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A Principal's Perspective: Getting The Most Out of Classroom iPads

Ben Johnson

Administrator, author and educator
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For the first two months of school, "When are the iPads going to be handed out?" was a continual mantra from students and teachers. But finally, when we were able to tell them a day, frustration turned into anticipation. Southside High School's goal was to efficiently assign an iPad to each ninth- and tenth-grader, without seriously impacting the regular instructional day. Boy, was that off target!

In order to accomplish this monumental feat, a number of other things needed to be accomplished beforehand. First and foremost, I needed to find someone who has the time and organizational skills to keep track of all the details. Our iPad implementation was spearheaded by none other than our librarian. After all, who is a better expert at getting learning tools into the hands of students? Secondly, before the iPads would be useful, every student needed an email address and their own iTunes account in order to initialize the iPad and enroll it in our Airwatch system. Then we had to make sure that each student had signed the iPad agreement. We also had to handle the insurance paperwork for the students who requested it.

We knew that timing was everything on the day of handing out the iPads. We created a special advisory class, just for the teachers to record which iPad was given to which student, show the students how to login to their iTunes account, and help the students put on the military grade protective cover (lime green so we can tell from a distance if the iPad belongs to the school). To assure that things went smoothly, a few days prior to actually handing out the iPads to students, the teachers attended an iPad training session to learn how to do this.

The Day Arrived

Everything went as clockwork, though it took longer than 45 minutes to get all the students enrolled -- a minor disruption of the instructional day. The major disruption took place afterwards. Just over 700 iPads were now in the hands of eager students, who, as they walked down the hallways, blocked traffic, bumped into other students and tripped down stairs because they were so engrossed in their iPads. At lunch, iPads were everywhere; students on the Internet, face-timing, texting, playing games, and doing who knows what else among the french fries and green beans on their trays. Then heated complaints to teachers and administrators, percolating a deep resentment in the upper class student body (they didn't get iPads).

We have a strict "No Cell Phone or electronic device" policy and they saw all the sophomores and freshmen flaunting their new-found toys. This and the lack of supervision helped us to immediately execute the iPad agreement that the students signed: the iPad is for academic use in the classroom and any student caught using the iPad out of class without permission from a teacher will lose use of the iPad for five days (just like the cell phone policy). This did the trick.

Another disruption to the instructional day was actually a good disruption. My fabulous teachers wasted no time in getting the students to look up information, create presentations, take quizzes, and submit assignments on the iPads. Edmodo classrooms sprouted up almost instantaneously, where our history teacher and his student teacher had students evaluating presentations made with Proshow. The physics teacher had them download Evernote, and the Spanish teachers had the students conducting research online and with electronic textbooks. The largest disruption of the normal instructional day was that teachers did less talking and students did more learning. I was pleased to see that students and teachers were both excited and engaged in learning. Students were learning differently and teachers did less direct instruction and started coaching and truly facilitating learning. I can't wait to see what form this transformation will ultimately take!

I am interested to hear from those of you with experience in 1:1 technology programs. I am also curious to find out how radically the roles of student and teacher have changed with the implementation of iPads.

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Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Author & Speaker, ADE , Founder of

I'm excited to hear about your program as the year progresses! I use iPads 1:1 in my classroom, check out my blog where I share tips and my experiences

Jessica's picture
I am a mother of 4 and a college student learning teacher education.

It is exciting to hear about your school using Ipads. This is exactly what I am learning in college for teacher education. Videos, stories and blogs are all over about Ipads in the classroom but sadly I do not see them locally in my children's schools. It seems like a no brainer to have productive and innovative technology for students and teachers alike. I will keep following you to see how your school does this year!

Navleen's picture

You could also use virtual classrooms via as a part of your teaching methods, maybe when the teacher is absent or is too busy to come to class. WizIQ endorses 'The Apple Revolution' with a free app for iPad. Entering a virtual classroom with just a click from your iPad is the new in. An informative tutorial guides the keen learner to a hassle free use of WizIQ.

Sandy's picture
6th grade core teacher San Ramon California

My school added the 1:1 device initiative to our 8th grade core class (Reading, History, and English) and 7th grade science class. Our teachers attended a one week (15 hour training session) to prepare their pedogogy for this shift. So far (January) the shift has been marginal because the teachers are not supported as well as they should be by our technology support person. As an example, we attended the CUE conference in October where amazing apps and programs were presented. The problem is the apps need to be added to the devices by our support person and they have not. Our teachers really should not be held responsible for this piece of the job as they are busy alligning with Common Core anchor standards. Any ideas? Comments/ The 1:1 Inititive is affecting 350 devices (students).

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