to


Of course, if you want to set a writing or presentation task IPads can be helpful for that too. This application, Adobe Spark Page, is brilliant and dead easy to use and the best thing is that you can share it electronically as it translates into a web address and all you need to do is embed the code. Greg Hodgson first introduced us to this and it has received many positive responses from pupils' who have used it.

For the more traditional slideshow approach Google have a Slides App that is very easy and lots of people like to use apps such as Canva and PicCollage.

Some Year 7 Evaluations using PicCollage.

We should also be thinking about what and how we present to pupils too, if they see a well presented, good looking lesson opener they'll be inclined to try it too! It's very rare for me to physically print our homework sheets or instructions anymore as I post everything on Google Classroom and then there's no excuse for confusion. This also means that pupils absent from the lesson can access anything they need to from home.

Pros and Cons

Hopefully you can see all the many ways that IPads can add to and enrich your pupils' experience and confidence in Art and Design lessons. In a mo we'll get some apps downloaded and you can start to play with them and chat about how to best incorporate ideas into your own SOW. But I'd like to linger on the potential pitfalls and drawbacks that as a department we are still grappling with...

  • Storing and delivering work. I'm still trying to work out the best way to get work in to mark as I'd prefer to not always be printing. Email is ok but annoying to manage, Google classroom also has drawbacks as it's a shared vle, the same with Moodle. So if anyone has any good suggestions we are all ears?
  • Forgotten IPads, broken IPads, uncharged IPads, lost IPads etc all can cause problems if you've planned a lesson around the digital technology you're relying on. Best bet is to give the kids lots of warning and ensure they are expecting to use their IPads. The school will probably have a sanction policy but thats not helpful when you have a pupil with no IPad :(
  • Lack of confidence in the technology, as the poster at the start said 'remind that not knowing is OK' feel comfortable in going on the journey together with your students and accept its a good thing to learn with them and not always be the expert!
  • Remembering that tech can offer a great alternative is sometimes a challenge as it might mean changing SOW and preparing new resources to an otherwise perfectly good project and this will take extra time and effort.


Created with images by FirmBee - "ipad mockup apple" • jayceeloop - "Dinosaur!" • PublicDomainPictures - "baby child cute" • Sean MacEntee - "ipad" • Wonder woman0731 - "School Crying Woman Web image" • Sean MacEntee - "google logo" • Julian Stallabrass - "Tate 007-sm" • Zenspa1 - "instagram-logo-transparent-png-i9" • paz.ca - "Larry si è tagliato i capelli e guarda in alto: vi piace?"

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