The 6 Apps You Need for Teaching with the iPad Pro

Interested in teaching with an iPad Pro? Wondering what iPad Pro apps you’ll need? In this post, I review the 6 apps for teaching with the iPad Pro you’ll want to use regularly to deliver presentations, create and annotate documents, and use the iPad Pro as a mobile whiteboard in your classroom.

 Bonus: Check out my post on the hardware you’ll need to use the iPad Pro in your classroom.

The Bare Minimum: iPad Pro Apps for Teaching Synchronous Classes, Course Materials, and Communicating with Students

  1. A cloud storage app: Because mobile devices lack (for all intents and purposes) an internal file storage system, teaching with an iPad Pro means that everything starts and ends with a cloud storage system. In addition to being a standalone iPad Pro app, you will link your cloud storage app with other apps (such as Powerpoint, Word, etc.) to access all the relevant filetypes within the app itself. Which cloud storage iPad Pro app you choose will depend on a variety of factors, including: what you’re already familiar with, what (if any) cloud storage system your university uses, and what cloud storage system easily integrates with your university’s Learning Management System (e.g. Blackboard).

    If you don’t already have a cloud storage app, or are looking for a new one, I highly recommend Dropbox because it seamlessly integrates with mobile apps, syncs across all my devices, easily allows you to create shared course folders, and has enough free storage (2.5 Gb) for all my teaching needs.

    Dropbox app

    Other options: I also use Google Drive to store larger files (like feature-length films) because my school subscribes to Google Apps for Education, which comes with a free, unlimited Google Drive (normally, Google Drive is limited to 15 Gb). Other options include OneDrive (which, if your school subscribes to Office 365, comes with 1Tb of free storage!) and Box (10Gb free). Remember, though, that you should, whenever possible, keep your files in a cloud storage platform that is tied to you and not your institution. That way, if you ever change institutions, or if your institution changes providers, you will not have to worry about migrating (or potentially losing!) all of your files.
  2. A presentation app: One of the best functionalities of teaching with the iPad Pro is that you can use it as a mobile whiteboard or projector screen in your classroom. But, you will need an iPad Pro app to show your presentations.

    I recommend PowerPoint because of its ease of editing and because it is the only presentation app to take advantage of the iPad Pro’s Apple Pencil. No other app allows you to annotate your slides with the Apple Pencil and advance your slides with your finger. It is free if your university subscribes to Office 365.

    Powerpoint App

    Other options: Google Slides, Haiku Deck, PDF Expert ($10), Canva.
  3. A whiteboard app: When teaching with the iPad Pro, you might want to be able to it like a blank whiteboard and the Apple Pencil like a piece of chalk/dry erase marker. If you typically find yourself using up a lot of boards during a class session, and wishing you could save and share those boards after class, then you should try out some of these iPad Pro apps. Note that I have not yet settled on my own preference–none of them has all of the functionalities I would like to see.
    Options, in my current order of preference: Evernote (which has free and paid versions), Paper (free), Word (free with school subscription)–you must create blank documents), PowerPoint (free with school subscription)–you must create blank slides, and Apple’s built-in Notes app (free).
  4. A word processing app: If you are teaching with the iPad Pro you will also want to be able to create and share course documents. For that, you will need a word processing iPad Pro app, preferably one that easily creates files in standard formats.

    I prefer Microsoft Word for its ease of use, standard filetype for my campus (we subscribe to Office 365 so all students receive a free copy of Word), and its formatting capabilities.

    word app logo ipad pro

    Other options: Google Docs (free). Pros: automatically syncs changes across all devices; cons: requires you to edit documents in Google Docs from desktops and laptops; does not take advantage of Apple Pencil. Scrivener ($10). This is my go-to for scholarly writing, but I think it is actually overkill for course document creation because it involves too many steps to save the document/writing you create as a standard filetype.
  5. A web browser: To be able to upload documents to course websites, you need a web browser. (Note: The Blackboard app is so limited that it is not worth downloading, even if your school uses Blackboard). This is really personal preference; I tend to use Safari, which comes on the iPad Pro. Well-known alternatives include Firefox and Chrome. I am not an expert on web browsers, so see this comprehensive article comparing the features of 10 free web browsers if you are interested in additional alternatives, and in-depth feature comparisons.
  6. An email app: To communicate with students, you will need an email app. Because I have set up the back end of my university and personal email accounts (through Gmail) with multiple folders and filtering rules, I prefer the default iPad Pro app, Mail. If you struggle to get a handle on your Inboxes, though, check out some of the alternative email apps.

2 Additional Apps That Make Teaching with an iPad Pro more Useful

  1. An app to annotate assignments: The iPad Pro is the first tablet I’ve owned that truly makes annotating documents a joy. Regular iPads cannot differentiate between a stylus and your hand, which means that you cannot rest your hand naturally on the screen when annotating. Consequently, you must hit several buttons to switch between “annotating” and flipping pages modes. The iPad Pro uses bluetooth to identify where the Apple Pencil is, meaning that you can just write with the pencil to annotate and swipe with your finger to flip pages. What is more, now that I can rest my hand and arm fully on the tablet, my handwriting is as legible on the iPad Pro as it is when I write by hand.  This combination makes the iPad Pro, for me, the first tablet I can use to grade.

