iPads in Education

Exploring the use of iPads and mobile devices in education.

10 Steps to a Successful School iPad Program

Portions excerpted from new book, "iPad in Education for Dummies" by Sam Gliksman

iPads have certainly become a highly desired commodity in education. Apple is reporting that schools are purchasing iPads by a ratio of 2:1 over MacBooks. However, that rush to purchase the latest technologies often precedes the careful planning and preparation that’s crucial to their success as educational tools.

Stated simply, technology alone doesn’t have the capacity to improve education. It needs to be woven into a holistic approach to education that encompasses thorough planning and ongoing review of the skills and competencies required by the rapidly changing society that characterizes life in the 21st century.

Well-planned technology deployments have the potential to have a remarkably transformative impact on schools and students. Here’s a list of ten vital elements of a successful iPad implementation in schools.

 

1. Determining Whether You’re Ready
Don’t even consider purchasing iPads if you haven’t setup the appropriate technical infrastructure to manage and deploy them. Consider the following questions before putting in your iPad purchase order:

  • 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.
  • Having a solid Internet connection is a great start but how is your bandwidth being distributed around campus? Is your wireless network robust and secure enough to manage and distribute a strong, reliable signal throughout campus?
  • Do your classrooms have safe, secure locations to store the iPads?
  • Have you discussed and set policies for appropriate technology use? Do you have the tools and means to monitor those policies?

 

2. Communicating Why You Want iPads

Can you explain why you have decided to purchase iPads? Taking a step back, can you clearly enunciate your educational stratgey and objectives ... and then explain how the use of iPads or any other technology integrates with that vision?

It’s the question that’s rarely discussed before the decision is made to rush out and purchase new technology. Any successful initiative requires that your entire organization be on the same page and that calls for a clear and well understood vision. How will iPad use integrate with your educational mission statement? That vision should be clearly communicated to all constituent groups within your organization - including teachers, students, parents, directors, and administrators.

 

3. Targeting 21st-Century Learning Objectives

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. " --Albert Einstein 

 

There’s a natural inclination to stay in your comfort zone. We shun change. Many school administrators and teachers would rather continue using the same pedagogical practices they have always used in the classroom. When asked to use technology, they place a premium on technology that can make their existing practices easier and more efficient. Why purchase expensive technology and then using it to reinforce outdated pedagogical practices such as frontal lecturing, content delivery, and drill and practice?
Technology however has the capacity to empower students and address 21st-century learning objectives. Utilized to their full potential, iPads facilitate the integration of multimedia, communication, collaboration, project-based learning, and more.

4. Developing Simple iPad Management Strategies
iPads require unique mechanisms for organization and management. Here’s a short list of issues to research and document as you develop plans for managing your devices:

  • How you plan on allocating responsibilities for the selection, purchasing and deployment of iPad apps.
  • Your process for the management of user profiles. What restrictions will you enforce? Will you have one common student profile or vary them by class and group?
  • How will you handle the steady flow of constant system and app updates? How do you plan on synchronizing data that collects on the iPads? How often will these processes occur and who will be responsible for them?
  • Would you consider allowing your older students to manage their own iPads? Have you considered the risks versus benefits of such a policy?
  • Where will you store student generated content storage? What workflow will be used for students to 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 students submit digital work to teachers?
  • How you will 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 you plan on creating and using 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?

 

5. Understanding That iPads Aren’t Laptops
Many laptop programs use network servers and domain logins that determine their permissions for computer use. Laptop use is monitored and controlled to the point that often administrators can view students’ screen activity.

It’s important to remember that iPads are not laptops. There’s no login, and the ability to secure and control iPad use is minimal when compared to traditional laptops. Instead of focusing on control, look for ways to utilize the iPad’s unique assets. Take advantage of their mobility, built-in camera, microphone, video, and so on. If monitoring and controlling activities are essential criteria, it may be advisable to consider staying with laptops.

 

6. 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 and deliver very 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 dynamic and creative learning processes. 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 screencasts that illustrate and explain principles in algebra, and more. Given the opportunity, students will naturally gravitate toward creative and innovative iPad use. Allow them that opportunity instead of boxing them in with rigid, content specific apps.

 

7. Share and Share Alike - but not with iPads
You learned the value of sharing all the way back in preschool. Although it may be an important life lesson, forget all about sharing when it comes to using iPads in school. iPads are designed to be personal devices and contain your personal data and files. Since there isn’t any login that distinguishes one user from the next, any information on the iPad is available to all users.

Sharing iPads creates privacy and security issues. I generally recommend 1:1 deployment of iPads from 4th grade and upwards. If that causes financial concerns, you can either scale down your deployment or consider an alternative approach such as allowing children to bring their own devices to school. Sharing at upper grade levels, however, is not the solution.

 

8. Developing an Ongoing Training and Support Structure
Deploying iPads can be a major step towards addressing the learning needs of 21st-century students. It also involves a major change in school culture. Organizational change requires adequate training and support. It’s also important to understand that “training” doesn’t mean a one day workshop at the start of the school year. Schedule time for ongoing training 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.

 

9. Connecting
The web has many helpful resources. You can easily connect and benefit from the knowledge and experience of other teachers. Join Twitter (www.twitter.com) or sites such as the iPads in Education network (http://iPadEducators.ning.com).

 

10. Enabling the Unpredictable
You’re giving your students wings; let them fly. Technology is most effective when used as a tool for student empowerment. Giving up control is often the hardest part of any technology implementation in schools. Adherence to a strict top-down, curriculum driven agenda requires teachers to be classroom conductors that direct and control every instrument of the learning process.

The iPad classroom should be open, flexible and driven by passion and initiative. Don’t expect to control every aspect of students’ learning and don’t feel that you always need to be the expert on technology use. You already have rows of them sitting in front of you.

Technology is the modern day student’s canvas. Allow them the freedom to paint their own masterpieces.

 

Sam Gliksman
samgliksman@gmail.com
Twitter: @samgliksman

 

 
 

 

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Comment by Sarah Hill on February 11, 2013 at 8:00pm

Hi, great blog! Have you had much to do with the VPP? If so do you still have access to the full range of apps etc?

Comment by John Olshever on February 4, 2013 at 4:49am

Extremely helpful.  Thank you!

Comment by Nate Gordon on January 22, 2013 at 10:19am
Sam,
This is wonderful. I'm about to recommend that we move to iPads, and would love to share this page with our teachers and admin to help explain why.

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