Being One With the Sword: Secrets to Using a Single iPad to Flip Your Classroom

By Derek May on November 28, 2012   /     /   2 Comments

Samurai swords come in all different shapes, sizes, styles, and weights.  The design has evolved over time, but the passion and honor that accompanies a true samurai word will never fade.  Being able to use the tools of the trade and mastering the true meaning of being a samurai involves the acceptance and appreciation of the sword in the samurai’s hand.  Without the faith of the tool in his hand, the samurai is at an extreme disadvantage entering conflict.

Isao Machii has set Guinness Book of World Records with his ability to epitomize the concept of “being one with the sword”.  His ability to understand what his sword is doing mid-flight cannot be matched.  In the video above, researchers attempt to propose a task that is unfathomable by the most experienced samurais, yet Isao Machii perseveres, trusts his sword, and prevails.

In my own little world, I like to think that I am the Isao Machii of room 205.  I’ve struck a moving bullet with a sword.  Reality check - I’ve never even really laid hands on a sword.  The connection that Isao and I have is that my iPad is my sword.  Without this tool, I would still be a samurai of sorts.  However, with this tool, I am more than just a teacher.  With this tool, I am able to do things that I never thought were possible.  With this tool, my entire classroom has changed for the better.

The introduction of the iPad into my daily lessons has certainly evolved my classroom, but the passion and honor that comes with being a teacher will never fade.  Being able to use the tools of the trade and mastering the true meaning of being a 21st century educator involves the acceptance and appreciation of the technology that is available.  Without the faith of the technology in my possession, I would be at an extreme disadvantage entering the classroom.

Have there been pitfalls?  Absolutely.  For the longest time, having a single iPad for my classroom was more of a curse than a blessing.  It felt like being fed a dinner roll as your entire meal from a robust spread on Thanksgiving Day.  Teachers all around me were getting cart after cart of 20+ iPads, iPod Touches, and other technology that would’ve been so nice to have my students use!  Instead, I was stuck with the burden of making a 1 iPad classroom into a success.

This was when my inner Isao Machii came out.  Using Twitter, websites, blogs, and other tools to build my database, the iPad and I began to become one with each other.  It was no longer about looking at the greener pastures.  Instead, it was channeling my energy and focus into this incredible tool that had been passed on to me as a way to enhance my classroom instruction.  From then on, it was a process that utilized a number of apps and Web2.0 tools to:

·      Research best practices for integrating apps into my lessons

·      Create videos that supplement my classroom instruction

·      Connect with parents about upcoming events

·      Connect with students about, well, everything

·      Present dynamic lessons with full technology integration

·      Have students create authentic and rich content to prove mastery

·      Share the results of a quality product


Being a great samurai has so little to do with the quality of the sword and so much to do with the dedication of the individual to his craft.  The same can be said about quality teaching.  Handing an iPad (or any device, for that matter) and having the expectation that it will transform the learning process is the most difficult assumption to debunk.  Using the iPad as an email-checking, Keynote-presenting, self-fulfilling device is not going to make any teacher better.

By doing the research and being comfortable with the learning curve, the 1 iPad classroom can truly evolve into something great.  While it is far from where I would like it to be, my classroom is cruising in a 1 iPad setting right now.  I am comfortable handing my students the technology because I know that they know this is an amazing piece of revolutionary knowledge.  The students use the iPad during the course of a lesson just as much as, if not more than, I do.

Getting over the idea that a 1 iPad classroom cannot work is the biggest hurdle to a successful 21st – century classroom.  With the tools that are available and the people who are willing to help, a single iPad is more than enough to transform your classroom.  All that you need is the willingness to put in the aforementioned research and time necessary to get comfortable with this simple, yet incredibly powerful, device.  From there, the success is no longer about the sword – it is about the samurai.

In essence, I am striking a moving bullet with a sword.  I am the samurai, and the 1 iPad in my classroom is my sword.


Special thanks to John Stevens for this guest post!  Don't forget to "like" iBallz on Facebook and follow iBallz on Twitter to keep up with iBallz deals, giveaways, and posts!

About the author: John has been an 8th grade math teacher in the Palm Springs, California area for the past 7 years.  Seeing the movement toward a 21st century education, his school district has been allocating money to the use of technology in the classroom, namely in the purchase of iPads.  John leads a team of educators on iPad integration into classrooms and has created as a resource for all teachers with iPads.  He and his team have presented trainings, professional development workshops, and have presented at the CUE conference in Palm Springs.  To contact John, email him at, follow him on Twitter @jstevens009 or @appsintheclass, or visit

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Extremely helpful to those of us who have one iPad in the classroom. I had to purchase my own and am determined to put it to the best use. Thank you for the great ideas and wonderful philosophy.

Posted by E. Johnson on February 19, 2013Rss Feed Rss Feed

This is an atirlce that makes you think “never thought of that!”

Posted by Demelza on December 10, 2012Rss Feed Rss Feed

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