Useful iOS 6 features for teachers (iPad specific)

[Updated: March, 2013]

With every new iOS release, Apple is building in more and more under the hood.  You are probably aware of many of these features but, in any case, here is a brief roundup of some that teachers whom I work with have found very useful, especially in a one-iPad classroom.  The features outlined below are all available in iOS6 on the iPad (and, yes, some features discussed below were available in iOS5 and/or iOS4).

Finger gesturing

You probably know these already.  Swiping four fingers simultaneously upward reveals the multitasking bar at the bottom.  In reality, this is more of a recently used apps bar as most apps stop running when you push the home key.  Nevertheless, this makes it easier to quickly start the app back up again so you can continue with whatever you were doing.  Swiping four fingers simultaneously left or right changes the screen to the different apps that you have started recently (as shown in the multitasking bar).   This works something like Alt+Tab in Windows or Cmd+Tab on a Mac.  If you turn on Zoom (Settings → General → Accessibility → Zoom) then you can use a three-finger double tap to zoom in and zoom out.  Also, while zoomed in, use three fingers to pan around the screen.

More on gestures here:

Changing keyboards

Adding keyboards in different languages is easy (Settings → General → Keyboard → Keyboards  → Add New Keyboard…) and there is also an emoticon keyboard included called “Emoji.”  Once you install more than one keyboard, a new key is added to the left of the space bar so you can select them.  Remember, too, that pressing and holding various keys on the keyboard (e.g., vowels) will reveal several variations of that letter in the keyboard you have chosen (e.g., o, ö, ó, etc).  Finally, you can also undock the keyboard or split it into two pieces on the left and right (for typing with your thumbs).

More iPad keyboard settings here

Text SelectionsSpeak & Define

To select text, push and hold your finger on a word.  When the magnifying glass appears, release. Then, choose Select.  After the text is highlighted in blue, you will see more options for what you can do with the selected text.  The small blue dots on the top and bottom of the boundary lines allow you to select more than one word; re-position those with your finger to select more.  If you do not see “Speak” listed, then you need to go into the settings and turn it on (Settings → General → Accessibility → Speak Selection).  Changing the keyboard (see above) not only changes the keys so that you can type in that language, but it also changes the voice that will speak the text.  If you have multiple keyboards added, you can choose available languages.

You might have also noticed that when a single word is selected, you will see a “Define” option.  This can be used to define a word in any app that you are running using the built-in dictionary.  Additionally, if you have changed the keyboard to another language and selected a word, you can retrieve a definition from a dictionary in the other language!

More on iPad text to speech here:

“Reader” mode in Safari

You will have most likely noticed that on some web pages in Safari, the word “Reader” appears in a little grey box beside the web site address. Touching the word “Reader” reformats the web page to look more like a printed page than a web page.  Text size can be increased or decreased by touching the text-size control in the upper left of the Reader window (the AΑ you see in grey).  And, as always, you can use the select text and “Speak” option to read the text.

More on Safari Reader mode:

Offline “Reading List” in Safari

Reading ListThis new iOS6 feature allows you to browse to web pages while connected to the Internet and then save the web page in its entirety on the iPad device so that it can be viewed later when no longer connected.  This is handy for schools or classrooms where wifi is not facility wide.  For example, a student can go to the Library (assuming the wifi access point is located there), connect to the Internet, and save some web pages in the Reading List so they can be read in detail back in the classroom where no wifi is available.  This is also handy for field trips: a field guide can be downloaded and saved in the Reading List for use during the field trip.
Saving a web page to the “Reading List” is as simple as browsing to the page, then clicking on the Safari share icon: shareicon A menu with choices will appear; choose “Add to Reading list.”  The web page will then be fully downloaded, saved, and made accessible from the Reading List icon (reading glasses) in the Bookmarks menu.

More on Offline Reading List in Safari


To turn on restrictions, go to Settings → General → Restrictions → Enable Restrictions.  You will be asked for a 4-digit passcode.  This is so that once restrictions are set, the user(s) you set them for cannot remove them without knowing the passcode.  Once entered, you can now control access to various apps, control content, turn on/off in-app purchases, and most importantly, disallow the installation and deletion of apps. Use of this feature is a non-negotiable in most classrooms where iPads are used.

More on restrictions here:

Guided Access

To turn on Guided Access, go to Settings → General → Accessibility → Guided Access and turn it on. Very handy in one-iPad classrooms, this feature allows the teacher to set up one running app for a student to use so that they cannot exit or switch apps.  Additionally, if there is a button in the app that you wish to be disabled (e.g., a “feedback” button that starts up the mail app), you can mark out a dead zone on the screen where touching the screen will have no effect.  Be careful with setting dead zones – if the app has several screens, the dead zones stay constant and do not change when the screen changes.  (Warning: There is also a bug that sometimes keeps you stuck in guided access to the point of having to reboot the iPad.  Workaround here:

More on Guided Access here:
and here:

Further Reading:

3 Comments on “Useful iOS 6 features for teachers (iPad specific)

  1. Jim,Thank you for linking to my article on Guided Access. Its great how a simple feature like his will help a lot of people. And btw thanks also for teaching me something new on text selections. Cheers Michael

    • Happy to link! There are so many great resources (specifically blogs) on the web; I think readers of a post like this appreciate other voices, opinions and details so that they can get the information they need.

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