    I prefer PDF Expert ($10) for its annotation capabilities, in-app document organization (create folders), and ability to combine multiple PDFs into one.

    pdf expert app logo ipad pro

    Other options: iAnnotate 4 ($10). It is comparable to PDF Expert, but I like PDF Expert’s interface better. It has the ability to add sound recordings to files (if you want to give students oral feedback), but lacks the ability to combine PDFs. Word (free with university subscription): if your students are submitting Word documents to begin with, and you will primarily be handwriting comments, then Word might be all you need. If you plan to add extensive comments and highlight/underline/strike through portions of text, though, then you should go with PDF Expert.
  2. A calendar app: If you use the iPad Pro as your primary computer when on campus, you will also want to keep track of your appointments and add other commitments to your calendar that syncs across all your devices.

    I prefer Google Calendar (free) because it allows me to sync more easily with non-iOS users, in my experience, than the built-in Calendar app.

    google calendar app ipad pro

    Other options: Calendar (free). I am not a calendar app expert, either: I have found what works for me, and stuck with it. Check out this comprehensive article if you are looking for other calendar app options with advanced functionalities.

There you have it! All the apps you need to get started teaching with the iPad Pro! Have additional app suggestions? Leave a comment below or email me!

6 Replies to “The 6 Apps You Need for Teaching with the iPad Pro”

  1. Dear Katelyn, thank you for your informative and useful commentary on using an Ipad Pro in an academic setting. I have previously had a laptop and Ipad Air but can see the utility of the Ipad Pro, particularly for mark up and student interaction.

    I have two quick queries. Have you written longer papers ie 3,000 words plus using the Smart Keyboard, and if so, how did you find the experience? Secondly, whilst I can see that annotating pdf and word documents is fine, how is the experience with E-books? And is there any mechanism to extract your comments on a pdf or e-book to a spreadsheet or other document sso that you can collate your thoughts?

    Many thanks

    Nick (Faculty Staff at Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies Australia)

    1. Hi Nick,
      Thanks for the questions! This is what I’d say. If there is anything difficult about writing longer papers on the iPad Pro, it’s not the keyboard. Any main source of frustration comes from the fact that, at this time, appsare simply not as robust as their full-fledged programcounterparts. So, for instance, the Word appdoes not allow you to add and format footnotes in as many ways as the Word programdoes. Also, if you, like I do, tend to write with your laptop on your lap, or balanced on a leg (rather than a table or sturdy surface), you should research more robust keyboard/case alternatives to the smart keyboard. I sometimes find the iPad Pro + Smart Keyboard “wobbly” when balanced on one leg, and am frustrated that it tends to “fall forward” if I try to put my feet up and balance the iPad Pro on my legs. Since I went with the Smart Keyboard initially, I didn’t research alternative keyboard cases, but can do some research and get back to you. Or, if you find one, let me know! E-books are tricky, depending on how they are available. If they are in PDF format, I hands-down recommend PDF Expert, which allows you to export only your annotations. Basically, it will convert all the text you highlight, underline, or strikethrough to plain text and pop it into an email for you. It does not, however, transcribe any of your handwritten annotations. I’ll be doing a more in-depth video review soon to illustrate how that works. The scholarly eBook reader I’m most familiar with (aside from Kindle) is the EBSCO eBook app, which I believe allows you to bookmark things but not highlight. The best success I had was exporting the maximum number of pages allowed to a PDF (through my school’s library different books have different page limits), and annotating them with PDF Expert. Let me know if this helps!

  2. Hi Katelyn, thanks for your prompt reply and insights!

    The Apps issue is certainly challenging, and having tried Word, I acknowledge the challenges of trying to easily add footnotes – doable but fiddly. The keyboard issue is also slightly problematic too but I have tried to discipline myself to avoid lap work..easier said then done..If i find a good keyboard, i will certainly let you know.

    Thanks also re the pdf notation. PDF expert is fantastic. I will try with EBSCO but I tried with Odin/Overdrive and they didnt work. I guess I was looking for an easy method to extract my thoughts to a spreadsheet (I shamelessly plagiarised your spreedsheet template for research gathering, as it seems a great way to aggregate your thinking/summaries).

    I now find myself stuck between to challenges – a laptop which is great for multitasking and provides fully functionality of apps, but wont let me easily annotate pdfs and the Ipad which lets me easily annotate pdf documents but has limited app functionality (and the lap issue)..I havent tried a digital stylus pen on my Macbook trackpad though, but imagine it will be clunky.

    Maybe Apple will improve the Macbook track pad and give improved pen functionality but that said, reading long documents on a laptop is not as pleasant as on the ipad and far more cumbersome to mark up. The other issue I have with keyboard covers, the firmer and more bulky they become, the more I think, why not just stick with a laptop.

    Anyway, if I have any luck finding new ways forward, I will let you know.

    Finally, I think tablets are the way forward. You may enjoy the article in the link below. It was written by an ex Microsoft senior employee, who is a strong supporter of tablets, and who suggests people just need to shift their mindset and adapt re using technology, just as we had to adjust to using mices for computers 20 years ago.

    Thanks again for your time and great post. I look forward to watching your forthcoming video review.



  3. Thanks very much for this post. I use whiteboards extensively in my teaching but some classrooms at my university have replaced whiteboards (or significantly reduced their number) with a projector and screen. A laptop computer and projector doesn’t adequately substitute for the simple yet effective whiteboard, so I continue to explore how an iPad can make this happen. I really appreciate your advice, especially the options and your preferences to help me more thoughtfully weigh the alternatives.

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