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Launching an iPad 1-to-1 Program: A Primer

Technology is redefining traditional educational paradigms, and many schools are interested in integrating the latest technological advancements into the school curriculum. While increased incorporation of technology seems to be inevitable, most schools are ill-prepared to enter the 21st century owing to a lack of resources, a dearth of appropriate personnel, and some unrealistic expectations. These limitations may provide enough friction to stymie ambitious and well intentioned efforts to improve student learning and prepare students for the future. Overcoming these limitations may seem daunting; however, there are lessons to be learned from schools that have already begun to venture into the world of 1-to-1 initiatives.

Two schools, The Master’s Academy in Oviedo, FL and Delmarva Christian High School in Georgetown, DE have initiated ambitious technological programs, providing an iPad for every high school student. As we reflect on our programs and respond to the many inquiries that we receive regarding how schools may replicate our programs, the following general recommendations may be particularly beneficial. The 1-to-1 iPad programs at our schools are not identical; however, we share many similarities and have constantly collaborated throughout the entirety of our launches. Based on our experiences, we suggest that schools interested in iPad 1-to-1 programs must consider six critical areas for a successful iPad 1-to-1 implementation: leadership, cost, network function, security, philosophical frameworks, and pedagogy.

Perhaps the most critical, yet overlooked, issue related to technology deployments is leadership. Schools desiring to implement an iPad 1-to-1 program must consider the personnel available within the organization. It is our experience that launching an iPad program requires a champion with sufficient positional power to command the attention of all constituents within the school community, including the head of school, faculty, IT staff, parents, students, and community leaders.

Based on our experiences, successful schools will have a senior administrative leader driving this initiative. The senior leader must be a champion for technology and have sufficient knowledge to coordinate an internal and external technological vision. Furthermore, iPads change the educational process, requiring significant pedagogical shifts within the classroom. A senior leader, with teaching experience and sufficient pedagogical knowledge, will have the ability to gain the respect of the faculty and promote healthy change. While IT personnel may have the technical knowledge to lead portions of the implementation, it is our experience that they do not have the ability or knowledge to facilitate the necessary pedagogical change in the classroom.

How will you pay for your initiative? Ultimately, this is a critical issue that must be addressed; without the financial means to purchase the devices, it will be impossible to continue. There’s a variety of options available for acquiring the funds to sustain an iPad 1-to-1 program. Depending on the type of school and the financial health of the school, funds may come directly from the school, from the parents in the form of a yearly lease fee, or from a blended approach.

Regardless of the approach, schools must consider the life expectancy of the device purchased and future expenditures needed to keep the technology current. The total cost of an iPad 1-to-1 launch is greater than the cost of the device. Schools will need to consider cases, applications (apps), network improvements, security measures, and other related costs. It is our experience that an iPad 1-to-1 program will not, and cannot, be sold to constituents as a cost-saving initiative.

One additional concern related to cost is “bring your own technology” (BYOT). With the proliferation of mobile devices, many wonder if it is possible to permit students to bring their own technology to school, rather than the school purchasing a device for everyone. Our experiences with 1-to-1 technology suggest that this day indeed will come; however, we are not yet prepared to realize BYOT. There are several issues with BYOT; although, in our estimation the greatest concern is ubiquity of use. When schools have multiple platforms, it is increasingly difficult to shift the educational culture. More time will be spent normalizing technology than teaching students. If, and when, this ubiquity issue is addressed, either through improved technology or an elevated technological IQ, BYOT will become an attractive and necessary option.

Network Function
Next to purchasing iPads, the school’s network is the next great hindrance to initiating a 1-to-1 program. Schools must ensure that their network is prepared for hundreds of wireless devices.

  • Is the wireless network robust?
  • Has the school purchased enough bandwidth?
  • Will students utilize school servers or the cloud for document storage?
  • Are your servers able to host support software for your program?

