iPads in Education

Innovating education with technology.

Preparing Your School for an iPad Implementation

Planning is imperative for any technology initiative - iPad or otherwise. You need to ensure that you clearly understand and communicate how the technology integrates with your overall pedagogical objectives. Too many institutions purchase technology and then search for ways to utilize it ... or leave it collecting dust on the shelf.

Planning needs to consider both infrastructure needs and the educational applications of the new technology. Without the proper preparation, technology initiatives are liable to become expensive failures.

Campus Infrastructure Considerations

  • Signal Strength: If you’re using wifi iPads then you’ll need a strong and reliable connection to the web. That relies on two things:
    • Solid incoming bandwidth.
      • Have you thoroughly tested the speed of your internet connection at different times of the day? (a website such as speedtest.net will help test your connection speed)
      • Can teachers connect reliably using a wired connection? If the wired connection isn't fast and reliable then your wireless network definitely won't be either.
    • Wireless signal and distribution:
      • Do you have the wireless infrastructure to support a successful implementation? Are you using industrial strength hardware or patching together a cheaper solution with more home oriented access points and hardware?
      • Is the signal being distributed evenly and reliably to different parts of the campus?
      • Have you tested for any dead spots in classes or around campus? Has anyone walked around campus and conducted a thorough signal test?
      • Can you support a large volume of devices connecting at the same time? This is critical. Just because one device can connect with adequate speed doesn't ensure that a classroom full of devices will be able to connect.

  • Wireless Network:
    • iPads apps require direct access to the web (no login). Will your iPads connect through a separate wireless network that allows them to pass through directly?
    • Will you create a separate policy that identifies iPads on your existing wireless network and treats them differently?
    • Will they be subject to existing web filtering when browsing or will you need to consider adding a web filter to your network?

  • Group Device Management:
    • Where will devices be stored and charged?
    • Will you use a mobile cart?
    • Do you have a procedure for keeping the cart locked and secure? Do your teachers know it?
    • Do you have a clearly defined procedure for distributing and collecting the iPads?
    • Do you have a clearly defined Acceptable Use Policy? Has it been communicated to students and parents?
    • How will you deal with issues such as damage or theft?
    • Do you have a set procedure for how and when the iPads will be synchronized and updated?
    • Are your IT staff trained on the technology and care of mobile devices such as iPads?

  • Classroom:
    • Do your classrooms have appropriate ambient lighting for iPad use? Is there a problem with glare?
    • Do you need to consider purchasing window blinds?
    • Do you have a location that's convenient to classrooms for cart storage (if you intend on using one)?
    • Have you considered using furniture that moves easily and enables students to sit and work in small groups?

  • Individual Device management
    • How will you identify each iPad? Some options include using a sticker, screen wallpaper image or engraving.
    • What numbering scheme will you use for the iPads? You should consider using a numbering scheme that identifies their use or location. eg. Science07, Room107-1
    • Will you know which iPad each student is using at any one time? Do you have a procedure for identifying how they are being distributed?
    • How will you deal with settings on the iPad such as arrangement of apps, wallpaper images and more? Will you allow teachers or students to change settings?
    • Will you use earbuds? Earbuds can be very helpful if they are listening to media in class. If you plan on using them you’ll probably want each student to have their own pair rather than share them.
    • Will you use iPad covers? When buying a cover you’ll need to consider use - for example, do you need a cover that can prop it up for typing?
    • Are you using any applications that might benefit from the use of a stylus?
    • How will you clean the screens? Make sure you don’t use any cleaning fluids.

  • Application Purchase and Management
    • How will apps be purchased and distributed? Will you purchase, manage and synchronize to one central account or different accounts?
    • If different accounts, how will you segment the purchasing and management of apps?
    • Will you use multiple accounts for individual teachers, classrooms and/or departments? Remember that you can synchronize to multiple accounts on any individual computer.
    • Will teachers be given permission to install apps on their iPads and/or student iPads?
    • Will you ensure that students are blocked (using Parental Controls) from purchasing apps?
    • Who will manage purchases with Apple’s volume purchasing plan? The VPP grants around a 50% discount on volume app purchases and is legally required if you plan on synchronizing and distributing apps to sets of iPads.

  • Content Management:
    • How will you push content out to students? A web based method is preferable.
    • Does content need to stored and distributed using methods that utilize permissions and logins to ensure privacy and security?  If you are sharing iPads then you should test it thoroughly ahead of time as the iPad  caches logins and provides automatic access (meaning one user may automatically be logged into another user's account).
    • Where will students store and organize their own content? If they cannot take the iPad with them, are you using cloud based storage that will give them content access outside of class? If you’re sharing iPads, you may want to set up a unique email address on each iPad that can be used by students to email and move files.
    • Do you need a procedure for periodic deletion of iPad content?

Pedagogical Considerations:

  • Pedagogical Models:
    • Have you discussed how the use of iPads will be integrated into your educational processes?
    • 1:1 programs typically work best within an experiential, project based environment where students are encouraged to use technology to research, explore and create.
    • Is your school encouraging a student centered model of learning or do many of your teachers still use predominantly frontal teaching methods?
    • Is there a pedagogical vision for the technology deployment? Have you considered creating a mission statement that guides the deployment and use of technology and demonstrates how it might fit within the school’s overall vision?

  • Application Usage:
    • Have you explored and identified different applications that teachers want to use?
    • Have you tested these applications and ensured they meet required standards and comply with your educational objectives?
    • Are there existing projects that require teachers and students use specific applications? If so, will they be able to use them on the iPads? Has this been tested? Some desktop applications will not work on the iPad or may work very differently.
    • Are you using applications that require flash? Some example include popular websites such as VoiceThread and Glogster. Flash based sites will not currently work on the iPad.
    • Have you decided on a set of core apps for important functions such as note taking, document distribution, book reading and more?

  • Professional Development:
    • Have you allocated sufficient ongoing time for staff professional development? It's vital that that faculty have regular sessions where they can learn and exchange experiences with each other.
    • Professional development often focuses heavily on "technology training". Make sure it also guides teachers towards best educational practices for utilizing technology (student centered, project based etc).
    • Have you looked into web sites and online networks for teachers to connect, collaborate and learn from other teachers and schools?

  • eBooks:
    • How important and urgent is it for you to transition from paper based books to eBooks? Have you discussed and decided whether to move to the use of eBooks in courses or remain with paper books?
    • Have you looked into the availability of eBooks for your curriculum?
    • Are the available eBooks digital copies of their paper based counterparts or do they include interactivity and multimedia?
    • Have you looked into eReaders and specific course apps for using your eBooks?
    • Have you looked into annotation tools?

  • Community:
    • Have you discussed the technology implementation with other stakeholders in your educational community such as your school board and parent community?
    • Do they understand how it fits into the greater vision and mission of the school?

Your iPad implementation plan requires careful thought and preparation. These are just a few of the things to consider. Well planned technology deployments can be tremendously successful and transformative for schools and students.

Sam Gliksman
Twitter: @samgliksman

Special thanks to Howard Chan and his article, “Considerations Before Deploying iPads and iPods  

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Comment by Adrian Illingworth on February 24, 2011 at 7:44pm

My what comprehensive check-list that is. We are on the developer/publisher side, and it provides a great insight into the classroom/school adoption of the device.


Cambridge English Online 

Comment by Sandy Munnell on February 24, 2011 at 5:14pm
I appreciate this overview.


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