At the end of last school year I reflected on the 10 things NOT to do in an iPad 1:1 program. I was blown away with the amount of responses and views the post got from all over the world. It seems that it was at the right time, and right moment for districts out there planning on entering the Fall with a new 1:1 implementation. That said, it’s almost too late by that point to make real swift changes to your implementation.
I felt assured we had ferreted out all the little details that make things go astray during this process and hoped by providing a list of the 10 things, other districts could learn from our mistakes. Since that article, we have now collected the student iPads, re-distributed them, rented them out over the summer, distributed them to the rest of the high school, all the 8th graders, and now 2 grade levels at each elementary. Needless to say, we’ve learned a WHOLE lot more about both what to do and what NOT to do. Don’t get me wrong, the level of personal learning and shift in instructional focus, while slow at times, has been breath-taking to behold. I have no doubt in my mind that shift wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t take the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach to putting these out there. That said, here are 10 MORE things I wouldn’t do again if we had to do it all over:
1. Do NOT pick them all up on one day –
Talk about a nightmare scenario. Imagine trying to collect and assess 1800 iPads from high school students in just one day with limited staff? Talks with the high school administration and the technology department determined that this would be the way to go, and it didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time. Knock the whole thing out in one day and rip off the bandaid. The only problem was, this was happening a few days before final exams and kids weren’t exactly thrilled to give them up. We actually started our rental program (“rent” your iPad over the summer for $30) because of the feedback from staff and students. I was lucky enough to be in one of the rooms collecting the iPads. We had a gallon zip-lock bag where they would write their name and iPad number and then put their charger, case and iPad in there. Not only did we end up with about 4 or 5 missing chargers per class period, we had to assess each iPad in the class during a 52-minute class period. Talk about stressful! This year we are planning to work with students well in advance and over several days as well as discussing the possibility of letting all high school kids take them home over the summer.
2. Do NOT try and build the “Charge/Sync Stations” by yourself at the beginning of the year
For the elementary classrooms, we knew 1:1 would look different. They wouldn’t be going home with students and they wouldn’t need to be stored in those $2700 Bretford carts since they were going to be stationary. We decided to build our own “Charge/Sync Stations” modeled after those wood letter-sorters we used to have at elementary school. Build the shelving, attach a 32-port Charge/Sync device on top (we used this one), attach it to a wall and voila! Done. Only problem was, there were 55 of these we had to build, and it was the beginning of the year. In retrospect, it would have been better to outsource this to parents, volunteers, hourly workers, rather than tie up our tech department’s time at a crucial point in the year.
3. Do NOT fall in love with a certain app too quickly
We’ve all had an app so cool, so inspiring, we just had to share with everyone else how great it is. As with anything in the tech world, change happens quickly. With apps, it is even faster. Here’s an example: We were trying to select a comic strip app to put on our elementary iPads back in July. We had a pretty good process for rating apps, but the only problem was, the apps selected in July weren’t installed until the end of October. In the course of that time we discovered Strip Designer and decided it was superior to the other, more expensive app that we had purchased back in July. This will happen from time to time, so I encourage everyone to try out apps in small doses before buying 2000 of them.
4. Do NOT forget to communicate with everyone ALL the time.
While it’s certainly possible to over-communicate, we are much more guilty in education and administration of under-communicating. Collection day for the iPads? Oh yeah, we sent out an email a couple weeks ago about that. Restrictions on the student iPads? We put that info on our single website for everything iPad. No matter what you are doing, 1:1 or otherwise, be prepared to communicate in multiple mediums with multiple distributions and repetitions. Spreading the word will help decrease confusion and frustration and increase trust and clarity.
5. Do NOT be surprised by parent concerns
One day I will write a book about both parent concerns I’ve heard over the years when it relates to technology and interesting ways in which teachers have broken their iPads. When you start a 1:1 program where students take the device home, realize that there is a real sentiment that the school is “invading” the parents’ home. While the intended purpose is to extend learning to the home environment, it adds a new dynamic to parenting and home life. “I have to use my iPad for my homework” can quickly turn into a 4-hour Minecraft session when the mom and dad aren’t monitoring. Think of the shift (in sound mostly) when a student brings home a musical instrument to practice. This is like that only it doesn’t make a lot of sound and can be highly distracting if proper frameworks and parenting techniques are employed. No matter how ludicrous the stories are, they are real and it should be our role to educate and listen to all, including parents.
6. Do NOT take all other technology away for months in advance
Getting rid of the old to replace with the new is a tried and true method every technology department spends the summer doing. However, I would never recommend taking the old (desktops in the backs of classrooms) and then waiting a few months before you put in the new (1:1 iPads in our case). While it will increase appreciation for technology, it’s not necessary and just adds stress to the beginning of the year. You want them thirsty, but not at the expense of crossing the desert to get water. Consider a transition time when both are in the classroom and remove the “old” only after the “new” are in.
7. Do NOT assume students know how to use them
Sure they can play Angry Birds and check Facebook, but can they create, edit and send a Pages doc? Kids can pick up technology must faster than adults, largely due to the programing in their brain, but don’t assume they know WHEN and WHY to use it even if they know the HOW.
8. Do NOT give elementary teachers iPads without some grade-level apps on them
Last year, we were able to give most teachers a few iPads or even a cart to share and experiment with on the elementary level. Teachers loved this extra access and converted many of the shared iPads into centers of sorts. Since these are meant to be personal devices, the idea of creating and keeping work on them wasn’t really emphasized in the shared environment. That all changes when they become 1:1. When we distributed the 1:1 iPads we put a “trunk image” of apps on there and encouraged teachers to suggest other apps to be installed that were more grade level specific. This meant that the 1:1 iPad classrooms only had 40 or so general apps on them and not the 120 or so shared apps they had in the previous model. Not having the grade-level apps they were familiar with to start made some teachers hesitate using the devices. I actually think it’s a good idea to start with just the core apps, but you need to make sure that is communicated to those teachers as well as expectations of early use in class. (See point #4)
9. Do NOT underestimate Middle School students ability to break your restrictions
With the high school, we left the iPad fairly open. We didn’t restrict app or music purchases with the thinking that teaching the students responsible use before they head off to college isn’t a bad idea. For middle school kids though, they aren’t quite ready to comprehend that level of power, so we placed some age appropriate restrictions on them. It took a couple of weeks, but soon a small group of students figured out how to remove them and the word spread. Luckily we have it written in their Responsible Use document that removing restrictions or jail-breaking is an offense and our MDM can detect who has done it. That said, it’s a good idea to make sure kids are aware of this when you distribute them, otherwise they will eventually be done in with pre-pubescent curiosity to try and break the system.
10. Do NOT short your count of iPads on distribution day
I had to put this last one on here, even though it’s pretty embarrassing. On the second of our high school distribution days we had pretty much accounted for everything, or so we thought. We changed the way distribution took place, centralizing it, rather than going room to room which was a great time-saver. However, in the course of handing kids back their iPad from the year before, rental iPads, or new iPads, our student count got lost in the shuffle. An order was placed (not naming names here) for what was thought to be the right amount, but in the end, it was about 200 short. As incredibly embarrassing as this is to share, it shows you that every minor detail can become major if not accounted for. I captured this video of our assistant principal telling the last class period of students that we had run out. Not a great moment, but on the bright side we had some put aside for elementary so with a little extra effort, we were able to repurpose those in a few days for those kids without. Lesson learned though, always triple-check your counts and allow for a few extras!