Part 1 – Introduction to iPads in Education

In 2013 I started an iPad implementation at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and School in Walled Lake, MI. For anyone thinking about implementing tablets/iPads into their school there are several things I would encourage you to think about and consider. Being the blogger that I am, I thought that you may find the following information quite useful.

First, the disclaimer. The benefits of this technology are incredible. iPads have the ability to connect students instantly to a wealth of knowledge, BUT, and it is a big BUT, they must be taught how to access this information in a useful and beneficial way. Apps make this easy but they, like the iPads can be expensive. Teachers must be willing to use the iPads and embrace the technology. This often times means that professional development is an absolute MUST. We cannot assume that every teacher can figure out the iPad. They are simple devices for those that have a knack for technology, but in a age where we have such a wide variety of technological abilities, and levels, nothing should be taken for granted including a teachers ability to use technology effectively.

Ok, so the disclaimer is out. Now, how does one go about starting such a massive project? As I found out, there are three things you should consider before you begin (Trust me here, I didn’t think of these three things up front and it cost me time and much of the hair off the front of my scalp).

  1. Wifi Access
  2. iPad Model
  3. Maintenance
  4. Teacher/Administrator Training
  5. Technology Philosophy

WIFI. Each of these items is crucial if you desire a seamless transition into the iPad realm. iPads are relatively useless without reliable internet. If you are looking at a large scale deployment of ipads or even just a few, one wifi router from the local big box store will not do the job effectively.

MODEL. There are also several ipad classroom models to consider. Do you want every student to have their own iPad or, are you thinking of getting a classroom set that can be shared among teachers? How about an integrated environment (students with their own and some school owned devices)? Lastly, are you just thinking of getting iPads for just your teachers? To be completely honest each of these “models” has amazing benefits and limitations which will be discussed later in this series.

Every student getting an iPad can be a large cost to place on parents and may be a logistical problem, not to mention how do you put in place an environment where all of your students have the same apps (we will cover that later)? Having a classroom cart is GREAT, but you may end up with scheduling conflicts, and if your teachers really like using the iPads this can be very frustrating for them. You can do an integrated approach where there are some personal and some school iPads in the same environment. But then the question of securing content and management becomes a real concern. Lastly, giving each teacher an iPad can be amazing, and there are ways to work this so that students can participate even with the one iPad, but in truth it often times becomes more of the “sage on a stage” then an actually inquiry based learning experience. So, in conclusion…what is an administrator to do?

The answer…what works best for your school.

There are examples of each of these models in use all across the country. They all work effectively. It is just a matter of what your teachers are capable of, the money factor, and how much “tech” support you are willing to invest in.

MAINTENANCE. Which brings me to my next point for this session, maintenance. If you are going to have any devices owned by the school, there are going to be maintenance costs. When I say costs, I am not necessarily talking money, but more so time. Because this is more of an IT matter. It takes time to set up iPads, push/deploy apps to devices, install profiles (profiles are specific settings you can put into place on each device)…etc. If you are going to implement this technology I would encourage you to talk to someone who is familiar with Apple devices and a program called Apple Configurator. If you are looking into a large scale deployment of school owned devices then a MDM (mobile device management) tool would be highly recommended.

TRAINING. I can stress the importance of this point. It may just be the most important. If you are going to spend a lot of money and time investing in a technology resource (chrome books, iPads, android tablets…etc) then I highly recommend looking into good teacher professional development. Research suggests that large scale group PD is not very effective, especially when it comes to technology because every person has a very unique and varied skill set. Small group sessions and one-on-one time are invaluable. In Michigan we have a great conference that offers both. MACUL (Michigan Association of Computer User Learning) is an organization that puts on a great conference each year. There are a wide variety of resources including hands-on workshops that can help to make technology integration more effective.

PHILOSOPHY. Have a philosophy in place. What are you hoping to attain by implementing these devices? Are you looking to help students become better digital citizens? Have you considered how you are going to help your students be producers, and not just consumers of digital information? Have you thought through security and digital footprinting? These are important questions that really should be thought through before you implement any technology.

For more information on other aspects of my project see the TABLE OF CONTENTS otherwise proceed onto PART 2 – iPad Classroom Models.