Checklist: Are You Ready for iPads In Your School?

| November 15, 2013 | 15 Comments
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By Sam Gliksman

The following is the third of a series of excerpts from Gliksman’s book iPad in Education for Dummies.

It seems that every school is considering purchasing iPads these days, and Apple has reported that iPad sales to schools are currently outselling MacBook sales by a very large margin. However, the rush to purchase iPads often precedes the careful planning and preparation that’s so crucial to their success as educational tools. Technology alone is never the answer. Instead, iPad use needs to be integrated within a holistic approach to 21st-century education that encompasses a thorough and ongoing review of the skills and competencies required in our rapidly changing society and the educational processes that best help students acquire them.

Well-planned technology deployments can be tremendously successful and transformative for schools and students. In this chapter, I list ten vital components of a successful iPad implementation.

Determining Whether You’re Ready

There’s no point in purchasing iPads if you don’t have the technical infrastructure to manage and deploy them. Consider the following questions before going down that road:

  • Do you have adequate incoming Internet bandwidth to connect all the devices and use them at the same time? Remember that you may also need significant upload bandwidth as students start to create and deliver large media files.
  • Is your wireless network robust enough to manage and distribute a strong, reliable wireless signal all around campus?
  • Do your classrooms have safe, secure locations to store iPads?

Understanding and Communicating Why You Want iPads

This is the elephant in the room — the most critical question that is rarely discussed and evaluated from an educational perspective. It’s imperative that the entire organization be on the same page. That requires a clearly communicated explanation of how iPad use complements your educational mission, which then needs to be clearly communicated to all the various constituent groups, including teachers, students, parents, directors, and administrators.

Targeting 21st-Century Learning Objectives

There’s a natural inclination to stay in your comfort zone. Many teachers, especially older ones, prefer to stick to the methods they have always used in the classroom. An iPad program should take full advantage of the educational potential of the technology and be designed to address 21st-century learning objectives. That means integrating multimedia, communication, collaboration, project-based learning, and more. What point is there in purchasing expensive technology and then using it to reinforce outdated pedagogical practices such as frontal lecturing, content delivery, and drill and practice?

Research and document your plans for the following:

  • Which responsibilities and processes are in place for buying and deploying apps? How will you decide what apps to buy, and who will be responsible for the purchasing?
  • How will you manage user profiles? What restrictions will you enforce? Will you have one common student profile or vary them by class or group?
  • What are your processes for system and app updates and data synchro- nization? How often will they be done and by whom?
  • Would you consider allowing your older students to manage their own iPads? Have you considered the risks versus benefits of such a policy?
  • Where and how students will store and submit work? Will you use cloud services such as Evernote or Dropbox? Will you create and/or use a WebDAV server? How will you students submit digital work to teachers?
  • How will you deal with instances of damage and theft? Will you buy insurance? Under what circumstances, if any, will students be held accountable? Has this been clearly communicated to parents through a Responsible Use policy?
  • How do you plan to create and use e-mail accounts? Will students be given e-mail, and if so, at what age? If not, will the iPads have generic e-mail accounts to enable outgoing e-mail of content from students to teachers?

Understanding That iPads Aren’t Laptops

Many laptop programs use network servers and domain logins that also set permissions. Laptops are controlled and administrators can often view screen activity. It’s important to remember that iPads are not laptops. There’s no login, and the ability to secure and control them is minimal. If you’re using iPads, utilize their unique assets. Look for ways to take advantage of their mobility, built-in camera, microphone, video, and so on. If monitoring and controlling activities are important criteria to you, it may be advisable to consider staying with laptops.

Overcoming “There’s an App for That” Syndrome

You hear it all the time: “There’s an app for that.” One of the biggest mistakes teachers make is to constantly search for apps that directly address specific curriculum content — everything from 20th-century American history to the geography of California. Many great apps exist, but the real benefit comes from viewing iPads as tools that can be used as part of the learning process. Encourage students to create mock interviews with famous historic figures, explain scientific phenomenon with stop-motion animation, create podcasts for the school community, practice and record speech in a foreign language, create a screencast to explain a principle in algebra, and more. Given the opportunity, students will naturally gravitate toward creative and innovative iPad use if allowed to use it as a learning tool.

