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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A Principal's Perspective: Preparing to Distribute Student iPads?

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator

Yes, let's give students iPads so they can be smarter and learn better. It sounds so easy. The reality is that there are many unknowns, like how do you hand out 800 iPads and keep track of which student has which iPad, and how do you get 800 students to register with iTunes so they can use their iPads on the school system? (The school system: How do you provide enough bandwidth for 800 iPads? That's another challenge entirely!)

As principal, here are questions myself and faculty have been faced with:

  • What if I lose my iPad? What if the battery dies?
  • What textbooks should I put on my iPad? Can I put Stone Craft on my iPad? How do I print my work?
  • What if I bring my own iPad instead of the school's?
  • How can I do my work at home if I do not have WiFi?
  • If I don't sign the iPad agreement, what do I do in class without an iPad?
  • Who is going to fix the iPad if it is damaged? Is the iPad insurance only for one year or four years?
  • Do I get to keep the iPad during the summer? What happens when I graduate?
  • How do we get content-specific apps on 120 iPads? What apps are best for learning science in the classroom?
  • What do we do if the student moves and does not turn in the iPad?
  • How do we make sure the iPads are not stolen? How do we keep the iPads secure if they are in the locker room, a game or a concert?
  • What if they leave the iPad at home? What do we do with students who did not sign the agreement?
  • How do we get students to write with the iPad touch screen? How will we grade work done on the iPad?
  • How do we keep the students from visiting inappropriate websites?

These many questions and a hundred more from the students, teachers, and parents are being answered one by one in my iPad experience. I will be glad to share the answers that we have discovered to some of these questions, and by the way, I am open to anyone with ideas on how to answer the unanswered questions.

The iPad Rationale

Our school district has a high number of low-income families, and one of the reasons for lending each ninth and tenth grader an iPad for the school year is an effort to eliminate the well-known "digital divide." Perhaps the most compelling reason is that this device has the capacity to change how our students learn, and it will also change how our teachers teach. So when these questions started popping up, we had to keep these two ideas in our minds. Our superintendent, the district technology coordinator, the assistant superintendent, the director of curriculum, and myself all sat down one afternoon in August and hammered out the answers to some of the basic questions. We came up with some pretty unique solutions, if I may say so, and I would like to share a few with you.

Tackling the Challenges

Cost

The first sticky problem we tackled was how we would handle the situation if the iPad gets stolen, lost or destroyed. We knew that not many of our families could afford to replace it (about $425 with the military grade protective case). We arrived at three possible solutions: 1) The parent (or the student) would pay the replacement cost entirely, 2) The parent or the student could purchase a yearly insurance policy for $45 with a $50 deductible to replace the iPad, and 3) The parent or student would pay $50, and the student would then provide campus service for 40 hours. This is different than disciplinary "community service" because there are many things at the campus for which students are needed as volunteers: ushering at plays and performances, setting up track meets, clearing the football field of markers, helping the librarian sort and reshelf books, campus beautification projects, office work, and many more service tasks to choose from. We felt that this was a more than fair deal but we also felt that if we were going to do this, that the parents and students needed to be committed to not only take care of the device, but use it appropriately.

Since we did not want the students or parents to think that we were simply giving away the iPads, we came up with an iPad agreement that spelled out why the iPads were being lent to the students to use, how they were to use them, and reminded them of the Internet use agreements that they had already signed as part of the registration process.

Bottom line, both the parent and the student needed to sign this agreement because they are still responsible. We wanted to make sure that parents and students understood this, and in order to answer as many questions as possible, we set up four evening meetings in the auditorium where the parents and students could receive a bit of information about the iPads and what was expected of them. As the contracts were signed, we realized that we needed to keep track of who had signed and who had not.

Insurance

Even though the insurance was a great idea, we could find no carrier that would do what we wanted for the price we wanted. The district folks decided that we could be self-insured and that the number of $45 policies would serve as capital for iPads that may be damaged (Another questions is, are we going to fix them ourselves or send them off to be fixed?) One of the features of the iPad is the iCloud GPS Locator that will be able to find where the iPad is, kind of like low jack, and we publicized this heavily, so we are not too worried about students trying to steal or accidentally misplace their iPads. Students tossing iPads, sitting on them, or leaving them in the back of a hot car is more of our concern. Insurance was a big deal for the parents.

Ownership

"So what happens at the end of the year?" one student asked, "Do we get to keep the iPad over the summer?"

