George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Wondering what will happen if your school brings iPads into the classroom? Is your district discussing the purchase of iPads as opposed to laptops? Here at Bellevue Public Schools in Bellevue, Nebraska, we have dipped our toes into the iPad arena and have discovered some amazing and inevitable elements from our experiences!

We are not an iPad-saturated district. In fact, we have intentionally not implemented this model as we feared that iPads would become dust collectors, picture frames or bookends. Assuming teachers will know what to do with them is a completely false assumption. Our model has been one of control, training, coaching and reflection. Not everyone in our district receives a cart of iPads. Out of approximately 800 teachers, 16 have sets of 30 iPads.

Our Process

First Step

Our teachers voluntarily undergo six intense days of Apple Foundations Training. (Our district has two Apple Certified Trainers, myself and my colleague Ann Feldmann.) These sessions focus on the MacBook's operating system, iLife, iWork, mobile learning and the SAMR model.

Second Step

These trained teachers apply to our pilot iPad Academy program. As part of the academy, teachers receive a cart of iPads for a 1:1 environment. Then they learn how to manage the devices, implement the iPads on a daily basis, and begin working with a coach. Applications are reviewed by district coaches and our Director of Technology Greg Boettger (@gkboettger).

Third Step

Chosen teachers are assigned a coach who works side by side with them throughout the year. I am one of these lucky coaches. Coaching has enabled me to make some discoveries about what happens when iPads are used effectively in the classroom.

After having been through the cycle completely, there are some things I know for sure will occur this school year with our new batch of iPad Academy participants.

What iPads Will Bring to Our Schools

1. The Need for Reflection

Reflection becomes a key piece of this experience. Being able to look back, analyze and rethink how something was done only brings us closer to being effective digital teachers. Some of our tools for reflections are Google+ communities and Hangouts, Twitter, using the #ipadacademy hashtag, teacher blogs, and periodic face-to-face meetings with the entire group. As educators, we understand the importance of reflection. However, as the years pass and we master our routines, reflection is often overlooked and underutilized. As a trainer, I get to push teachers to reflect, discuss and rethink their instruction. It is amazing to watch their teaching change as a result of quality reflection time.

2. Pacing Ourselves

Helping our teachers realize that the pace of their instruction must slow down while the iPads are being introduced is critical for a successful iPad rollout. One teacher stated this week, "OK. I know. I tried to do too much." After introducing the iPads and also trying to accomplish curriculum goals all in 45 minutes, this teacher recognized that it just isn't possible! Once the students know how to get around the device and utilize specific apps, then the curriculum pace can increase. But not until then.

3. Dealing with Obstacles

Moments of rethinking how we deliver instruction, assess students and collect their work creep up immediately once iPads are in students' hands. This creates discomfort for teachers, but they must overcome being their own obstacle for change. As one teacher asked, "How do I grade their packet of notes for review now that their work will be in Google Drive?" I replied, "Well, how can you arrange it differently so that they apply knowledge instead of just copying it in a packet?"

These daily questions arise, and I get to watch our teachers try a different approach that pushes students deeper into their own learning. There will be other obstacles like blocked websites that need to be opened, updated apps that force some relearning, and lacking enough time to accomplish teacher goals. However, we've made sure to have processes in place that deal with most of these roadblocks.

4. Embracing Change

One thing for sure, the teachers that we get to work with evolve in a way the others do not. Daily use of an iPad changes the way students interact with each other, their teacher and their content. In this supportive environment, teachers are able to try new ways of teaching old content. Differentiation becomes easier with the iPad. Teachers actually state that they have more free time once they master the paperless workflow. The delivery of information often goes through the Google Drive app. Workflow becomes paperless with immediate feedback through Drive, Explain Everything, Socrative, Kidblog, YouTube and other web-based applications.

5. Opening Us to Creativity

Students have access to a variety of apps that allow for creativity. By demonstrating their knowledge through apps such as Explain Everything, iMovie and Keynote, they provide teachers with an opportunity for alternative assessments. Students also experience flexibility to demonstrate their knowledge instead of a multiple-choice paper-and-pencil test. As they naturally begin to own their learning through the creative process on the iPad, students are proud of their work and eager to share their products.

6. Collaboration

Collaboration increases for both teachers and students as a result of our iPad Academy. Teachers collaborate on ideas, problem solving, and providing support for each other. It is scary trying new things, and knowing they have each other is a huge help! Students begin collaborating more often as well, because now the tasks have changed to creating videos, multimedia projects and Google docs. I believe we are better together, and this experience often proves my point.

