We are piloting iPads in our elementary campus this year, in groups of 5 per classroom. We offered the chance for our e-Learning leaders to apply for the opportunity, and almost all of them jumped at the chance. It has been an exciting and steep learning curve for us so far. Since I had never used them in the classroom myself, it has been a year of networking, learning, researching, reflecting and collaborating. It has been incredible watching the iPads literally transform the learning environment in the classroom. In addition, we also have a hub of 20 iPads in the library that can be signed out as a class set. In no particular order, here are some insights and reflections from our pilot:
10. Logistics are what frustrates teachers the most, and also what is the most difficult to manage. Since iPads are actually not designed to be shared devices, we have run into several problems with accounts and sharing. Figure out consistent systems for buying apps, managing the plethora of iTunes accounts, and common agreements for charging, management and organization of the devices.
9. Have an iPad PLC. Our team of e-Learning leaders meets about once a month to reflect on the experience, share ideas, and problem solve. This has been invaluable. As we move forward and continue to roll out iPads to the rest of the classrooms next year, we need leverage the power of our e-Learning leaders and offer more opportunities for iPad PLCs.
8. Mess around. The teachers that have been most successfully integrating the iPads into their classrooms have been willing to try new ideas, have collaborated, and been very comfortable with the unknown. You don’t need to be remotely tech savvy to be successful!
7. Buy the right accessories. Our first cases were terrible, and did more damage than good. We didn’t have ‘dongles’ to connect them to our projectors or docking systems for charging. If you are going to go for it, do it right!
6. Focus on creation apps, not content specific apps. This is where kids are enhancing their learning, and developing their higher order thinking skills. Using the iPad for edutainment is not in our game plan.
5. In your Professional Development sessions, actually show teachers examples of student work or the possibilities with different apps. Run the PD as an informal symposium where teachers can showcase or explain how they managed a particular learning task. We got the most positive feedback from these sessions.
4. Don’t reinvent the wheel. So many schools and so many people have done this work before you. Get on Twitter, e-mail your friends, ask around. On so many occasions we found out that other schools had been struggling with the exact same challenges.
3. Make a plan. But don’t be afraid to change it.
2. You do not need to be an expert on an app in order to introduce it to your class. So many times, we have discovered features of an app together. Our students feel proud to be testing the apps, increasing their sense of ownership and even writing app reviews on the blogs.
1. Keep yourself grounded in student learning. When people ask what my job is, I tell them it is to move student learning forward. I just happen to be a Technology Coach. Technological bells and whistles should never distract from meaningful and authentic learning.
What other insights would you add to this list?