Top Post #8 – Ignore The iPads! – Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (with iPads) Part 7

As I look to unplug a bit during the first week of summer vacation, I am continuing to repost my top posts from last year. Below is #8 from last August.

The most common question we get regarding our 1:1 initiative (with (iPads) is – What apps do you recommend?

While I understand that it seems like  a logical question, I hate it. The reason for my disdain is that the focus of educators should be on outcomes first and not on devices or apps.  Before we can answer the app question, we need to have a bit more information about what the goals are for the class and how the teacher would like to facilitate the lesson (i.e. will students work independently or collaboratively).

So when it comes to the iPad, there are over 225,000 apps in the App Store. I am not going to even get into the discussion that we should stay away from becoming app-dependent and focus on digital resources that are free and will work on an platform. (I’ll leave that for a future post).

Instead, we’ll stay on the topic of not using technology for technology-sake.  We need to be careful with all of the excitement over bringing shiny new devices into our schools that we do not put gadgets before goals.

Here’s a post from BHS English/Tech Integration teacher Tim Calvin (@nothingfuture on Twitter) that nails down this point clearly (from

I ignore iPads. 

It’s true- I do.  Let’s sort this out, though. 

I like iPads a lot. They’re not the only decent device anymore, but they’re very good, and they’re not too expensive. Blah blah blah.  I love that my students have a device with them all the time. I can’t imagine teaching without it, at this point. I’d cry (and debate a change in location/profession) if they were taken away or banned. 

All that said, people keep asking me “how I use the iPads in the classroom.” And the answer- the honest truth in the answer– is that I mostly ignore them. The device isn’t the point. I’d never try to shoehorn a device (or tech of any sort) into a lesson. That’s all sorts of backwards. The tech lubricates the lesson. It allows things that weren’t possible before. It allows things to happen quickly. It smoothes the road. So when I design lessons, I just factor in the myriad things that students can now do. It’s like a bunch more colors got added to my pallet and the pictures I’m painting are that much more vivid. I simply factor into the plan that research/writing/notes/web work can all happen on the fly. That collaboration on an essay is not only possible, but is normal. That data isn’t lost. That the classroom can extend far beyond the 43 minutes I have. 

But I don’t know that I’ve ever told students to open a specific app. I know I’ve never demanded that they have an app. I know that I don’t really care about the apps that they have- just that they have apps that work for them to accomplish the tasks that I need them to do. 

I know what I’m talking about here is specific to High School. That’s what I do, and that’s likely to remain the focus here.

I think this point is relative to all levels and I think it’s something we need to reiterate.

Thanks Tim!

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Top Post #4 – Is The iPad King? It Is For Us And That’s All That Matters (For Now)

(This post originally ran in January.)

BHS students on their iPads

I have seen a few posts lately on the topic of which device is the best device for a school looking to go 1:1 and put a web-enabled device in the hands of each student.  One that caught my attention yesterday was  5 Reasons The iPad Will Stay King Of The Classroom which was posted on Edudemic.

The Edudemic post, written by Adam Webster, notes that the iPad has the following advantage over a laptop:

“The iPad, its workflow and its apps, allow for real change and makes it easy. Your students will create work that not only wasn’t possible before their innovative use of the technology, but that you as their teacher had never even thought of.”

From my own experience in year two of an iPad 1:1 program here in Burlington, I agree wholeheartedly that the newness of this device and the necessity of creating new work flows leads to more innovative uses than we would see from a laptop.  However, this can only happen in schools and classrooms where students are allowed flexibility that is not common in many traditional classrooms.

My point is that neither the iPad nor any other new gadget or gizmo will allow students the type of discoveries that Adam describes in his post unless it is coupled with a mindset that is still atypical in most schools. This change I am talking about is one that does not lead students in step-by-step processes to complete the most rudimentary task, instead it is a learning environment where students have clear outcomes to achieve, but are left with many ways to achieve these outcomes.

So I guess I continue to worry about schools that gobble up iPads (or any other digital device) thinking that it alone will have a transformational effect on learning.  Greg Kuloweic made the point very well in answer to the question “Why iPad?” on the EdTechTecher Site.