Anticipating Change

While it is still early in our school year, I can't wait to watch all of these things happen as I know they will. And I will be ready to listen, to question and to guide. It's an exciting time here in Bellevue!

The next time you are in a discussion about iPads in the classroom, ask yourself and your team two questions:

  1. How do you see iPads changing the way teachers teach?
  2. How can you ensure that iPads will be implemented in a way that will guarantee increased engagement and improve instruction?
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Comments (22) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Erin Thurman's picture


Thank you for sharing your journey of integrating iPads into the classrooms in Bellevue, Nebraska! I work within Virginia Beach City Public Schools in the state of Virginia and we now have three iPad carts within my school. My school is very "tech savvy" with Promethean Boards and laptop carts within every classroom but the incorporation of iPads has created wonderful new lessons and activities for teachers and students alike. I have noticed how quickly the students catch on to the technology and how enthusiastic they become when a lesson involves the use of the iPads. From my perspective, it is incredibly effective when differentiating lessons and it is so wonderful to see the excitement and success from the students. We currently don't have an as in-depth training program and I look forward to that being implemented soon. Thank you again and I look forward to seeing the progress your district and students experience with the implementation of the iPads!

Brian Mull's picture
Brian Mull
Director of Innovation at November Learning

I shared this article with a colleague of mine, Sara Wilkie, and we agree that there should be a third question that addresses the quoted excerpt below. It's a question that teachers/schools/districts must come back to over and over again.

Reaching beyond engagement, what process changes might need to occur in order to truly push students deeper into their own learning?

If we're not looking to change processes, then we are not maximizing the learning in the classroom or the potential effects that technology has to offer.


[quote]After reading your opening paragraph, I was intrigued to learn more about the use and implementation of iPads in your school district. Currently, there is a big push to purchase and implement the use of iPads in my district. Like you stated in your post, there are many challenges to creating this "change" and one of the problems in my school is the teachers that do have access to them are just allowing them to collect dust and make nice decorations on their shelves and cabinet spaces.[/quote]

Jennifer Schneider's picture

Learning about iPads through the district's tech training has definitely made me a believer in the process. Students and teachers must learn how to use devices as a tool to deepen their learning before diving in head first! Fantastic article!

Jim's picture

Excellent read. I totally agree with the six points you have mentioned. I think it is a great way of making self-learning fun.

Elizabeth's picture
third grade teacher from st. louis mo

I really enjoyed this, I have had I Pads in my classroom for the last two years and in those two year I have had about two days of training. I really like the steps that your district had taken to provide the teachers and student with the proper training. I pads are a huge process to take on, and I feel like proper training is the key to proper implementation.

dunlapbps's picture
8th Grade English/reading teacher : Nebraska

Good article! It is so true that enlarging our instruction via technology requires true reflection, facing obstacles, embracing change, and being open to creativity. As we continue to approach our curriculum and our instructional time, we need to continue to ask ourselves this question: Is there another way to do this? Is there a better way to do this? Is there a way to do this that will allow students to be more technologically literate?

Red's picture

I never came across any information regarding the actual DANGERS of Ipads in the classroom. That should be listed on this page, since you are listing the 'certainties of Ipads in schools'.
Please visit the webpage below for additional information.
You, as the educators/teachers, should learn as much as possible before implementing something so detrimental in our children's schools.
Thank you.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Jennifer,
I completely agree about your points, but what I'm most impressed with is your intelligent system for professional development and device rollout! What a great way to ensure that the devices you purchase will be used and that the teachers will understand the deeper implications of using them in the classroom.

Elizabeth's picture
4th Grade Teacher, Tennessee

Thank you so much for writing this article. It really helped ease my fears about transitioning to ipads in my classroom this coming school year. Unfortunately, we are not getting much training on the ipads. I think it is excellent that your system provides such a great support system when implementing the ipads. I especially enjoyed the 'Embracing Change' section. I look forward to learning and growing with my students as we embark upon this journey.

K8ty's picture
Primary teacher currently working internationally in Malaysia

This is a great article and I wish I had read it before I was handed an iPad. At first, it brought me extra stress as I tried to use it in class. I wish someone had told me to slow down. I also wish they had told me not to buy so many Apps because Google Docs created for the class are a lot more useful for collaborative learning. I'm still not great when it comes to assessing learning as I print a lot off and stick it in the students' books so any feedback to rely less on this would be gratefully received. Thanks

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