George Lucas Educational Foundation
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When The Westside School decided to grow its established primary school into a leading middle school program, parents, teachers, students and administrators mapped out an integrated project-based learning environment designed to engage and challenge all participants. The planning team made a list of skills and tools that would support learning, and decided on a 1:1 iPad program to support their vision. I was brought on as technology coordinator to plan and support the curricular and technical deployment for the start of the 2011-12 school year.

After a year or two of early adopter experimentation with education-based iPad deployments, a collaboration of IT departments, edTech consultants and third party vendors pieced together a best practice scenario for iOS management.

Equally as important to successfully implementing a 1:1 program is the social and curricular roll-out to your school community. Our middle school faculty spent two full months intentionally phasing iPads into regular classroom use. Scaffolding student success with iPads went a long way toward building our positive learning community.

Outline of a Phase-In

EdTech Guiding Statement

Provide the opportunity for students to be academically empowered, respectful and responsible with technology, and incrementally successful.

Week 1-2: Personal Academic and Social Success

Classroom lessons didn't involve computers. We focused instead on solid academic habits, community-building, aligning attention, and thinking about intentionality when consulting a tool to assist with learning. Students were asked to consider:

  • What is technology?
  • How does technology change our world for better and/or worse?
  • Is tech good or bad?

Students came to the decision that it is how you use technology that is important, and that the goal of technology is to make life more efficient, productive and rewarding.

Week 2: Families Join In on the Learning

Families were introduced to the devices. Each student, with a guardian, was required to attend a session that covered the school's acceptable use policy, care of devices, warranty/insurance information, etc. Guardians and students were asked to sign a document to confirm their understanding of the opportunities and responsibilities of a one-to-one iPad program.

Week 3: Expose the Potential for Technology

Lessons across disciplines had an element of, "Aw, geez, if only we had a _______ (video camera, web browser, microphone, etc), this would be way easier/better/quicker." Assignments were completed without access to the desired technology, highlighting our dependence on technology.

Students began using iPads in technology class, where they covered the basics of operation, expectations for privacy, and skits or conversations exemplifying main concepts in the acceptable use policy.

Week 4-5: Directed Device Use

Devices were handed out and returned at the beginning and end of each class in which they were to be used. Teachers coordinated to provide lessons that played to iPad features in a variety of contexts. Devices were used as digital books, as calculators, for photography, as a reference, and as a word processor.

Week 6-7: Adapting to Access

After three weeks of demonstrating respect and responsibility with iPads, students started taking the devices with them from class to class. Each student received his or her iPad at morning homeroom and was expected to return it prior to lunch (our afternoons are specialists, PE and arts). Projects and assignments reinforced basic use of the device and introduced some intermediate concepts (exporting files, embedding photos, editing video, etc).

Week 8: Demonstrating Integration

Students were responsible for their iPads all day, storing them in lockers when not in use and taking them home on weeknights. Students were expected to show up for school with the iPad fully charged. iPads stayed at school over the weekend and IT practiced applying updates and backing up the devices.

Week 9: Full Responsibility, Full Trust

Students used the iPads as they saw fit in any class. IT updated and backed up devices approximately once every six weeks during the school day.

Beyond Phase-In

To keep everyone in our community learning, we provided a number of events to support student-device engagement:

  • Family support with evening events such as Growing Up Digital
  • Periodic celebrations of student work through portfolio reviews and media arts celebrations
  • Bi-weekly teacher check-ins during staff meetings
  • Spring iPad Open House with local area school IT directors, technology teachers, classroom innovators, administration and curriculum designers


Opportunities to be successful went a long way to building confidence and internalizing care of the machines. For kids that were having a tough time at the class-based level or day-based level, there were opportunities to intervene early and provide additional support, before the machines disappeared into backpacks.

Some of the middle weeks were challenging, as teachers were drawn to the potential benefit of iPad access at home. That said, as a team we held firm and asked kids to demonstrate respect and responsibility -- to prove themselves every step of the way. As a result, we have had very few instances of misuse, a surprisingly low number of damaged devices, and an entire middle school, from administrators and students to parents and teachers, that can identify and verbalize the rewards of a 1-to-1 program.