“Fundamentally, I believe that an iPad can neither be good or bad. All it can ever be is an iPad. I argue instead, that when used effectively and with specific goals in mind, iPads can have a positive impact on education.” 

So after a long lead in to reiterating the fact that people change schools, not devices, I am at my second and larger concern.  This one revolves around our ability and the ability of our students to think outside of the platform that we have chosen.  Personally, I love Apple devices and have a an iPhone, iPad and MacBook to prove it. However, when it comes to the iPad, I do worry about creating a school full of iOS “app-dependent” students and staff. I worry that our choice of platform will limit the thinking of our students down the road and box them in.

Adrianna (Photo credit: patricklarkin1967)

While I believe that we have made the best decision for our school today, things change quickly and we need to create organizational and individual flexibility to adapt to these changes when they occur.  So for the immediate future I  believe we are on the right path, but there is no discounting the fact that there are forks in the road that we will need to anticipate.  No King rules forever…

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If It Aint Broke, You Still Need To Try Something Else

For the last two years here in Burlington, there has been a great deal of focus on our integration of iPads into our classrooms. It has been an exciting time where many people have changed their workflows and started to rethink what learning environments can and should look like.  But even as I witness the excitement from students and teachers as we continue to add devices at the middle and high school level, I am always wondering if we are going to remain open-minded to other possibilities that may come along.
A recent post by Royan Lee on his must read blog, Spicy Learning, got me thinking more about this. In the post, titled “Why Mish-Mash Is Better Than 1:1,” Royan states the following:

“I prefer teaching with the limitations of no class sets, because it means we’re constantly reflecting on the merits of each tool for the given purpose.”

As I think about the skills that our students will need most, I am sure that flexibility and adaptability will be at the top of the list.  I think the best option for students would be a buffet of options where they can choose which option is best for them and the task at hand.  I am worried that we will be handicapped by traditional thinking and forget that the question of which device is best or which tool is best to perform a particular task will never again have a static answer.

This whole thing is a moving target that I don’t ever see stopping. We need to make sure that we are helping our students see beyond the device or resource of the day and keep their eyes open for what comes next.

A New Blog From Richard Byrne…Focused On iPad Apps!

Richard Byrne’s Free Technolog For Teachers Blog has been one of the top resources for educators trying to integrate technology into their classrooms for quite some time.  In fact Richard’s blog was again selected as the Best EdTech Blog in this year’s Edublog awards. What makes Richard’s blog so useful is the fact that he reviews all of the resources that he posts and also has a number of publications and videos that can help teachers in their efforts to utilize more digital resources.

Well, Richard has added to his web-presence with the creation of a new blog geared towards educators looking to implement iPads in their classrooms.  At the beginning of December, Richard started a new blog called iPad Apps for School.  I have already made it a must follow and added it to my RSS feed.

Thanks for the early Christmas present Richard!

Here are a few recent posts from the new blog worth checking out:

10 Great Apps for a Teacher’s New iPad

An Augmented Reality Math Game
MeeGenius Puts Great Children’s Stories on iPads
Maily for iPad Gives Students a Safe Place to Learn to Email

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7 Reasons iPads Rule?

English: iPads offer a variety of software
English: iPads offer a variety of software (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some impressive facts from on the impact of iPads:
  • Over 100 million sold 
  • iPad sales topped all other PC Manufacturers in the second quarter of 2012
  • 94 percent of Fortune 500 companies use iPads “in an official capacity.”
Despite these mind-blowing numbers, I am always interested in the discussion of what device is best in an educational setting.  Audrey Watters wrote a post this week asking, “Why Tablets?” that got me thinking about this a bit more, especially given the fact that we currently have over 1,200 iPads in Burlington, a number that will soon be over 2,000 as we deploy iPads at the middle school level.
Audrey wrote the following about iPads:

 I was struck once again by the abundance of hype over tablets. I confess, I just can’t do the work I need to do on an iPad, but I don’t want to suggest that that means they’re useless for others. It does make me wonder about what I’m missing by being a skeptic, as well as what students are missing when we give them tablets and not (my preference) laptops.