As schools address these critical questions, they should consider alternative resources that may realize cost savings. Cloud-based services may be able to replace local services, thereby reducing the number of on-site servers. Consumer-grade access points may be used, reducing the cost of wireless deployments.

The success of an iPad 1-to-1 initiative is largely dependent on the availability of wireless Internet access throughout the school. Schools should ensure that sufficient access exists prior to an iPad roll-out.

First and foremost, schools are entrusted with ensuring that each and every student is able to learn in a safe environment, free from danger both from within the school and from without. As schools consider providing each student with iPads, it is imperative to consider inventory management, Internet filtering, insurance, student assent, and parental consent.

Inventory management. iPads are expensive investments, particularly when the devices are loaned to high school students for their individual use on and off of campus; therefore, schools should consider acquiring mobile device management (MDM) software to assist inventory management. MDM solutions permit asset tracking and remote access to the entire fleet of mobile devices. There are a variety of MDM solutions on the market, requiring schools to consider a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the type of device (Apple, Android, Blackberry, etc.), cost of the MDM, and local or remote hosting of the MDM.

In our experiences, we have chosen different paths for our schools. The Master’s Academy has chosen to purchase an MDM to secure its investment and to provide remote access to machines. In contrast, Delmarva Christian has chosen to forgo purchasing MDM, rather relying on built-in functionality provided by Apple to monitor and maintain its iPads.

Internet filtering. Everyone is concerned with the content students consume. This becomes a particular challenge when students are provided with a device for use at any time. Schools must consider how the Internet is to be filtered on campus and off campus. In particular, schools receiving E-Rate funding must consider the ramifications of not filtering off campus Internet content. The particulars of this situation are outside of the scope of this article; therefore, it is recommended that schools seeking to introduce 1-to-1 technology consult their councils in regard to E-Rate requirements.

Once again, our schools have chosen different approaches to Internet filtering. Delmarva Christian has chosen to install an Internet browser that provides constant filtering and monitoring regardless of the students’ locations on or off campus. The challenge, however, is reduced browser functionality. The Master’s Academy has chosen to utilize the native iPad browser, filtering Internet content on campus. The Master’s Academy does not assume responsibility for filtering the Internet off campus, encouraging parents and students to take responsibility for content management in the home and other off campus locations.

Insurance. Providing students with iPads requires risk. There is always a potential for theft, accidental damage, and loss. It is imperative that schools consider this risk and provide options for parents and students to minimize financial loss. Several insurance options exist. The Master’s Academy has chosen to engage a third-party insurance company to provide insurance on the devices. Each family has the option to purchase an insurance policy with a reasonable deductible before the start of each school year. If families choose to decline insurance, they are responsible for the full cost of the device regardless of how damage or loss occurs.

Similarly, Delmarva Christian has chosen to provide insurance for the iPad; however, Delmarva Christian has chosen to self-insure the devices. In this model, the school collects funds and places them in escrow. When damage or loss occurs, the school collects the predetermined deductible and then repairs or replaces the device using the money in escrow. This model is certainly a risk/reward endeavor. If the claim rate is low, the school could realize a surplus. However, if the claim rate is substantial, the school stands to lose money and must fund the program out of other internal revenue sources.

Assent and consent. Prior to providing students with an iPad, it is advisable for schools to draft agreements to be signed by both the student (assent) and the guardian (consent). The agreement should include items such as the vision, expectations, proper use, and program details. Each school should consult council to ensure that the language in the document is accurate and reflects the legal obligations provided by local, state, and federal agencies.

Philosophical Framework
Up until this point, our discussion has largely focused on IT issues relating to an iPad 1-to-1 launch. As with all technology initiatives, whether in industry or education, the goal is not simply to deploy the technology but to harness its power to change or improve the environment in which the technology was launched. So it is with schools. Implementing technology for technology’s sake is sure to fail. It is our experience that schools must answer one important question: “Why are we doing this?” In our estimation, the answer to the question largely determines the success of your program.