"No, you have to turn it in just like you would return your books." I replied.

"What about next year? Do we get the same iPad back?" Another student asked.

"Yes, you get the same iPad back." I responded, taking a stab at answering a question that we had not really considered. But seeing my opportunity, I continued, "So what happens after four years of you and this iPad becoming really good friends?" I paused and hoped that iPads will last four years of hard use, then I continued enthusiastically, "When you graduate, so does your iPad!"

The answer from the audience of students and parents was rousing applause.

What's Next?

Please share your experiences with iPads and getting them into student hands. As we actually get the iPads into student hands this week, I will be able to share how our plans actually worked.


This blog is part of a series sponsored by Autodesk.

Comments (7)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

maddaug33's picture
maddaug33
Supervisor of Technology

It will be interesting to see if this device will provide a better learning experience for the students or just be a device that teachers use to teach the same way they always have. If the teaching style doesn't change the cool factor of a device disappears quickly and I believe there will be little gain. In that case the money would have been better spent on other things.
The key to having a successful school environment is having informed, motivated teachers. It was before the digital age and always will be.

Rhonda Lowderback's picture

I agree that iPads have the ability to tansform education. I guess I have more quesitons about it, though. I wonder about using unsecuired Wi-Fi that students might find in various locations. How secure will a child's information be on a device that is not locked down? And, if you lock it down so it is secure, how can the student customize it to best fit them? I wonder, too, about parental training. My district is also moving to buy tablets for all children in the district. As a parent of two elementary school children, I wonder how much parents will feel left out of their child's education when the child starts using a tablet that the parent doesn't understand. Laslty, what about the teachers? If they aren't trained properly, the kids will certainly not use the device to its potential. Are there any great examples of this techology working that can be used as a guide?

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Educator, Consultant, ADE , ClassTechTips.com
Blogger

Looking forward to hearing about your successes and struggles sending the iPads home with students! I love using iPads 1:1 with my students, but we keep our class set in school. Check out how iPads are used in my classroom: www.ClassTechTips.com

RobertRichmond's picture

Hi,

Had a read through your post and you post some really good questions! We have been running our iPad program for two years now, and have answered pretty much every question you have asked here.

Q: How do you hand out 800 iPads and keep track of which student has which iPad?
A: We utilise a Google spreadsheet. When the ipads arrive we collect the Mac Address and the serial number. We then add a College identifying sticker to the device so we can keep track o f it in our spreadsheet. When we provide them to the students, we have around 10 staff going through the setup with them. We record the student name, their College ID, Parents name and Graduating year (This way I can check the number of devices to the number of enrolled students).

Q: How do you get 800 students to register with iTunes so they can use their iPads on the school system?
A: We get the students to do this at home. We provide directions on how to do this on our iPad portal. It would be far to difficult to do this one on one and would not teach the students anything. Give them the responsibility, and this one will take care of itself.

Using their iPads on the College system is done by creating a Mobile config file using the iPhone configuration utility. They then download this using a wireless network which only provides access to this single page. The iPads pop this page up automatically once connected and download the mobile config file, which has the questions in it to set up their College network access, their Email and Calendar.

Q: How do you provide enough bandwidth for 800 iPads?
A: Look at getting around a 3TB data limit and at least a 40 MB pipe. 100MB is ideal. Ensure you have a solid wireless network. We use Aerohive inside and outside.

Q: What if I lose my iPad?
A: We self insure our iPads. We worked out that we would need to replace around 1/3 the fleet before we would break even cost wise with an insurance company. We have only had 4% repaired, and 2 out of 716 stolen in 2 years. We use a scale which starts a 0% in month 1, and goes to 100% in month 24. A line goes between these points and this is the percentage a parent pays if the iPad is stolen or damaged.

Details are found here: https://ipad.redlands.qld.edu.au/content/warranty-and-insurance-0

Q: What if the battery dies?
A: We purchase an extended warranty on the iPad which covers the battery. We have not had one iPad fail in the two years we have been using them.

Q: What textbooks should I put on my iPad?
A: That's up to the College. We provide PDFs for many subjects and utilise PDF Expert for interacting with them this also reduces printing requirements.

https://ipad.redlands.qld.edu.au/content/marking-digitally

Q: How do I print my work?
A: We use the method above to redice the need for printing. If student need to print we use Canon's Unflow App. The Student emails the job to a print queue where they access it straight from the printer. Our printing has dropped significantly however since we started using iPads.