While I love the iPad myself, I too find myself utilizing my laptop first in many cases.  I feel quite guilty sometimes by the fact that I can pull out my MacBook Air to accomplish many tasks while students only have an iPad to access.   While I have tried at certain points to put away my laptop and get through my day with the same device that our students have, I have not been successful in doing this for more than a day.

Thinking back to our 1:1 planning meetings, I remember our main issues were cost, battery-life, and ease of use.   We looked at laptops and minis for a while and then the iPad hit the market it quickly moved to the top of the list (since we could not afford MacBooks for everyone).  Of I wondered if we were just buying the shiny new toy that the novelty would wear off quickly.

While we certainly did buy the shiny new toy and yes the novelty has warn off a bit, our satisfaction with our choice has lessened little.  The main reason is that for even the most techno-phobic user the iPad could not be easier to utilize.  There is no complicated operating system to deal with or software to learn. The ease-of-use allows us to focus our time and energy on the numerous resources that we now have at our fingertips. Instead of training on the device, we are spending our time referencing our learning goals and pulling in from the plethora of resources that allow us to reach them in new and engaging ways.

In regard to the list of reasons that iPads rules, I really don’t have a list of reasons.  Honestly, it’s up to learners to find out which tools/resources work best for them.  Make your own list! It’s a lot more fun than using someone else’s! 

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Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (with iPads) – Part 6

ipads with students
ipads with students (Photo credit: patricklarkin1967)

So it’s time to look at the feedback from 177 of our students who responded on our brief end-of-the-year survey asking about some of their impressions after a year of 1:1 with iPads.  For today, I would like to focus on the responses to the three questions below:

While others may not think this is important data, I think that we have to take some time to look at this data and recognize the fact that most of our students and staff managed to alter their workflow to incorporate the new tools at their fingertips in a very short period of time.  I think this is a credit to the work of our staff and the support provided by the adults and students who make up our BPS EdTech Team.
I love the way that Bernajean Porter describes the technology integration process as one that contains the three distinct steps described below:

Literacy Uses: Student uses are described as technology storiesAdaptive Uses: Learning is telling the same stories with new toolsTransforming Uses: Learning is creating new stories with new tools

It is exciting to see that we seem to be moving well into the adaptive uses in just one year. While it is important that we look for an even higher percentage in this area in year two, the focal point also must move to transforming uses and ensuring that we are supporting a learning environment in which these types of opportunities will be prevalent. 

It reminds me of an excerpt from Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It:

“What if instead of telling (students) what they should know, we asked them?”

We need to continue to learn from and with our students as we continue to seek to maximize the potential of our devices. While some people are quick to question the cost of an iPad and whether our money was well spent, I believe they are missing the point if they are only focusing on the technology.

This quote about iPods could easily be transferred to our iPads initative:

“The iPod experiment was not an investment in technology. It was an investment in a new form of attention, one that didn’t require the student to always face forward, learn from on high, memorize what was already a given, or accept knowledge as something predetermined and passively absorbed.”

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Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (with iPads) Part Five


As we begin to look at the data from our students at BHS on their thoughts on year one as a 1:1 school, I thought it would be interesting to look at how teachers and students from other schools who also just completed a year of 1:1 felt about the impact made by putting a web-enabled device in the hands of each student.

I found the following information which was posted by Ian Jukes on the 21st Century Fluency Project’s blog very relevant:

Data Brief (from Digital Wish):We surveyed 30 teachers and 465 students participating in 1:1 computing initiatives this year:

  • Student Engagement – Student engagement increased 140% in word processing and writing, creating presentations, and video production.  52% of teachers now feel that the majority of their students are highly engaged as opposed to only 37% pre-initiative.
  • Problem Solving – Students who say they can “figure out just about anything on their own” increased from 38% to 51%, a 134% increase.  The number of students who say they have participated in ten or more technology projects that required them to solve a problem, gather information, or draw a conclusion, has nearly doubled, from 23% to 42%.
  • Creativity – Teachers now say that 46% of their students are experts or peer coaches in creating a new idea or original project using technology, a value that almost quadrupled the pre-initiative’s mere 12%.
  • Students becoming Tech “Experts” – The majority of students say they are experts at digital media, word processing, making presentations, safely and responsibly using the internet, solving problems using technology, and researching a topic on the Internet.  At the beginning of the initiative, almost 50% of students said they didn’t know how to do these things.
While the questions on our student survey at the end of the year may have been a bit different, I think there are equally positive data points. We will look at these tomorrow!