Many schools (and other entities within business and government) are justifying iPad programs because of cost savings through reduced paper consumption, including the removal of paper textbooks. While there is the potential for cost savings through reduced paper consumption, our experience suggests that schools will merely transfer costs from paper savings to the sustenance of the technological vision. At this point in our experience, we are unable to provide firm numbers to support our assertions; however, we are confident that solely relying on cost savings as a philosophical framework will mislead constituents and may derail efforts when cost savings are not realized.

The Master’s Academy and Delmarva Christian have built upon the philosophical framework that introducing iPad technology will fundamentally alter the learning environment, providing students with the opportunity to learn 21st century skills that will enable them to be productive and informed citizens. In particular, we have been clear that adding iPads will not necessarily increase standardized test scores or improve learning. Certainly, we hope that these outcomes will be realized; however, the success of our programs is not contingent on improved learning.

What then is our goal? Why are we doing this?

Simply stated, our goal is to alter the approach to education, incorporating 21st century skills into the curriculum so that students learn to integrate technology into their educational endeavors. We believe that integrating technology into the curriculum is an add-sum scenario. The scope of this article is not to address the appropriate philosophical underpinnings of an iPad 1-to-1 program. Rather, we simply suggest that schools seeking to implement iPad technology seriously consider their educational philosophy and clearly communicate that philosophy to all constituents.

Once iPads have entered the school environment, it is imperative that schools provide the tools and support necessary to alter pedagogy. Teaching and learning should happen differently with iPads. Based on our experience, changing pedagogy begins with implementing a learning management system (LMS). There are several LMS options, including Moodle and Blackboard. As in previous sections, this article is not intended to argue the specific advantages and disadvantages of each option. Rather, we assert that a LMS of some kind is essential for a successful implementation.

In each of our schools, we have seen pedagogy shifting because of the iPad. For example, we have seen the forums within the LMS empower student voice. In the past only the vocal student shared their opinions. Now, through forums, all students are able to share and interact. We have seen more collaborative interaction among students and have received requests for desks to be removed in lieu of tables. Access to information is changing how teachers teach. In the past, classes were limited by a lack of information. Now all questions can be explored and students are eager to seek out answers.

Communication structures within the school are changing as well. In the past, teachers and students had a difficult time communicating. Now, through e-mail, teachers and students are constantly connected. Additionally, it is possible for the school to communicate to students directly through the iPad, utilizing the power of MDM technology. The Master’s Academy had been able to push announcements and other Web links directly to students, minimizing confusion and cost. Delmarva Christian has realized similar gains using e-mail, although the notification is not as immediate.

Suggested Implementation Schedule
Based on our experience, we would suggest schools consider the following launch schedule. Schools do not need to take an entire school year for each step; however, we do recommend that each step be undertaken and that there be no less than one year for the first and second steps combined.

Initially, schools should implement cloud-based solutions and LMS technology. Early implementation of these tools spreads out the learning curve and relieves the community of change overload. Furthermore, faculty need time to develop their course within a LMS, facilitating a smooth transition to a blended environment.

Next, schools should provide iPad technology to teachers. From our perspective, it is important for faculty to have time to consider and prepare for the impending technological shift. Schools will need to facilitate collaboration among the faculty to determine which applications will be purchased and utilized within the classroom. Our experiences suggest that, with sufficient time and support, the faculty will become the greatest champions for the iPad program.

Schools might also consider a pilot program with students; however, great caution and planning are necessary for the pilot to be successful. Schools must ensure that the pilot program mirrors the final product. Many schools are tempted to launch pilot programs where iPads remain at school and are shared by multiple students. The iPad was not designed to be shared, and piloting iPads in this manner may provide a false and disappointing picture of what a true 1-to-1 program will look like.

Finally, it is time to launch. By the time you reach this point, you should have considered each of the issues above and have a firm foundation to build upon. You will still have decisions to consider and adjustments to make; however, you will be prepared.

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