iPads in the classroom have been a huge success and we are seeing them used for projects ranging from simple consumption of content to in-depth creation projects. I watched my 3 year old teach herself simple phonic blending using the wonderful Starfall ABCs app. The one issue that I’ve had is that the younger kids often hit the home button and exit the app and may not know how to launch it again. Even if they do know how to relaunch the app they are often enticed by the many other (perhaps more fun) apps loaded on the iPad. How then do you keep them on task with the iPad?
iOS 6 provides the answer! If you haven’t updated your device to the latest version of iOS, you will need to do that first.

iOS 6 has a feature called “Guided Access” that allows you to turn off all the buttons on the device! Kids can’t exit the app or turn the volume all the way up (or down)! Once you start the app (maybe in a center), kids can rotate through without the need for the teacher to constantly ensure that the correct app is running. It’s very easy to setup and works great!


Begin by clicking the Settings icon on your iOS device






In Settings, click on General>Accessibility>Guided Access.





Turn Guided Access on.

Click “Set Passcode” and enter a 4 digit code that will allow you to exit apps once they are locked on.

Enable Screen Sleep allows the “Sleep/Wake” top button to turn the screen off. Useful for power savings, but if pressed, students would have to “Slide to unlock” to get back to the app. The iPad has a great battery…I would lower the brightness a bit to save power and turn “Enable Screen Sleep” off. With no activity the device will automatically dim the screen but will never turn it off completely.



Now the fun part!

  • Launch any app.
  • Triple click on the home button (round button on the front of the device).
  • This will launch the “guided access” mode.
  • At the bottom you can see that all Hardware Buttons are marked Always OFF…no more app switching!
  • Touch – Useful if you just want them watching content like a video and you don’t want them to access any control features.  The touch screen will be completely dead.
  • Motion – Turn all the motion sensors off. Useful if an app has a “Shake to Exit” feature that you need to turn off.
  • Finally, and this is REALLY COOL, you can draw a circle around any area of the screen that you need to disable. This is great if the app has an exit button built in or has a control/menu area that you do not want the kids to access. Any areas you mark with the shaded circle will not respond to touch!
  • You may want to “Lock Rotation” so that the kids can’t spin the screen around to get past your “dead zones”.




Once you have set up Guided Access you click the Start button at the top right and voila…Kids can’t exit the app!






When you need to exit the app, simply Triple Click the home button and enter your 4 digit code to return to normal operation.






That’s all there is to it! You can now keep you kids focused on the content without the need for constant intervention!

Another great feature is that it remembers your settings per app…so you can circle “dead” areas for different apps and guided access will remember those settings individually per app! I have noticed that a few of my older apps that have not yet been updated to be compatible with iOS 6 do sometimes get “stuck” and will not exit even with the triple click. No big deal…when the kids are finished, simply hold down the “sleep/wake” and “home” buttons together until the device powers off. Hopefully this minor bug will be addressed soon. Other than that, the feature works great…hope you find a cool use for it!