|English: iPad with on display keyboard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We have gotten a lot of inquiries about iPads in Burlington since deploying over 1,000 iPads at our high school in the fall of 2011. As we continue plans for a February deployment at our Middle School and work with pilots at our elementary schools it is interesting to reflect on the questions that we get from other schools and how some of our answers/solutions to issues change over time. In addition, it is important to note that our answer to a particular question may not be the best answer for another school or district.
The most important point in all of this is that educators and students in environments that allow the use of digital resources have the ability to connect and share best practices. This culture of sharing is both valuable and fulfilling, and the best part is that immersing yourself in it can help everyone become more successful.
Anyway, here is a list of questions I got this week in an e-mail from a fellow administrator in another district. I thought I would share the questions and answers here in the hopes that others could benefit from the responses and expand on them.
1) What are the iPad’s used for?
It varies from one classroom to the next. In some classrooms they use them for note-taking, word processing, and web searches. Our Foreign Language Department has been able to do away with their former language lab due to the fact that the teachers now feel like they have a language lab in every classroom.
2) How many iPad’s are used for how many students?
We have one iPad for each student at the high school (just over 1,000 total). We will be 1:1 at the middle school in February (800 more students). We also have one first grade classroom at each of the elementary schools in a pilot and a fifth grade classroom at Pine Glen in a pilot.
3) Are the iPad’s used for administrative purposes? If so what?
Administrators utilize the iPads to access our student management system and we plan on using them extensively when we implement the new evaluation system next year.
4) If apps are used, what subjects use the apps and what apps are the most educationally sound?
We use too many apps to list here and allow high school students to personalize their iPads by adding their own apps and having their music accessible. In regards to “foundation apps,” we promote the use of Evernote, Dropbox, Explain Everything, Google Drive, Notability. You can check out a number of reviews by our IT Staff and our Student Help Desk on these two websites: bpsedtech.org and bhshelpdesk.com.
5) If the iPad’s are used for textbooks what textbooks fi the iPad the best? How are books put on the iPad? How are iPad’s with textbooks distributed the second year (when books are loaded)?
We do not use the iPads for textbooks. We are in the process of pulling together our own on-line resources, utilizing a company called Net Texts. At this point, we feel strongly about not purchasing traditional textbooks or buying e-versions of textbooks from the textbooks companies. We would prefer to support our teachers in the curation of content that they can more readily revise each year.
6) Do students/administrators type on the iPad? How are documents printed from the iPad’s?
There have been no significant problems typing on the iPad. We did not provide cases for all of the iPads, but instead got a neoprene which was donated by the Burlington Chamber of Commerce with some ads from local businesses. Some students chose to get cases that included a bluetooth keyboard while some choose to touch type right on the iPad. Another group uses the voice-to-text to dictate the rough drafts into the iPads and then makes the changes from there.
7) What are the biggest positives from a student learning/administrative point of view?
One of the biggest positives has been the fact that staff has had to rely on students in many cases to help them learn how to use the iPads and some of the resources we now have access to. I believe that it has helped us become less of a teacher-centered school and more of a learner-centered school where we are all learners together.
8) What are the biggest negatives?
I think the concerns are that we address misuse of digital resources and have conversations about balance. We are not promoting an “all iPad, all the time” environment. Thoughtful lesson-planning means integrating appropriate resources whether they are technology-based or not.
Questions about How the iPad’s Are Deployed
9) Do the iPad uses depend on regular wireless access? How much of the building/school system is wireless?
We have wireless throughout all of our school buildings. There are certainly ways to utilize the iPads without wireless access, but I think the infrastructure of a school or district should be upgraded before the integration of wireless devices.
10) Are the iPad’s bought or leased?
We pay for our iPads through a three-year lease to own program.
11) Who handles iPad repairs? How are the iPad’s re-charged?
We have a student help desk which is the front line of handling iPad issues. They are supported by staff who can step in and resolve issues that they cannot. However, the issues that the schools are unable to resolve are very few. In regards to charging, students recharge the iPads at home after school. Because the iPads are not used every minute of every day, they can go multiple days without being recharged. Charging of devices has been a non-issue.
12) What training was done for technology staff? For teachers?
We spent a great deal of time leading up to the deployment sharing digital resources with staff and offering numerous sessions on resources that we thought that they would find most useful. We have given staff a great deal of time to get together informally as well to share what is working and what is not. Again, having the help desk available throughout the school day allows staff and students to get questions answered and learn about resources in which they are interested.
13) Are the iPad’s networked in any way? What hardware/software is used in networking?
All of our iPads access our school network. We currently use a browser from Lightspeed Systems that ensures that the student iPads go through our server and our filtering whether they are in or out of school.
14) How is software loaded on the iPad’s? How is the software purchased?
At the high school level, most of the apps utilized are free apps that students load themselves. At the middle and elementary levels the apps are loaded by the IT staff via a synching cart. Pay for apps that are bought by the school are done through the volume purchasing program.