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Designing an iPad initiative with goals in mind will help steer your district toward success

iPad-initiativeAs educators and school leaders would likely agree, any technology initiative begins not with an iPad or a laptop, but with teaching and learning goals.

But once school leaders have identified those goals, created a plan, and moved to implementation, what are some of the keys to success?

David Mahaley, head of school for the Franklin Academy’s high school program and a teacher at the school, outlined a number of steps and considerations that are essential to a successful mobile deployment.

(Next page: Important aspects of an iPad program)

Franklin Academy focused on planning, leadership, staff development, student preparation, and applying lessons learned throughout its iPad implementation.

Different leadership elements helped the implementation process, including:

  • Providing positive deployment examples so that stakeholders learned about successful iPad initiatives, instead of focusing on problematic rollouts
  • Involving all leadership, not just at the administrative level–this includes teacher-leaders, parent groups, and school board members
  • Mapping out a timeline to keep goals in focus
  • Starting small–Franklin Academy first deployed iPads in just one classroom before scaling up

Leaders should focus on “W” questions:

  • What do you want teachers to do?
  • What do you want students to do?
  • What are the lines of control?

“Ignoring these, or overlooking these, will really put you steps behind,” Mahaley said.

The school used the iPad rollout as an opportunity to rework its acceptable use policy, focus on teaching 21st-century skills, and expand content possibilities.

Staff development focuses on what Mahaley calls the three Rs: professional development must give people real tools to use, must be relevant, and must be right on time.

In addition to the three Rs and the W questions, staff development also concerns what apps students and teachers will use and how to choose and evaluate those apps.

Franklin Academy teachers use app review sites and rubrics to evaluate their appropriateness and usability. Mahaley noted that teachers and school leaders should pay attention when students recommend apps for use in the classroom, and should always look into those suggestions.

Sustaining continued staff development is sometimes a challenge. Introducing “Tech Tidbits” at faculty meetings, hosting in-depth training, and implementing a buddy system that pairs a tech-savvy teacher with a less tech-savvy teacher are all strategies to keep technology use and goals fresh throughout the year.

Students have different ability levels, but all receive preparation for technology and iPad use, Mahaley said. This includes reviewing the school’s acceptable use policy, attending and orientation, and receiving a student iPad handbook, which uses humor to engage the students.

Teachers shouldn’t assume that students automatically know how to use the iPads and apps, though, so demonstrations might be necessary.

Students at Franklin Academy have put together their own version of a Genius Bar, which is supervised by the school’s IT staff.

One of the most important steps in an iPad implementation, though, is modeling the practices that school leaders want to see throughout their schools and districts.

“There is not one thing that I’d ask any staff member or student to do that I am not going to do in my classroom and at least try out,” Mahaley said. “That modeling is quite important.”

A three-year program review revealed that ongoing and sustained professional development is important. Students adapt quickly–staff, sometimes not so quickly.

“More time needs to be spent with those teachers to give them a level of comfort to let them feel that they have the knowledge to teach these kids,” Mahaley said.

Teacher benefits included increased flexibility, efficiency, and mobility.

Students displayed increased motivation and high confidence levels, took advantage of collaboration opportunities, and were more self-directed.

Mahaley said teachers noticed students showed increased independence and took on characteristics of continuous learners, and also strengthened their problem solving skills.

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Laura Ascione

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