Knowing That Share and Share Alike Doesn’t Work with iPads

You learned the value of sharing all the way back in preschool. Although it may be an important life guideline, you need to forget all about sharing when it comes to using iPads in school. iPads are designed to be personal devices; you need to protect your user login and all your personal data and files. Sharing them will create huge privacy and security issues. I generally push for 1:1 deployment of iPads from 4th grade upward. If that causes financial concerns, you need to discuss those concerns and either scale down your deployment or consider an alternative approach, such as allowing children to bring their own devices to school — which comes with its own set of prob- lems, especially for families that cannot afford them. Sharing at upper grade levels, however, is not the solution.

iPad in Education For Dummies cover imageBuilding an Ongoing Training and Support Structure

Deploying iPads is (I hope) a major step toward addressing the learning needs of 21st-century students. It also involves a major change in school culture. We’re all naturally resistant to change. Organizational change requires adequate training and support. It’s also important to stress that “training” doesn’t mean that one day at the start of the year when you bring someone into school for a half-day workshop. Schedule time for ongoing training ses- sions throughout the year. Develop teacher support groups within your school and with other schools, where teachers can exchange experiences, share their successes, and learn from each other.

Enabling the Unpredictable

In other words, let them fly. Technology is most effective when used as a tool for student empowerment. Don’t expect to control every aspect of students’ learning. And you don’t always need to be the expert. Technology is their canvas. Give them the freedom to paint their own masterpieces.

Just in case you have any doubt regarding my stance on the issue, I want to stress that I don’t believe that all education should revolve around technology use. This book is all about appropriate technology integration. Sometimes that means not forcing the issue. There’s no doubting the importance of using crayons and paints. Getting your hands dirty planting in a garden is an extremely valuable educational experience, and how can you ever replace the experience of having a teacher or parent read to a child? It’s crucial to use technology wisely and creatively. Sometimes that also means knowing when to put it away.

Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Wiley, from iPad in Education For Dummies by Sam Gliksman. Copyright © 2013.

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  • Nick

    Great post, a great checklist for deploying iPads. We have 26 iPads as a class set and 4 special ed iPads to share between 150 kids R-12 and this has worked fine. We use Apple Configurator to manage our apos, updates etc. Obviously not as good as 1:1 in terms of security or learning but we have seen our kids do some great things and apart for 1 or 2 minor hiccups over the 30 weeks we have had them the students have respected each others work exceptionally well. We have also discovered File Browser. This app allows kids to transfer files back and forth from the iPad to our school server and access, securely, their student folder just as they would from a PC. A brilliant example of how this can work is with Book Creator. Book Creator files can be sent to the server as ePub files and then reinstalled into Book Creator later to continue working using the FB app. We would obviously prefer 1:1, and are doing so with MacBooks at yr 9-12, but we feel that sharing a class set has been a success so far.

  • Brian

    We are in the 3rd year of a 1:1 iPad project for an elementary school (pre-k thru 5). In year 2 our kids had a tremendous increase in the school grade (from an F grade to a B – 24 points away from an A) with very high increase in math and reading scores. Two very important requirements have helped guarantee success with this program. 1. As the coordinator, I have taken control of all management, syncing, charging, updating, downloading and maintenance of the devices. Teachers don’t have to worry about any part of it. Support for content is my primary concern, adding original interactive content specific iBooks as requested by teachers in need. 2. Teachers must be on board with adapting this device as part of their curriculum. Passion from teachers in the classroom is the greatest tool we have. Once we started the snowball rolling, it has grown daily. It is the future of education without a doubt! This article addresses all factors that MUST be tackled before embarking on a full-fledged program. Well done!

    • Luke

      Brian how do you control management? Do you use a MDM?

  • preethi j

    yes In school Age Ipads are very Important.we learn lot of things from school Age..

  • http://willrichardson.com Will Richardson

    With all due respect, none of this matters at all until the vision piece is in place. And it’s almost impossible for schools to implement a relevant vision for teaching and learning to support modern learning until the adults creating that vision (preferably with students) are able to let go of their own personal histories around what education and schooling looks like and become modern learners themselves. I’ve been to dozens of schools that have implemented iPad and laptop projects where NOTHING has changed. It’s still all about institutionally organized, teacher-led learning delivered through the device. (And the comments above speak exactly to that.) This is a different moment requiring a rethink of almost everything we do in the building.