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Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (With iPads) Part Four

During the course of the year, we talked to students and staff and asked them to share some of their thoughts on the iPad initiative at BHS. Here is a glimpse of what some staff and students say about the iPad initiative thus far.

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Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (With iPads) Part Three

One of the positive things about our iPad initiative has been the positive recognition that our school has received due to the efforts of our staff in undertaking this exciting work. The Boston Phoenix published an article this week that highlighted the work of BHS and other schools integrating the use of iPads.

I do want to say that I am not a fan of the headline – iPads Innovate Education in Massachusetts Schools because I think we need to continue to be clear that technology does not innovate by itself. It is thoughtful practitioners who know how to integrate the right tools at the right moment who are innovative.

Here are some of the other articles and that have been done on our efforts at BHS due to our wealth of innovative educators who are willing to take risks and integrate new technology in order to create more engaging classrooms:

July 2012

The iPad Initiative Did it Make the Grade – Burlington Wicked Local

June 2012

7 Habits of Highly Effective Tech-Leading Principals – THE Journal

March 2012

Schools Abandon Textbooks To Go All iPad – WBUR Radio

November 2011

How Students View Digital Citizenship – Edudemic

September 2011

How Steve Jobs Transformed The Classroom
How Steve Jobs Influences BHS – WBZ News
A Student’s Tweet Lands Me On Fox News
BHS Featured on WGBH TV

August 2011

Associated Press – Many U.S. Schools Adding iPads, Trimming Textbooks
Daily Times Chronicle – iPad Program Drawing Attention For Burlington High
Boston Globe – Leading The Way To Cyber-Learning
T.H.E. Journal – When Students Run The Help Desk
Fox 25 Boston Checks Out Our iPad Deployment
USA Today – Students Cast Wide Net For Mentoring With PLN’s
Edutopia – How My School Is Transitioning to Digital Textbooks (Organizing: Step 1 of 5)
Edutopia – How My School Is Transitioning to Digital Textbooks (Organizing: Step 2 of 5)
Edutopia – How My School Is Transforming to Digital Textbooks (Process: Step 3 of 5)

July 2011

Edutopia – Creating ePubs: A Model for Multi-District Collaboration

February 2011

Boston Globe – School Plans to Provide iPads

Previous Posts On This Topic

Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (With iPads) – Part One

Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (With iPads) – Part Two


Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (With iPads) Part Two

One of the big questions that is asked about our iPad initiative at BHS is – What are the goals of the initiative and how do you know if it is successful or not? My response to this question is not meant to be evasive, but I do think if this question is being asked too much that we did not do a good job communicating up front about this initiative.

The biggest point we want to reiterate is that technology by itself will not have a significant impact in our schools. I mentioned this last week in a post referring to Jim Collins’ book Good to Great.

Technology alone is not going to move an organization or an individual from Good to Great. However, technology that is thoughtfully deployed can help us move a bit faster. “

We continue to focus on higher levels of student engagement as a primary target in all classrooms and our work in this area will continue. We believe strongly that students having access to a web-enabled device will allow us to increase the qualities of an engaged classroom as described by Phil Schlechty (below).

  • Personal Response – More than one right answer
  • Clear/Modeled Expectations – Student knows what success “looks like”
  • Emotional/Intellectual Safety – Freedom to take risks
  • Learning with Others (Affiliation) – Learning has a social component
  • Sense of Audience – Student work is shared
  • Choice – Students have meaningful options
  • Novelty and Variety – Learning experiences are unusual or unexpected
  • Authenticity – Connections to experience or prior learning

It is important to note that this is work that started well beyond the distribution of iPads. However, we feel that the access that is no provided opens up a number of additional access points to these engaging qualities.

Previous Posts On This Topic

Looking Back At Year One of 1:1 (With iPads) – Part One