Guest author: Katherine Miller

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5 tips for managing one to one ipads

In my first 12 years of teaching, the access to technology in my music room has been slowly increasing. Many times it was far behind the access other teachers in the school and district because school leaders questioned how technology would be used in music.  

I was thrilled to be hired by a district in Waukesha, WI, USA that supplied 1:1 devices to students so I could start exploring and meet the challenge of figuring out how technology could enhance and better an elementary music program.

Here are 5 tips for managing 1:1 devices in the music room:

1. Expectations for iPad Use

Make sure that students are explicitly taught the expectations for using technology in your classroom as you would with any other classroom expectations. One way to do this is by using the Responsive Classroom strategy of creating a Y-chart to have students generate ideas about what using iPads in the music room will look, sound and feel like.  Make sure to refer to your school’s technology plan to reinforce any school community and digital citizenship agreements that are expected of students.

Managing 1_1 iPads Photo_Y Chart

Once expectations are established, model and practice these expectations before starting a project including what will happen if a student chooses to not follow them.

2. Develop routines

Developing consistent routines when using student iPads is important. Make sure you have thought through what routines students will need to know when their iPad comes into your classroom. Will students bring their iPad every day? Where will they put their iPad once it is in your room? How will you get their attention once they have their device out?

 Managing 1_1 iPads_ Use 2

In my classroom, I let classroom teachers know through email if students will be needing their device for music on any given day. Students have modeled and practiced putting their devices directly into a set of mailboxes when they enter the room before participating in any warm up activities. We do this every time they have their device.

Our school also utilizes a common phrase, “apples up”, when students have their iPad out but the teacher wants their eyes and attention focused on them. This is a clear message that their iPad needs to be upside down with the Apple logo facing up. Developing routines can be even more valuable if they are adopted and supported throughout the entire school building.   This provides clarity and consistently as students travel from classroom to classroom.

3. Communicate the purpose of using student devices

Be explicit when instructing students about their purpose for utilizing technology. Include clear objectives about what a student should do or know at the completion of their work. Also include what apps or locations they will need to access on their device and clearly communicate that to students. For example, saying “You should only be working Book Creator today. You do not need to access your camera roll but instead can use the plus button to grab the pictures you need” or “What apps might you need to use in order to complete your work? What apps won’t you need?”

4. Apple Classroom

As we all know, even the best laid plans don’t always go perfect! Apple Classroom is an app that allows you to hold students accountable to the expectations, routines and objectives of your lesson using their iPad. Apple states, “Classroom turns your iPad into a powerful teaching assistant, helping a teacher guide students through a lesson, see their progress, and keep them on track. With Classroom, you can easily launch the same app on every student device at the same time or launch a different app for each group of students. Classroom helps teachers focus on teaching so students can focus on learning.”

In my classroom, I project my Apple Classroom screen onto the board. Students know that as a classroom community we are holding each other to the agreements that were made in regards to using technology as a learning tool. This also allows me, as the teacher, to focus less on “policing” technology expectations and focus instead on how I can help guide and challenge them to go further in their thinking in the product they are creating on their technology.

I also love Apple Classroom as a teaching tool. As the teacher in Apple Classroom, I can choose one student’s work to display to the class to help to encourage deeper thinking or challenge common misconceptions I am seeing in student work. My students love to see their work projected!

5. Creativity

I love that students have a natural curiosity about the world but when using their own device this can sometimes lead to being off task. In order to focus this natural need,  I try to include as many choices in what students are doing as I can.

If students are recording, is it possible to do one “nice” recording that you can use to assess in tune singing and then create one where students can utilize the “fun” options in the GarageBand recorder?

Can students demonstrate their learning by drawing, writing or performing into a specific app? Could you make a few choices for them – like WHAT needs to be included in their work – but allow students design HOW they will be included (such as arranging in NoteFlight)?


Allowing for creativity can also take your original objectives to a whole different level! I find students often discover or use technology in a way that I had never thought of to create things I didn’t even know were possible!

About the Author

Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 14 years of professional musical experience as a music educator and performer.

She is currently employed by the School District of Waukesha in Waukesha, WI where she teaches K-5 General Music and serves as a district model tech classroom.

You can connect with Katherine Miller on Twitter: @K8TMiller