Knowledge of iPad icons can increase students’ technology fluency and proficiency with using their devices.  Learn why to spend time teaching this important skill and how focusing on these iPad icons will make using ALL technology easier in your classroom.

Teach these universal iPad app icons to your students to help them develop technology fluency and efficiency in the 1:1 classroom or any classroom using iPads.

What are universal iPad icons?

Since integrating iPads and other technology regularly in the classroom, we’ve noticed that apps and now even websites use the same basic icons for specific buttons.  We click and touch these icons on the iPad and the web so often we probably never thought about them or how they work.

One of the reasons iPad apps tend to be intuitive is due to the iOS design guide that dictates the use of these icons so there is consistency across apps. This is referred to as the Human Interface Graphics or H.I.G. and the style guide is very strict and worth a read because it is very well researched and thought out.

Teaching your students these icons will help them navigate new programs and save a lot of time – less teaching “how do I” and more time to spend on content and creativity!  This is one of many ways to address technology fluency in your classroom – a lifelong and key skill for today’s constantly changing tech landscape.

Which iPad icons are important to recognize?

iPad icons for related to navigating the app, saving, opening, deleting, drawing, writing, and recording are the ones students will encounter most.  I wish the icons had fun names but we tend to refer to them by what they look like. Thus “box with arrow” is our term for the save/share iPad icon and “the house” is what we call the home button.

Many icons are leftovers from old functions students will not have experience with.  For example, while us dinosaurs know that the floppy disk means save and why, most students will have no idea what a floppy disk is and thus will not know it could mean “save.”  Luckily, the latest iOS designs have moved towards a more universal, non-historical based icon format.

How to display iPad icons in your classroom

I created a set of mini iPad icons to display in the classroom available here.  The set comes with 5 versions of the mini posters so you can choose which set fits your style (and printer ink budget!).  Hang them on a bulletin board need your iPad storage, on a cabinet door, or attached to a ring flash-card style.

Teach these universal iPad app icons to your students to help them develop technology fluency and efficiency in the 1:1 classroom or any classroom using iPads.

I printed out blackline iPad icon set on colored paper then laminated them and stuck a magnet on the back to attach onto our shared iPad cart. Since our iPad cart is magnetized, the icons stuck perfectly.  {Please note, this set has since been updated to be more universal, with bigger, more bright icons as picture above…but the display idea is the same!}iPad Icon Posters on iPad Cart

I love having them as a quick reference for students to look at.  I can also grab the ones I need off the cart to stick on my whiteboard if I am giving specific instructions.

How to get down with H.I.G.

If you silently sang “Yeah you know me,” then congratulations, you are old like me :)

There are a lot of ways to use these cards and help your student remember the H.I.G. iPad icons – maybe make a flashcard station the first time you use the iPads, display them permanently on a tech bulletin board or even hand out small versions to students to keep as a reference guide.


I guarantee if you spend just one minute of your iPad technology integration lesson referencing the iPad icons, your students will start to remember them and will be able to figure out how to save, share, etc. on new apps without your even teaching it.

If you are looking for a larger way to display these frequently used iPad icons, I also created a set of larger posters in an ABC format available as both individual posters and one large poster!

Check out all of the options for displaying iPad icons here.

How do you plan to integrate the iPad app icons into your iPad lessons?

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