My school district is making history this month as we roll out an iPad to every high school student in our district. I’ve been told that this is the largest iPad deployment to date for Apple. I am a technology specialist at an elementary school, but it was “all hands on deck” as all technology specialists, technicians, and a variety of district office personnel were asked to assist with iPad distribution and set-up at Lexington High School. Classes were assigned a day of the week to report at 8:30, to one of 4 areas (cafeteria, Learning Commons, Little Theater, or Performing Arts Center). It took about an hour and a half to distribute iPads to these large groups, to get them logged into the school network, and to get their Apple IDs and iCloud activated. By 10:30 AM on Friday, about 3000 iPads were deployed. Our IT department did a good job of trouble-shooting in this “learn as you go” scenario. Over the next 2 weeks we will hand out iPads at the other 3 high schools in our district.
Students were ecstatic to receive their new learning/communication device! I’m sure you are wondering how this has been funded and what kind of instructional preparations were made for this initiative. Several years ago our stake-holders passed a bond referendum for the specific purpose of providing 1:1 computing for our students. Teachers received their iPads back in August at the beginning of school, so they have had 3 months to get familiar with the device. Every teacher participated in a “hands on” training session conducted by the technology specialist at the school, and training sessions are continuing. Additionally, Apple education content specialists came in to conduct 2 day content-specific workshops for teacher-leaders from each school that focused on challenge-based learning. I had the privilege of attending the ELA workshop, and it was excellent!
Our district is committed to preparing our students to become graduates who are literate in 21st Century skills, and innovation is highly valued. iPad use won’t be limited to high schools only. Middle school students are next on the agenda and may receive their iPads as early as January. Three of our elementary schools have 5th grade teachers who are embedding gifted and talented curriculum in ELA content instead of students participating in a once a week pull-out program. I’ve been collaborating with this group of 5 teachers to provide curriculum support, and just this past week I conducted introductory iPad training for them. In several weeks they will be implementing a 2:1 iPad model in their classrooms.
Let me be clear, the use of technology devices is NOT the goal! Another district initiative this year is an instructional focus on the Gradual Release Model, based on the work of Fisher and Frey. We are “beginning with the end in mind,” the development of self-directed learners who are proficient in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. There are still many pedagogical shifts that need to take place in our classrooms, but it is very exciting to be on this path!
Here is a short news clip about our iPad distribution:
“high School Students Learning with iPads in the Classroom”