At the beginning of the school year my role within my school has changed in a fairly significant way. I went from a full time classroom teacher who passionately and excitedly uses technology in the classroom to reach my students to a part-time classroom teacher who still does those things, but now also oversee digital content creation and technology integration within my school and my district. This year our district embarked on a new adventure when we decided to start going 1:1 with iPads in the classroom.
The plan is that for the school year of 2012-2013, all incoming seventh graders in both junior highs will receive an iPad. These iPad are still owned and are controlled by the district, but students are able to manage them on their own because each student has their own individual Apple ID. Their Apple ID’s are still known to us because we helped them sign up and create the account along with their parents. Student email (and the email connected to the Apple ID) is tied to their Google apps email which they already have since we are a Google apps district. Our district has two junior highs with about 900 students each. So, it’s been quite an undertaking placing around 600 iPads in the hands of seventh graders.
Halfway through the school year we have had mixed results and there has been a sharp learning curve as we have had to adapt and evolve the program, but I would say that the grand experiment has been successful because it is changing the way teachers are teaching and it is helping to educate our students in more dynamic ways. It can be really easy to get caught up on the types of things that are not working well. Cracked screens, apps should not be downloaded such as non-educational games and instant messaging, lost cables and chargers are all the types of things you have to accept if you’re going to go 1:1 with iPad. Usually in a school if you’re talking about behavioral problems you’re typically only talking about 5 to 10 percent of the kids. So it’s important for me to remember and remind myself that things such as cracked screens and other user error problems are frustrating and annoying, but it’s not all of the kids that are having these problems. It’s a very small percentage of kids having these issues but it feels like it’s a bigger problem than it probably is.
Over the summer and at the start of this school year, introducing new iPad into the hands of students and staff was a revolution of sorts. It would significantly change the way teachers were going to operate, how students were going to operate within their school, and some of the policies and procedures our school has. That was a Revolution. Now that we have our feet under us once again and we’ve been doing this for a while now, we’ve had to focus our attention and change and now we have a constant evolution of the program. The initial types of behavioral procedures have the evolved. The way students are downloading apps has evolved. The way that students take care of their iPads has evolved. And, maybe most importantly, the way teachers are getting their kids to interact with what they’re learning and affect their education has also evolved. This is what excites me most. To be able to see how teachers are changing and adapting the way they teach to meet the needs of our students is very gratifying. I cannot take credit for this evolution on the teachers part. And I won’t pretend to. I work with some of the most creative, ingenious and dynamic teachers in the world. A lot of what they’re doing is stemming from their core beliefs about teaching and their passion for serving kids. Regardless it is really fun to be able to see our school through this positive experience.
Next year we are rolling out 300 more iPads in our school so that both seventh and eighth graders will have them, and then the following year, the ninth graders will get iPads as well. So in three years time all students in both junior highs in our district will have an iPad. As fun as it is to see how it’s transforming a single grade of students and teachers that work with them, it will really be amazing to see what happens in two more years when every student in our building has a mobile device to help them learn in engaging ways both inside the classroom and outside as well.