Q: What if I bring my own iPad instead of the school's
A: We allow this to occur. We will connect any device a student has to the College network.

Q: How can I do my work at home if I do not have WiFi?
A: The iPad can function still when not on Wifi, but it really needs an internet connection to use it to its max. I'd suggest purchasing Wifi.

Q: If I don't sign the iPad agreement, what do I do in class without an iPad?
A: We have not had this problem when going through the program with our parents. But yes, without the agreement being signed, it makes it difficult to do work at the College. I am not sure what this exactly achieves beside making it more difficult for the student to participate.

Q: Who is going to fix the iPad if it is damaged?
A: The College takes care of repairs. We then bill the parents the % amount as listed before.

Q: Is the iPad insurance only for one year or four years?
A: We insure based on the warranty of the iPad..so the student only has the device for 2 years.

Q: Do I get to keep the iPad during the summer? What happens when I graduate?
A: We let our students keep the iPad. It would be far to difficult to manage if they returned them and took them and returned them and took them.... Why not let them keep them for the Holidays. We only collect them at the end of the program. The iPads are owned by the College here. hence we keep the device.

Q: How do we get content-specific apps on 120 iPads? What apps are best for learning science in the classroom?
A: We provide the students with a list of Apps they require.

https://ipad.redlands.qld.edu.au/content/apps

We also gift Apps to the students. You are able to take advantage of the Volume Purchasing program which will allow you to do this and get a discount on the purchase....

http://www.apple.com/education/volume-purchase-program/

Best Apps for learning Science...? How long is a piece of string. Best to do a search on this. I post many of these items at my Scoop.it site:

http://www.scoop.it/t/it-and-education

Q: What do we do if the student moves and does not turn in the iPad?
A: That's up to you... We would charge the parents in full for the cost. This has not occured as yet.

Q: How do we make sure the iPads are not stolen?
A: Difficult to ensure. Need to talk to the students about using their device appropriately. We have only had 2 in 2 years.

Q: How do we keep the iPads secure if they are in the locker room, a game or a concert?
A: We provide lockers where the iPad goes during any time that it is not required.

Q: What if they leave the iPad at home?
A: What if they leave their text books at hom?. For us the same process applies. We use the Responsible Thinking Process.

Q: What do we do with students who did not sign the agreement?
A: They do not get an iPad. No agreement means we would be giving them the iPad without expecting its return.

Q: How do we get students to write with the iPad touch screen?
A: Use a stylus. We find this works well.

Q: How will we grade work done on the iPad?
A: Try this. https://ipad.redlands.qld.edu.au/content/marking-digitally

Q: How do we keep the students from visiting inappropriate websites?
A: Use an appropriate Filter. We use Squid guard but this does require someone with technical knowledge. Have a look for other options if this won't work for you.

Hope this helps..!!

Hatch Early Learning's picture

This a great article that considers the many implications and possible complications that schools face with expensive new technologies. The iPad is as great device, but until schools can adequately monitor the content that students access, distraction is imminent. iOS does not allow modifications at the kernel level, which is the best way to control content access.

Keith's picture
Keith
High school teacher finishing up my diploma in educational leadership

I am also interested in hearing about how the distribution of iPads in your school system went. What did you find to be the most successful and were there any set-backs? What were some of the reactions from the staff about the roll-out of the iPads? I found it interesting that you allow students to take their iPads home. At our school, we almost have a one-to-one ration of students to laptops and we keep them charging and locked-up in cabinets in each classroom. During the day, laptops usually stay in their respective classrooms and as students change classes, they simply log into another laptop using their assigned username and password. That way, the administration can usually tell who misused a laptop by tracking users based on their usernames. I'm looking forward to hearing from you or anyone else who has posted on this topic.

Rebecca Good's picture
Rebecca Good
Superintendant/CEO at Legacy Preparatory Charter Districtp

We opened up three charter schools in August, with all our 6th and 7th graders being part of the New Tech Network Program.

newtechnetwork.org

We had to lease/purchase a laptop for each student. That in itself was a feat due to being a new entity. We have had to put in a new IT infrastructure. We have gone through much of what was listed above. Lessons learned involve making sure you train students in responsible use protocols and training teachers in instructional technology. We are half a year in and still feel as if we are in our infancy as far as being effective in these two areas.

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