    A modern vision for teaching and learning moves organization of learning to the student, supports and nurtures student passion and exploration, connects learners to other learners in all parts of the globe, and promotes the creation of new knowledge shared with the world, not just the consumption of old ideas and facts. It’s about mastery and quality and depth.

    • tbarseghian

      Thanks for this perspective, Will. I agree the vision piece is key to integrating any technology. And we’ve covered this in a variety of ways on MindShift, from lots of different angles. Justin Reich and Beth Holland’s series are just a few examples that try to get to the heart of both the “Someday” (modern vision for teaching and learning) and “Monday” (how do we start doing this now?)
      * Potential Vs. Reality of Consuming Media
      * To Get the Most Out of Tablets, Use Smart Curation
      * The iPad as a Tool for Creation to Strengthen Learning
      * How Tablets Can Enable Meaningful Connections for Students and Teachers
      We’ll continue to talk to educators and administrators to get different perspectives, ideas, and strategies that will help crystalize the big-picture vision, and we would love specific feedback and references to great examples of where this is happening so we can document it for our readers.

    • Sam Gliksman

      No arguments Will. Everything stems from the creation and communication of a vision – a vision that’s driven by pedagogical needs and realities rather than the technology itself. It’s touched upon in the section “Understanding and CXommunicating…” – this article is an excerpt from my Dummies book which starts out by stressing the importance of vision and continues to refer back to that vision throughout the book. Programs such as the current 1:1 program at LAUSD are stumbling precisely because the implementation lacks any clear direction.

  • Karen Mahon

    Hi Sam, really enjoyed the post. The one point that I would disagree with is the need for teachers to get over the “there’s an app for that” belief. I agree that creation and productivity is a huge advantage with iPads and tablets. But I also think there’s a lot of value in content apps that address specific skill sets. Content apps serve multiple purposes: one is to help establish the prerequisite skills that kids need in order to use the more open-ended, creation apps. A second is they allow individual kids to work on specific skills for which they may need remediation or extra practice (particularly when not every child in the class needs that same remediation).

    Certainly I agree that creation using the iPad is great for kids, but I often hear edtech leaders denigrate the instructional apps. Both have a purpose; the key, from my perspective, is to know which problem you want to solve so that you can choose the most appropriate solution. There’s no question that it is inefficient for teachers to spend hours of time sorting through the app stores to find content apps. And that’s why we at Balefire Labs are trying to help make that process fast and easy by providing rank-ordered lists of content apps that have been evaluated for instructional quality. There are some really good content apps out there that help to solve some very real problems for teachers and kids.

    Thanks, Sam. Hope your readers will check us out at http://www.BalefireLabs.com

    • Sam Gliksman

      Hi Karen. I wouldn’t denigrate instructional apps but I think it’s important to understand that their priority and purpose – a purpose that should serve the overall educational vision and objectives of the institution. Start by formulating a vision and plan. Nothing changes when the primary objective is to simply search for dozens of apps that serve existing curriculum needs.

      • Karen Mahon

        I agree with that completely, regardless of what type of resource it is. What I see happening sometimes, however, is that some edtech thought leaders talk about productivity or creativity apps as if they are inherently better because the kids are the producers. Justin Reich’s idea of only needing one screen of apps implies this, I think. My point is just that kids are consumers AND producers, depending on the learning objectives and the skills needing to be mastered. But I’m in total agreement about the vision and plan. Otherwise there’s no understanding of what needs to be measured when and how.

  • experienced and getting a PhD

    Be very careful about making assumptions about teacher openness and age. Since most colleges of education are still very traditional and may not even address technology in ed, some newbies are even more skeptical than older teachers (this is what I just learned at school, so I’m right). In fact, the worst worksheet teachers at my school are new.
    Remember, when addressing an audience, don’t alienate anyone. It’s okay to say “professionals who have been successful may be wary of change,” not okay to say “older people don’t want to change, or even may not want to change.” just say, many people don’t like change.
    Please don’t marginalize experience. It’s frankly insulting.

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