With over a year’s worth of small pilots, research, endless hours prepping teachers, and getting our infrastructure ready, the day had finally come. August 24th, the third day of school, was the targeted launch day of 95% of our iPads (some Sophomores would have to wait until the following day). We knew that iPad Orientation for students would be much more brief than the same for staff, but we needed to get the message out to all kids in a uniform way. The plan was to distribute the iPads during English courses. That meant hitting as many as 8 classes every 52-minute class period. With 8 periods in the school day, we had a bit of a logistical problem. There were only so many people to distribute and talk to students. We needed a plan. Luckily, our Technology Services department and the Educational Technology staff had one in mind:
1. iPads would need to be distributed from a central location near all the classrooms. The book room in the area of the Language Arts wing made the most sense. We would have 1 or 2 “runners” from the Tech Dept to make sure we had enough in each class. While we had a fairly accurate count on classroom enrollment, kids change classes a lot during the first couple of weeks. With a location found, we needed to have the iPads and cases at the ready.
2. Cases were supplied by the school, however, because of a customs issue in the DFW airport, the cases were held up. We needed some in a hurry and were able to quickly get a back-up set of 1500 delivered the night before.
3. We needed a tech person in each classroom registering the iPad serial number with the student’s SIS account online.
4. We needed another person in each classroom doing the orientation and answering questions. The Ed Techs, the assistant principals, and I had a script, but we wanted to make sure the message was consistent. So, the day before we threw together a quick 5-minute video for all classes to watch and we would be available for questions. This would give us some buffer to get the iPads ready in classes if there weren’t enough.
At 8:45am we handed out our first set of iPads and didn’t stop until the last class at 4:05. It was remarkable for a couple of reasons. For one, the students really could sense the importance and responsibility being placed on them with this device. Secondly, it became a seamless part of the classroom much faster than I would have imagined. While I figured it would be primary use would be substitution in nature at first (take your notes on the iPad instead of paper), I didn’t expect it to quickly become an augmentative and transformative part of the classroom so quickly. Within days, I started receiving all the different ways students were innovating and the ways teachers were changing the way they taught. All this within one week!
Bob Murphy in Environmental Science had his students develop a Project-based lesson with only 3 rules. 1 – It had to be about the planet Earth, 2- They had to develop their group distribution and delegation of duties, and 3-
They had to try something out of their comfort zone using the iPad. Norman Morgan’s class had a student unable to attend class and used Facetime and the join.me app to share the lesson with the student in real-time. Barbara Vinson’s ASL students had to create a Keynote with embedded video of themselves signing the words they were on each Keynote slide. Again, this was all within the first week of having iPads in the hands of students.
I can only imagine what this will look like by next spring, but for now, we are looking at what the next steps will be. Our only major issue the first week was the Jamf Console not being able to distribute apps for a couple of days as the traffic crashed the server. Some other smaller issues were not having enough people manning the “Genius bar” in the library, as students we eager to get in there and learn some new apps, ask for advice, and get some quick fixes. While I’m sure we’ll run into other issues, the launch and subsequent roll-out has gone incredibly smoothly. We hosted two parent WIFI nights for the community to ask questions. The biggest parent complaint we’ve received so far is when are the rest of the sophomores and freshman going to get them?
Our next steps will be investigating rolling out the iPads to all high school students and coordinating pilots at all the elementary schools and middle schools. We’ll have the benefit of more time and now the experience from a full-fledged pilot to help us on those campuses, but we need to continue to learn and adapt much like the technology will. We are now eliciting support from three separate university groups studying and researching various parts of the 1:1 pilot. This will give us some valuable evaluative data that we often don’t have the time to collect and review during our busy lives in district.
I hope that our roll-out and the subsequent data that we will be able to help other districts attempting similar pilots. After all, the synergy and value of student-driven learning shouldn’t be restricted to just our district. I think it’s ultimately the way to change and advance the educational system in this country and hopefully make school more meaningful for kids too. In the long-run, that’s what it should be all about anyway.