Last Monday, January 24, 2011, I started my day by “tweeting” this:
On this day I was privileged to work with 22 Middle School Social Studies teachers, 5 building Technologists, 5 Media Specialists, an Instructional Coach and an Instructional Technologist on what would be their first day of using and seeing their class set of iPads for instructional practice. I was very thankful to have the help of our Apple representatives, Patrick Benko and Frank Vretos as they led the bulk of the hands-on training that day, while I navigated the questions about set up, synching and district implementation, policy and planning.
As you can image, this was not the first day of working with the iPads for me! That day began many months before, when our Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Diane Lauer, proposed to the Social Studies Task Force that they think about integrating and investing in technology for their classrooms when the new Core Standards rolled out, and not necessarily in textbooks. This idea was discussed and debated for several months before it was finally agreed that not only was this a direction the group wanted to take, but they wanted to focus on the two grade levels that would see the most significant change in their curriculum standards: sixth and seventh grade. In addition, they wanted to invest in iPads.
From this point on, I spent as much time as possible in learning the educational application of iPads. I attended several webinars, trainings, followed blogs, followed Twitter and engaged in as much discussion as possible about our venture. Our district Apple technician, Don Cochran, was also a great help to me when I had questions or encountered problems that I couldn’t solve by myself.
In early December, our Board of Education approved the Curriculum plan for Social Studies, and things really began to move quickly. We ordered 315 iPads before we left for Christmas vacation. They arrived in my office the day we returned. Before this three week flurry of activity that involved: unpacking, assigning asset tags, dividing into teacher groups, placing in cases and synching; a few other steps had to be completed.
- We assigned an iPad to each of the 5 Middle School Social Studies teachers on the Task Force, along with a MacBook, and asked them to explore apps and give us feedback about positives and negatives.
- We set up an Apple Volume Purchasing account and purchased vouchers through Apple for the apps we wanted to buy.
- We decided on a total of 41 apps to initially synch to each set of iPads. 30 of those were free apps. We used Volume Purchasing for the remaining 11.
- We tested 4 different cases, hoping to find a better and less expensive case than the one that Apple sells for $39. After seeing iPads literally fall out of each one, we went back to the originally Apple case.
- We decided that each teacher that was receiving a set of iPads would also receive an LCD projector, an iPevo document camera and a MacBook to use as a “synching station”.
- We also bought 1 or 2 iPod Touches for each classroom, mainly to give a camera to each teacher.
- Separate iTunes accounts were set up for each school and grade level before the synching began.
Then…. the synching began. Each Macbook was pre-loaded with the apps, and 15 iPads were synched to each station. I enlisted the help of a good friend, to help me do all this synching. Each iPad took about 10 minutes to synch, and she had multiple stations synching at the same time. I couldn’t have finished without her assistance! Thanks Nan! I also enlisted the help of anyone I could to get the iPads into cases, count cords and label boxes during the last week. Many thanks to the SSC staff, especially Reyne, Susan, Lynn, Glenna, Andy and Mary. My last step was to get the warehouse drivers to deliver the 50 plus boxes to our training site.
I set an ambitious agenda for the day of the training. We talked about synching, about purchasing and basic care and handling. Patrick and Frank amazed everyone by with the ease of creating an e-pub in “Pages” and sending it directly to the iPad where students could engage the iBooks features of highlighting, bookmarking and using a dictionary. We spent a lot of time on basic iPad 101 questions, settings and applications and even experimented with some of the apps. We also spent time on helping some teachers get a basic understanding of the MacBook, since some teachers did not have any experience with the Mac OS platform.
So, what’s next? I’ve been out visiting the classrooms where the iPads have been deployed. I’ve managed to touch base with 16 teachers to offer support and answer questions. I had some amazing conversations about teaching, learning and the tools that we now can use. Most teachers are feeling excited and a little overwhelmed. They tell me they’ve never experienced anything like this.
Overall, I’d say it really was a great day!