Homework! Oh... homework. I hate you! You stink! (Apps in Ads, Episode 1)

Discovering the featured apps in Apple's "Homework" Ad

Title photo


www.red-nova-engine.ca Ad video: https://youtu.be/IprmiOa2zH8


Charles Ai

Updated 2018-10-09


On March 27, 2018, Apple held a “field trip" education event in Chicago, releasing a new entry-level iPad with Apple Pencil support, a slew of software features, a bunch of educational tools. During this event, Apple made a huge push to its commitment in schools. And the two-minute-plus ad, "Homework," that came right after the event did a nice job in integrating the iPad and Apple Pencil's functionalities into the kids' crazy but interesting approaches to "explore gravity." Regardless of this somehow unrealistic spot, I agree with Apple's vision that technology would undoubtedly transform the conventional educational methods like paper-based homework into something much more engaging, thrilling, and rewarding.

After watching the ad, in which Jack Prelutsky's hilarious poem, "Homework," was read solemnly and sarcastically by the offscreen voice, perhaps most of us would temporarily forget that this is a much cheaper iPad (starting from 329 USD, compared with the 649 USD iPad Pro), but feel a bit amazed by how it can be used by those "crazy little scientists" when they were flashing one app after another so skillfully and turning it into the canvas of their creativity. This is precisely what Apple expects the best on the younger generation –– those who can use the most state-of-the-art technology to explore the truth of the world with passion, perseverance, and team spirit. Apple just happens to have established a mature platform (iOS) with a more affordable device (the new iPad) and its updated functions (compatibility with Apple Pencil), as well as new services (School and classroom management system) and programmes (Everyone Can Create). 

Even so, we should accentuate that it is the apps the kids were using in the ad that made the iPad so magic, not the device itself. However, after some Google search, I was astonished to see that there isn't a single reporter who has dived deeper into the ad and introduced the apps the kids were using in the ad. What a pity! So now, let me do the job!

It turns out that there are seven apps displayed in full-screen in this ad, five of which being of Apple origin: Pages, Camera, Photos, Keynote, and iMovie. The other two 3rd-party apps are soIAR, an Augmented Reality-powered app to explore the solar system, and Playground Physics, a very brilliantly-designed app that helps users discover Newton's Laws of Motion by visualizing the interaction between motion, forces, and energy (kinetic and potential).


Apps in the Ad

App apps in this post

All the apps are FREE without any in-app purchases!

1. Pages for iPad

Apple significantly updated its productivity apps, the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), during the Chicago event, and brought new features such as drawing to all three apps, and smart annotation in Pages, enabling Apple Pencil to be a much more useful add-on to the new iPad. In the "Homework" ad, the kids drew their plans and sketches with Apple Pencil in the Pages app. How to do that? Simple enough – tap the screen with the tip of Apple Pencil after we open any document in Pages for iPad. Then we can use the Pencil to annotate the document or add drawings. 

Pages demo 1

A tap on the display with Apple Pencil in Pages and you are good to go!

A tip for the drawing function: we can add shapes (such as a circle or a bird) on the screen before drawing, this can save us some time, just as how I did below in which I imported two circles before I drew the details of the Earth and the Moon.

Pages demo 2

I reviewed some physics formulae while drawing this ... full of unforgettable high school memories :D

As for the Smart Annotation (beta), it means that the annotations added between the lines of a document can be dynamically anchored within the text so that when we type new words, these proof marks can "remember" their relative positions and move along with our inputs –– a rather handy solution for proofreading by teachers or between classmates.

Pages demo 3

Source of this GIF: https://apple.co/2L8SZbB 

2. Camera app

The Camera app on iPad is perhaps the least used one among all Apple original apps. It is, however, as powerful as its iPhone counterpart, including all functions such as slow-motion (shown in the ad), time-lapse, and video-shooting. Only Portrait Mode is absent due to a lack of dual-lens configuration of the iPad. For students and teachers, iPad even has the edge over iPhone thanks to its much larger display when we are taking pictures and shooting videos, helping its users obtain better views of the subjects and thus make more timely adjustments.


3. Photos app

At 01:03, the ad highlights the Markup function of Photos, probably another rarely used feature of the Photos app. With this function, we can very conveniently add any sort of annotations or drawings on the images we store on iPad. Apple Pencil, in this case, gives the users much better precision and convenience by delivering a more fluid and natural drawing experience. 

To access to Markup, simply choose "edit" on the upper right corner of each image in Photos, and tap the button with three dots in a circle. And voilà! 

Markup in Photos on iPad

Nova kindly agreed to present one of her photos to our readers ~


4. Playground Physics 

Playground Physics

The developer indeed should've found a better name for the app...

Truth be told, it took me hours to excavate this app from AppStore, given a short and rather blurred glimpse of its interface in the ad. It might because the developers from New York Hall of Science spent too much time in perfecting the user interface, but a bit insufficient effort in enhancing its searchability (the name of this app is too generic). Nonetheless, I believe the app deserves much more popularity and credit for its innovative and ingenious design. 

I love the panels and bars on the user interface. They are clear but not distracting. Brilliant design!

In the app, the user can first record a video of any moving objects, preferably a person like the the cycling boy in the "Homework" ad, and tap points along the way in the video to trace a path of motion, and discover the motion, forces, and energy involved in the moving person/object by setting some parameters. 

According to its creator, this app is ideal for the science classrooms in secondary schools. It is one of the five Noticing Tools from the New York Hall of Science. The full suite includes Choreo Graph, Fraction Mash, Size Wise, and Volumize –– all available in AppStore for iPad. 


5. soIAR

In the ad, Ivy plays with a floating Earth-moon system model with her iPad generated by soIAR. The user of this app can easily adjust the planets with several 1-finger, 2-finger, and 3-finger gestures to fit the virtual model wherever we want it to be. 

Solar AR

The Jovian system in my living room! How I wish I could drill into the icy crust of Europa to meet the marine aliens!

As indicated in the above screenshot, other than the Earth-Moon system, the app is also able to project other planets and their moons in front of us. Despite some minor defects (e.g., the sunlight would always illuminate the planets from the same direction even when we rotate their axes to other orientations), this is indeed a very impressive and vivid demonstration of the gravitational effects in our planetary system.

6. Keynote for iPad

In the latest update, Keynote, as a member of the iWork suite, also supports Drawing function with Apple Pencil. In the ad, the girl, Sally, used placed Photos app on the right part of the iPad display and smoothly drag an annotated picture of "Anti-gravity" into Keynote, once again reminding us one of the key additions in last year's update of the iPad operating system. 

To me, another implication of this shot is that Sally's Keynote file can be easily exported as movie clips and subsequently added into Ivy's iMovie library for future editing, indicating a seamless collaboration between Apple's original apps. 

7. iMovie for iPad

After years of modification and improvement, iMovie for iPad has been one of the most powerful video-editing apps that are completely free of charge. It is also the primal choice of most educators for their students, given its relatively clear user interface and high level of compatibility with other Apple apps.



While this ad culminates in an upcoming magnificent short movie show by the creative kids in "team three" of the class, we might still be curious about how these apps can enrich their learning process. More than an eye-opener for the general public, this ad can be a sheer inspiration for educators to help us reflect more on what we can and will be able to bring to the kids regarding educational technology. We should, by all means, never smother the creativity of the younger generation, especially when they are more skillful in using modern tools to express themselves. 


Thank you very much for your reading! Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message of feedback from here. You can also find the links of my social network at the bottom of the page.


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