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Comments (9) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Austin Duggan's picture

This is a nice description of suggestions to take into account when having 1:1 programs at school. I'd like to recommend Nearpod as an app to be used in this program. I know lots of teachers who have been using it. they can launch presentations with activities like quizzes, drawings, etc and it's all synchronized. They can also access results and evaluate at the moment. if you want to get more info, you should visit ther site:
good luck!

Wendy Costa's picture

Why were iPads turned in before the day was over? If a digital device is useful in "core" classes, it is most surely useful in PE, Art, World Language, and other "specials" I teach Art to middle school and high school students. Our district is going 1:1 this year, and you can bet that my "specials" colleagues and I will be integrating technology at least as much as the other teachers.

Colin Becker's picture
Colin Becker
ILT Coordinator and Support Teacher

Hi Jac,
Just wondering how the iPads were set up. Are they managed by the school (i.e. the school is the administrator) or are they managed by the students? Who buys and pays for the apps and who has the rights to add/adjust?
Thanks, Colin

withem's picture

I am new to a school with iPads and I'm excited to try them out with my students. I love the advice in this article. It can really help technology specialists see how to create buy-in with the new devices.

C. Wilson's picture
C. Wilson
8th grade World Geography teacher from Las Vegas, NV

I am very impressed with the "phasing in" implementation strategy used with your iPad deployment. We are a 1:1 school this year and had no type of phasing. The students received their iPads and the teachers were expected to start using them. It's been an exciting but stressful transition. I especially feel for some of the teachers who are not tech all stars. Having the iPads is wonderful but I do envy the organization and thought that went into your iPad roll out.

Julia's mom's picture
Julia's mom
parent of a child in the fifth grade

My daughter's school just announced that iPads are now going to be a regular part of the fifth grade curriculum and that kids would be using them frequently throughout the day. I have read and read about this l:l program, but no one goes into the specifics! What's going to happen in the classroom? When the kids are learning math, will the teacher say, "Now turn to your iPad..." Or when it's time to write, will my daughter have to hit keys on the screen rather than pick up a pen? Will she be reading on a screen rather than opening a book? Will she be completing her homework on a screen rather than a piece of paper? What will be the role of the teacher--if any? Perhaps this is just a prelude to firing all the human beings and just having kids walk around with their iPads. Maybe our taxes would go down? The thing that impresses me is the awe with which people write about this over-hyped device, how we have to attend a meeting during which we will learn the proper behavior and respect needed when in the presence of the iPad. Is this some sacred religious object that's about to be coming home? Is it an icon rather than an iPad? And has anybody studied the health effects of yet another electronic device on the developing brain? I watch in horror as kindergartners pull out their cell phones on their way home. Has anybody studied the amount of radiation that the kids will be exposed to as they take their sacred iPads from class to class? Would someone who has had actual experience with this program give me some specifics of what's in store in the classroom?

Julia's mom's picture
Julia's mom
parent of a child in the fifth grade

Thanks for your quick reply! I actually just found a video of young kids (6-7 year olds) wearing headphones while each interacted with their own personal iPad screen, seemingly oblivious of one another and the rest of the world. At one point, a teacher walked around showing a real flower to each kid, presumably to supplement the flower app. I guess I'm old fashioned, but it reminded me of Saul in SOYLENT GREEN introducing Thorne to a real apple (no pun intended). I also looked up the SAR rating of these devices--about the same as the worst cell phones, depending on which article you read. I wouldn't have a cell phone in my house with a SAR rating that high, but you're suggesting that kids spend from 30-100 minutes per day making physical contact with these devices? I know they aren't put up next to the head, but 100 minutes of radiation exposure is a lot for a developing child. I think the only answer is homeschooling next year.

Sydney Azure's picture

Interesting blog! It's nice to see so many students took care of the iPads. I also liked the idea of requiring every parent and student to attend a meeting before the iPads were handed out. I do wonder if this is a Title 1 school or not.

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