A few months ago, I was named Director of Educational Technology at my school. As such, I am charged with overseeing the development of our 1:1 iPad program. As a way to remind myself of my own process as well as (hopefully) a way to assist others who may be in this position in coming years, I’ve decided to chronicle the process of implementing a 1:1 program at a small independent school.
Prior to my appointment to my current position, the school began a 1:1 program in the fall of 2011 with a full rollout to all incoming 7th graders. While ultimately successful, certainly taught us lessons along the way. When I came into my new position, the first order of business was to get a sense of what worked in the 7th grade program, what did not work, and how the program could grow and be embraced by teachers, administrators, and parents.
Step One: Reviewing the Year
The first step was to understand the effectiveness of the implementation within the 7th grade. As with any initiative, there were a number of both positives and negatives. Teachers were incredibly excited to be able to use less paper, do more hands-on activities with photos and video and keep students organized with the devices. Teachers (especially in English, History and Music) used the iPads on a nearly daily basis, and students used such great apps as The Guardian Eyewitness to build interactive discussions and projects that would allow students to leave the classroom without, well, leaving the classroom. In music, students were able to chart their vocal pitch. And in English, students kept a daily blog of their experiences with various novels and worked to create their own graphic interpretations of the material. All in all, it was an incredibly successful rollout from a curricular standpoint.
However, as with any initiative, not all went perfectly. It was quickly discovered that the initial plan to allow students to download and use any app they wished proved problematic from both a classroom management standpoint as well as a data management standpoint. Aside from the typical issues that might arise (excess downloading of games, some inappropriate behavior), the 7th grade teachers found that, in limited cases, students had downloaded so many games to the iPad that educational apps couldn’t be added as necessary. In discussing this with the teachers, we will be moving to a more managed system in which advisors (all teachers double as advisors to a small group of students) will oversee the downloading of apps. This will allow teachers to better scaffold the usage of the devices, while simultaneously allowing for some independence among students.
Furthermore, there were not a universal set of policies guiding the specific use of iPads among the 7th graders. The middle school had a Responsible Use Policy (which is leaps and bounds better than an Acceptable Use Policy, but still not quite specific enough), nor were there a specific set of apps that the teachers knew would be used across the curriculum. The teachers also didn’t have time to develop common language for their use of the devices, either, so, for example, what one teacher called “screenshots,” another called “pictures.” This might not seem like a significant problem, but it creates confusion among the students, who are not shy about conveying that confusion to teachers, which ultimately adds additional unnecessary stress to the teachers day, which might ultimately sour the teacher on the use of the devices in class. It’s a rabbit hole I wanted to avoid falling into in the future.
Ultimately, a plan began to come together. Teachers needed to be on (relatively) the same page in regard to device usage and pedagogy, had to develop a common set of norms and expectations, and had to have some common apps (guided by common language) that would allow for a greater likelihood that students would see the device usage as a (relatively) linear experience across the curriculum. Meanwhile, teachers at higher grades (8th, 9th, etc.) had to be brought into the fold, as the program was going to continue as the students who received the iPads in 7th grade moved up.
There is a lot of work to do…
(To be continued)