How to get the most out of your iPad in the classroom

In the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak, schools across the country have embraced digital learning, with students and teachers using laptops and tablets as entry points into the classroom.

Laptops have long been a must-have back-to-school item for college students who are leaving home for the first time, but tablets, such as Apple’s iPad or Microsoft’s Surface, are also excellent classroom companions.

With increased support for mouse and keyboard devices, the iPad has become a more capable portable workstation, and the gap between macOS programs and what’s available in the App Store is narrowing.

Although laptops and netbooks still outperform the iPad in terms of multitasking and overall utility as work tools, the iPad’s top-notch display, touch controls, simple software, two high-quality webcams, and access to Apple’s lauded app ecosystem give it a distinct advantage.

The lowest MacBook costs $999, and the cheapest iPad is $329. Using your iPad for class is a more cost-effective method to operate within Apple’s software ecosystem, which Android tablets currently lack.

Although Android tablets provide options for setting up a workstation, it’s definitely better to use a Chromebook for education than an Android tablet. Chromebooks, which start at about $200, are compatible with many of the same Android apps as tablets and provide more constant working value than tablets.

It doesn’t take much to make your iPad into a decent workstation, whether you’re wanting to offer your iPad to a child for school or simply don’t want to buy and manage another device alongside your tablet. But first, whatever of the additional gear you purchase, it’s vital to lay out the iPad’s innate merits and limitations.


  • Unlike a laptop or Chromebook, this device is more portable and accessible.
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Mobile internet connection possibilities include 5G and 4G LTE.
  • Workflow may be streamlined using easy-to-install apps, and work can be readily shared between macOS computers.


  • Some common USB devices are incompatible.
  • Using many apps while multitasking is more harder than using a computer.
  • External display support is less than ideal.
  • Extra internal storage space costs more than a laptop, and it can’t be upgraded after purchase.

For school and education, the basic iPad is the ideal option.

Simply because Apple’s tablets are more expensive than a basic PC, I wouldn’t recommend getting a new iPad instead of a laptop or Chromebook for school. Schools, on the other hand, have been incorporating Apple’s iPad system into their curriculum at an increasing rate for years, with various success, so I have some ideas for how to make the best of its three incarnations.

Because of its quick processing, simple software, and built-in webcams, the cheapest iPad ($329) has a lot of promise and is most widely utilized in classrooms. The iPad Air has a little larger screen and a smaller form factor, but none of the Air’s capabilities are worth the extra $270 if you expect to use your iPad for business.

Although the iPad Pro’s USB-C connector and Magic Keyboard support are enticing features for a business setting, the ultimate cost is virtually the same as Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro ($1,299) once peripherals are added.

Read more: Apple’s new iPad Pro has all the makings of a wonderful computer, but it’s not yet ready to take the place of my laptop.

Additional iPad storage space can quickly raise the price of the tablet, so you might be better suited investing that money in extra iCloud storage or a USB dongle to connect thumb drives or other USB devices.

Options for the keyboard

If you’re going to use your iPad to write essays or other projects, you’ll want to get a good keyboard. While you can get a Bluetooth keyboard for as little as $15, you’ll want to get something with a solid enough build quality to withstand a lot of travel.

If you plan to use your iPad primarily as a workstation, keyboard cases are another choice, but they might become inconvenient if you use it as a casual reading device or video display frequently. Remember that only newer iPads can use a magnetic connection to connect directly to Smart Keyboard and Magic Keyboard cases, so make sure yours is one of them.

The “Full Keyboard Control” option in iPadOS makes it easier to browse between apps without using the touchscreen or a mouse. The iPad, like macOS, has its own set of unique shortcuts to make keyboard control as simple as possible; Apple’s website includes a short list.

You may use our complete Bluetooth keyboard buying guide to discover one that meets your demands and suits your budget. I prefer the Logitech Craft since it includes a full number pad, FN media keys, and the ability to save up to three Bluetooth settings. This means you can use the Craft with a variety of devices without having to put the keyboard in pairing mode all of the time. If you want to travel with your keyboard, a more portable option like the Arteck HB030B Universal may be preferable.

Options for the mouse

A Bluetooth mouse or a USB to Lightning dongle can be used to attach a mouse to your iPad. Instead of the usual Mac mouse arrow, the iPad cursor displays a circular touch zone on the screen. The mouse should work without any configuration, although there are a few options for controlling the scrolling speed and buttons. You can still use your mouse and touch controls interchangeably.

Any mouse would suffice, but I prefer the Logitech Triathlon because of its ability to instantly switch Bluetooth settings for usage with multiple devices; the MX Master is a rechargeable Logitech mouse that costs a little more. More mouse recommendations can be found in our buying guide.

Apple Pencil (Apple Pencil)

The Apple Pencil, a digital stylus that may be used to sketch, edit, and take notes within iPadOS apps, is supported by iPadOS. The Apple Pencil is a versatile tool for artists and useful for general productivity, but it won’t add much to your workflow during class or when writing school reports, essays, and emails on your iPad.

The Apple Pencil is only compatible with recent iPad models, so check to see whether yours is one of them before purchasing one.

Using a separate monitor

To connect your iPad to an external monitor, you can use an Apple Lightning to Digital AV Adapter ($49) or AirPlay. However, because the iPad can only mirror its own screen, you won’t be able to enlarge your iPad workplace with a second monitor. This also means that, even when using an HDMI cable, your iPad will not automatically fill displays with a 16:9 ratio.

If you have an extra monitor, setting up an external display is a good idea, but buying a new screen particularly for use with your iPad isn’t a good idea. If you currently own a MacBook, Apple launched a new function called Sidecar in 2019 that allows you to utilize your iPad as a wireless second screen.

Although several popular programs have been modified for iPad, compatibility is still an issue.

The iPad is well equipped for most jobs, with mouse and keyboard support, a built-in webcam, a special version of Safari, and a plethora of other capabilities, but your success using the tablet for school may be determined by the websites and programs your school employs, and if the iPad is compatible.

The future iPadOS 15 upgrade will enhance multitasking capabilities, allowing users to organize their home screen as a workstation and split the display between multiple apps. Although Google’s G Suite, Adobe Photoshop, and a slew of other regularly used computer programs have been optimized for iPad, not every school is equipped with the most up-to-date technology.

If you’re intending to give your child an iPad for school, double-check the device’s parental control settings to make sure only age-appropriate apps are available, as well as the iPad’s compatibility with your student’s school’s systems and rules.

Screen Time, Apple’s time management app, can also monitor and limit time spent on certain iPad apps, making it a helpful tool for both youngsters and adults.

Last but not least

Apple’s iPad doesn’t offer many advantages over the large range of laptops and Chromebooks available as a school workstation. However, with the correct add-ons, the iPad may easily replace a laptop in the classroom while still providing all of Apple’s famous software ecosystem and high-quality hardware.

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