If you are reading this blog post, your school is probably thinking about launching, or has already launched its own iPad project. If one of the thoughts running through your mind presently is ‘How on earth do I get started?’ then, fear not! Tablet projects don’t have to be daunting. If you are organised and have realistic expectations from the beginning, this will stand you in good stead.
A good place to start is to make a project checklist compiled of all the objectives you will need to satisfy. I have provided you with one below which contains all of the most important tasks that you need to consider in order to make your project successful. To be clear, my definition of a successful project is one that improves pedagogy and students’ results.
This checklist is much more than a simple list of hardware to buy; it covers all the planning and development that must take place for your devices to change the learning culture of your school. If you refer constantly back to this list, it will help you as your project progresses. I have worked with schools across the spectrum of the UK education system, and the major difference between those that use technology successfully from those that do not is how well they satisfy each aspect of this list.
In order to have a successful iPad project, you should consider doing the following:
1. Write a vision for what the school aims to achieve with iPads over the next 3 years that is agreed by the leadership team.
Ask yourself, “What outcome do you want to achieve from using iPads?” The key is turning those ideas into goals to work towards. Focus on student learning goals rather than technology.
2. Create an iPad team or ICT (information and communications technology) steering group of teachers.
Develop a strategic team with representation from all relevant stakeholders around your school to maximise its effectiveness. Assign responsibility, resources and expectations. Keep your team small (no more than 10 members) to ensure smooth teamwork and innovation.
3. Appoint student Digital Leaders in the classroom.
Giving students responsibility and duties will help teachers manage new technology. It will also engage students at a grassroots level across the school.
4. Have the school run a pilot scheme; either with a small group, class or department.
It does not matter who uses the devices as long as you can measure the impact. Testing the project at a smaller level will give insights into the best ways of use and how to implement the project on a bigger scale.
5. Setup proper Apple Volume Purchasing (VPP).
Do not try to cheat the app licensing process. Some schools may think they are saving money buying apps once using a personal Apple ID, but they lose due to the amount of time and effort they invest in doing so.
6. Make sure the school’s wireless network and Internet is up to the job.
Your wireless network will make or break your iPad project. Take the time to investigate whether it is up to standard and prioritise that over buying devices.
7. Make sure teachers can easily move digital work on and off the iPads.
Classrooms can take advantage of apps like Showbie, which allows teachers to take photos of students' work and annotate it digitally. Students can log on to any other device and receive feedback.
8. Choose an MDM (mobile device management) solution to manage devices on mass.
Remove the physical aspect of syncing devices and have your iPads configured to work on an MDM system straight out of the box. All schools should be using an MDM system because it is the easiest and most cost effective way to manage iPads.
9. Ensure each classroom has a solution in place to mirror the iPad wirelessly to the board / projector / TV.
This is the quickest win for teachers as it frees them from behind the desk. It also helps with classroom management, making it easier to spot students who are struggling or misbehaving. However, you should also invest in leads and adapters to connect devices just in case the WiFi is poor.
10. Undertake a skills analysis with teachers and assess their understanding of using iPads in the classroom.
Just because teachers use tablets in their personal life, this does not mean they will now how to use the same technology in the classroom. Your skills audit should assess two critical aspects of learning: confidence and competency. Once your audit is complete, you should have an understanding of overall skill level and can identify where the most work is needed.
11. Establish school training or CPD (continuing professional development) plan in place which combines internal support and external expertise focused around iPads.
Focus your training on developing a core team of staff to become skilled and pedagogy-savvy. This will enable your school to become self-sufficient and lead its own professional development. The most successful projects invest about 25% of their project budget into staff development. Also, buy your iPads from an Apple Solution Expert or ASE, which guarantees your school training delivered by an Apple-certified AET (Apple Educational Trainer).
12. Create a resource or point of contact for teachers to consult when they need help using the iPad.
Technical difficulties or usability problems tend to happen with digital projects. Having easy access to solutions will make the transition smoother.
13. Create a plan on when and how to deploy more iPads into the school.
For maximum impact, it is vital that you set aside time to consider how you will rollout your iPads before you start your project. In many ways, it is better to buy 50 iPads each year for four years than it is to buy 200 iPads at once and not invest more. A successful iPad project is determined more by your school culture than by the availability of technology. When there is no long-term plan, iPad purchases can create a sense amongst staff that the technology is just another fad.
14. Engage the parent community when it comes to iPad use and learning.
Inform parents of your project’s goals and explain the benefits. Make them allies for learning at home. Involve parents early and frequently on parental contribution schemes, underwritten by the school. Be transparent, open and honest - any attempt to leverage them for funding will be unsuccessful. Develop an Acceptable User Policy so students and parents understand responsibilities when using their iPads.
15. Establish agreed benchmarks in how the school will measure the success of the iPad project.
You cannot drive improvements if you do not have the data. It is vital that you measure and contrast performance in in areas other than test results. It is good to focus on engagement, instruction quality, access to content, and enjoyment. Run anonymous staff and student surveys throughout the year to really gauge the effectiveness of your project.
16. Make a plan for how teaching content will evolve to maximise the benefits of iPad.
Work collaboratively and teamwork with other teachers to create deep and insightful material to support your department. Choose apps and activities that build upon what you already do. Remember, content creation always trumps content consumption for students and there are many content creation programs that can engage students. Understand that not all apps are created equally and some are nothing more than “digital worksheets,” substitutions for a pen and paper task. Also, make sure students have enough access to learning resources outside of class to ensure preparedness in the classroom.
17. Create a plan for developing assessment practices to take advantage of the iPad.
Apps and workflow reform can dramatically transform assessment and feedback. Marking work is commonly cited as a time-consuming task for teachers. Digitising assessment should speed up the process of marking, while simultaneously deepening the level of interaction with students.
If you are committing to these best practices, you are probably already successful or on your way to iPad success in the classroom. If not, these are actions to seriously consider and implement at your school.
For more information, read The Tablet Revolution: How to transform student learning with the iPad. This book is written for school and project leaders looking to use iPads to improve student learning. It follows a step by step approach to enable you to get the most out of the technology and covers many of the most challenging aspects of developing an iPad project.