Using Your Tablet in the Classroom: An App Summary

We just recently gave a talk about using tablets in the classroom for a Lunch and Learn session here at Princeton. The focus was to address how an instructor can not only use their tablet device for their personal life, but cross over and use the same device in the classroom to teach.

Tablets are becoming more and more popular with instructors and they are opting for them instead of carrying a laptop around. Once instructors get use to using the iPad or any tablet device for their daily personal tasks, it only makes sense that instructors would want to start venturing into use the tablet device for lecture and course work. Worldwide media tablet sales to end users are forecast to total 118.9 million units in 2012, a 98 percent increase from 2011 sales of 60 million units, according to Gartner, Inc. Tablet use in the classroom also goes in the vein of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement which we have been seeing for years with students and instructors bringing their own laptops to class.

Below we have a summary of apps we tested (mostly iPad but a few can be found in the Google Play Store). We have also categorized them by topic. They are listed below:

Presenting Slideshows in class:


  • Can display Keynote files
  • Can not mark up the slideshow or edit it
  • Can sync your presentations with iCloud
  • Slideshow animations are retained and play

Google Drive:

  • Can display SlideShow from Google Docs
  • can not edit the Slideshow or create a new one
  • Can only show speaker notes, can not mark up the slides
  • Slideshow animations are retained and play


  • Upload Powerpoint files to web service called Slideshark
  • Project slides to class
  • Can import from cloud based storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive
  • Can use your iPhone as a remote when presenting slides
  • Has a pointer feature that if you hold down your finger on the iPad it will generate a fake pointer mark and follow your finger.
  • Does pick up on animations you programed into your slideshow


  • Allows for you to connect to your desktop running the Doceri desktop app and to view and interact with your desktop through the iPad.
  • People use this feature to run slideshow off their desktop computer or to pull media files and display them on their iPad without having to buy other apps
  • This app has a robust presentation feature that allows for you to annotate your slideshow and to record audio and records animations when you annotate the slides


  • Create Word, Powerpoint, and Excel docs on iPad (same layout as Office 2007+)
  • Can not convert to PDF(it has become a hot suggested feature for this app)
  • Can email the file or email a link to the file.
  • Files automatically save into one of the cloud server spaces you can connected to with CloudOn (I saved in DropBox)
  • Keeps animations that you created in PowerPoint
  • Can mark up the slides using the PowerPoint pencil tool.

Explain Everything:

  • Can annotate RTF, PDF, PPT, PNG, JPG, DOC (not wav or html files) Pages, Numbers Keynote files
  • Can import from Dropbox, Evernote,, WebDAV, Email, iPad photo roll and the iPad camera
  • Can add slides and rearrange slides
  • Can add shapes
  • Can record audio and screen and export as an .mp4 file (file can get large depending on length of recording)
  • Can export to YouTube, Photo Roll, E-mail, Dropbox,, WebDav.

Freehand markup of PDFs:

PDF Reader:

  • Highlighting of text in PDF
  • Can Convert to PDF from other files
  • Can add notes to PDFs
  • Can add shapes and draw on file
  • Can import files from web browser (this feature is buggy, make sure you have a direct link to the file (PDF) or else it will capture the website instead-better in GoodReader)
  • Can email the file and open it in other apps (like DropBox) on iPad


  • Highlight text of PDF
  • Can add notes to PDFs
  • Draw shapes and underline and draw on file
  • Can not convert other files into PDF (need another app)
  • Can open many files types including audio files
  • Can download PDFs and files from the web ( a little tricky)
  • Can create text file for note taking
  • Can email the file.


  • Can search 8 different academic search engines (including JSTOR and PubMed)
  • Can import files from DropBox account
  • Will only accept PDF files from DropBox. Will need to convert files in another app if you want to import from DropBox. When searching in the academic peer reviewed journals, the format is already PDF
  • Can create collections so you can sort and organize PDFs
  • Can search by authors
  • Can email the attached PDF to others
  • Can highlight PDFs
  • Can add notes to PDFs
  • Can share with another use of Papers that on the same network as you (not tested)
  • Can export the PDF to another app on iPad (like DropBox)

Store and Share Lecture Materials:

All the apps in this list work with Dropbox. PDF Reader, GoodReader, Slideshark, Explain Everything, and CloudOn link to Google Drive does not link to Explain Everything and Papers. PDF Reader, GoodReader, Explain Everything, and PDF Expert work with a WebDav connection.

Play Flash Video and Animations on my iPad:

Puffin Web Browser:

  • Plays flash animations and videos in the browser (that Safari can’t play)
  • Safari can play YouTube videos but not videos on sites like Hulu (Puffin can)
  • This browser doesn’t work for flash videos inside Blackboard Course


  • We are exploring using Kaltura to convert flash video (in your Blackboard Courses) so it can play on the iPad.

*Google Drive, Puffin Web Browser, CouldOn, and SlideShark work on Android.