iPads in schools are a controversial topic, and rightly so. There is enormous potential for tailoring and enhancing learning especially for SEN students but there is also potential for distractions and exposing kids to too much 'hyper', input.
I visit different schools working with classes every week and have seen iPads used in a wide variety of ways. There is some real innovation but teachers have so little time to explore the medium that sometimes its a missed opportunity.
Do, use high quality apps (e.g. Explain everything, Stop Motion Studio) to help kids to create and record projects.
Do tap into the child's interests if they have them, e.g. teach geography by mapping out the school using minecraft. Or have the programming app Hopscotch as a reward app for independent learning time (golden time).
For SEN, when appropriate teach kids who struggle with writing to speak clearly to Siri to research a topic.
For SEN, Do teach use of dragon dictation alongside teaching writing and typing.
Do, use high quality visual educational games that adapt to the child's ability and are entertaining enough to motivate.
Its Ok to use the iPad as part of a reward system so long as the games are high educational/ creative quality.
Some additional things to consider (especially SEN kids), with tech in the mainstream classroom.
1:3 mainstream classrooms support a child on the Autistic Sprctrum and the use varies widely. One of the reasons we set up MBE was to create visual, motivating, learning resources that would be accessible for children with Special Educational Needs. When I see iPads being used inappropriately in the classroom it does break my heart just a lttle.
1. iPads are NOT ideal for a sensory break. iPads are a rich sensory experience and a good distraction and reward at times but do distinguish between Adrenalin games and other. Games get a bad rep. Its not just fighting games, there are a LOT of chase games out there (anything with rush or run at the end of the title), these games are designed to trigger fight or flight response which impedes learning. Your SEN child will not learn from this experience and it is likely to raise their anxiety levels.
2. Technology can be very distracting, for many spectrum kids technology is one of the few things that they can access without a battle. It's also the most interesting thing in the room, which for a child with single channel attention means that they are unlikely to be able to focus on anything other than that iPad on the table.
If they are not in use it is best that iPads are out of site. Also a child may focus better if they have a visual timetable which shows exactly when their turn is so that they can relax that it will happen, but just later.
3. Are you using your iPad mostly as a reward system? I am seeing this FAR too much especially with SEN. iPads and SEN are a great match, but not if its to babysit rater than educate. If you have temple run, subway surfers or any other non educational app on your iPads then give yourself a hard stare! There are plenty of 'reward', fun games out there that have REAL educational/ creative value. No to temple run at golden time, YES to Monument Valley at golden time!
3. Spectrum kids have their passions and interests just like everyone else, their interests can be much more intense but also much more motivation for the child. Technology gives these children access to their special interest topics and working with this may give them the skills which one day will allow them a more independent future. The technology is there for them and we as educators need to ensure they have a rich diet and learn to manage their use of technology to give themselves a brighter future.