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The power of pictures with Apple Distinguished Educator Terri Coombs

Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) are education pioneers who are recognised by Apple for their dedication to transforming teaching and learning with Apple technology. We were lucky enough to speak with ADE Terri Coombs and hear about how she uses creativity to engage students and how she’s inspiring students using ideas from Everyone Can Create: Drawing on iPad. Here's what she said...


Conal Siddall

At one school I worked in, we championed the use of iPads in the classroom for over 5 years, and for the last two years included 1:1 iPads for KS2 children. Once teachers and students had mastered the basics of using an iPad for supporting workflow and content creation with the use of Showbie, we very quickly realised the potential of using the Everyone Can Create guides to engage students further in their learning. 

In my experience, creativity in primary schools has traditionally been left to the ‘arts’, and it’s usually perceived as something you’re good at or not. So the statement ‘Everyone Can Create’ felt like a bold one, and from someone who was educated in the 80s, being creative has not come naturally. However, I was excited by the challenge. I embraced the Everyone Can Create Teacher Guide published by Apple Education, and I’ve seen first-hand how a creative approach when using iPads can enhance the teaching and learning experience. 

To support teachers with this concept, I created a one page planning prompt using the Everyone Can Create Teacher Guide. I collected the main lesson ideas and concepts and displayed them as a one page sketch note that would serve as a reminder so teachers could easily refer to whilst they plan. The success of including creativity as a key curriculum block is, as ever, in the outcomes that children create. 

Planning prompt


How Terri Coombs engages her students with drawing

The joy of observational sketching

Students enjoy drawing for fun, but drawing is also an important record of their learning, and understanding, observing, recording and recreating are key life skills.  

In spring term, reception children get to experience the birth of baby chicks: we incubate eggs and watch over days and weeks as the chicks begin to hatch, the excitement of this experience for some is emotional. The photo below captures the excitement of sharing a drawing of the new-born chicks.


To share the knowledge further, children added a voiceover to their drawings that captures their understanding of key learning. Using drawing in this way allows children to rehearse and practice new vocabulary, whilst supporting the development of speech and language in the early years environment.


Sketching for understanding

Sketching allows students to explain new concepts in visual form and share understanding. When asking Year 5 children how the internet works, verbal explanations are often difficult to procure as children find the concept almost abstract – yet sketching allows them to create a picture of their thoughts, in a non-threatening way without the need for words. This method allows every child to consider and submit a thoughtful answer to the question, without exception. 


Producing infographics is the process of presenting collated research and data. When I first started teaching, I would have asked children to record information and research using a scaffolded worksheet. This approach automatically limits creativity and can subdue learning. Allowing children to work ‘outside the box’ gives them ownership of their work, increases pride and engages them in the task in a more meaningful way.

Student's infographic


Book creation

In reception, a teacher observed a reluctant writer (but keen iPad user) drawing a picture of Supertato, which had been read as a class recently. When it was suggested that he could develop this into an iBook for everyone to read, he enthusiastically wrote a number of pages for the book independently. Some of his peers also became engaged, and together they created pages from the story recalling the key events. This was then imported from Sketches School into Pages, before being converted and published into iBooks. The children were highly engaged and motivated throughout and showed great pride in showing their work to others. This reception class proved you can create and be an author aged five.

The potato, the myth, the legend: Supertato



Encouraging parental participation with iPads and creativity is crucial to bridging the gap between home and school learning. To support collaboration and increase confidence, we ran a creative cartoon workshop. Parents and children worked alongside each other to create a cartoon version of each other, beginning with a selfie and tracing the photo before adding colour. Parents were able to gain hands-on experience with the iPads and understand how drawing can enhance the language development and provide opportunities for further learning. 


The impact of iPad

Throughout my journey in education, it has become clear that the effective use of iPads in the classroom has helped to produce environments that value all kinds of individualised learning. It allowed us to facilitate rich learning opportunities through the use of stimulating and relevant resources.

The iPads are a tool where creation can take the lead. All learners can be engaged and develop in areas across the curriculum independently. Children can express themselves creatively while developing literacy skills in context from early years to Year 6. The Everyone Can Create statement is indeed bold, but in my opinion, never a truer statement was spoken!


If you would like to know more about iPad and Everyone Can Create, or get more tips for how you can use them in lessons, get in touch with our education team on 03332 409 290 or email For the latest news, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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