After the pilot’s success, the board approved $6.4 million for 10,600 iPads. In June, Mansfield ISD’s ed-tech department turned its attention to the district’s infrastructure, brainstorming ways to handle the influx of devices that soon would populate the district’s network, which uses Lightspeed Systems’ filtering and management software.

Bell said Mansfield ed-tech staff discovered that the district did not have enough wireless access points to support that many devices accessing Wi-Fi, and each classroom in every building soon was outfitted with access points. District administrators hired a campus-based iPad technician, called an iTech, for each high school.

The district revised its acceptable use policy and approved a “bring your own device” policy that gave students the option of using their own mobile devices in class, said Emily Young, one of Mansfield’s ed-tech trainers. Teachers received and configured their iPads during a summer workshop.

Technology administrators created iPad user agreement and equipment check-out forms, along with an optional supplemental insurance policy. Students completed paperwork and permission forms and went through a detailed check-in and set-up process to obtain their iPads. All students log in through their school’s network, and their iPad activity can be tracked once they are logged on.

Mansfield ISD hosted district-wide iPad information sessions for parents, with each session focusing on different aspects of the devices, such as iBooks, digital citizenship, or QR codes. Individual schools have started to host their own parent sessions.

Teacher and staff training is ongoing. “iPad Spotlights” are 20-minute trainings or short workshops that focus on building specific skills or highlight other iPad basics. Apple consultants are on hand to offer additional content training.

An informal district survey revealed that:

  • 65 percent of all students said the iPad has had a positive impact on motivation to learn.
  • 64 percent said the device enhances learning experiences.
  • 89.5 percent have better or more internet access.
  • Only 17 percent said they are distracted at school while using the iPad.

“Teachers are choosing to access digital resources if they are currently offered,” Young said. “If there’s a digital textbook, they’re using it. Most students, if they don’t have internet access at home, can go to school libraries.”

Next, the district hopes to move from using the iPads for low-level activities, such as taking notes and using online learning resources, to using them for creation, such as projects and assignments that students and teachers never would have been able to do without the iPads, said Ashley Coffman, another of the district’s ed-tech trainers.

(Next page: Next steps—and key lessons learned)