Tales from the Trenches: Lessons Learned from a 1 to 1 iPad Rollout

This past Wednesday night, I had the privilege of participating in and presenting at another #JedCampNJNY event. The event was exhilarating. I was expecting maybe 30-40 people to shlep out on a cold, icy, wintry, weekday night but instead was greeted by close to 100 attendees eager to learn and share. Many of the sessions were packed and the only criticism that I heard was that there was not nearly enough time at an evening event to cover all that could be learned. You can read more about this event by one of the organizers who worked tirelessly to make it such a success Shira Leibowitz in her blog post here.

In my session, while I learned much from the sharing and camaraderie, we could only go through less than half of the slides that I prepared. I am embedding them on the bottom of this posting so that those at the session can read the complete presentation and those of you who could not attend can get a taste for what was covered.

Here are some highlights.

I began my session with the following very funny YouTube video.

I showed this video not just because as the Talmud states, one should always start one's discourse with a joke, but because the video brings out a vitally important point to contemplate before beginning a one to one iPad initiative. The iPad is only a tool. Like all tools there is a right way to use this tool and a wrong way to use it. A hammer and a screwdriver are both wonderful tools but if one needs to bang in a nail, one would only use a hammer. One needs to find the right tool to use for the right situation. Similarly, if you give a teacher or student an iPad but do not tell them how to use this wonderful tool than like the video above, they might find the hard, shiny surface of the iPad to be more useful as a kitchen cutting board then as a place to read, write, and share kitchen recipes. A strong vision, goals, and teacher and student training are an integral component of any successful one to one iPad launch.

I then talked about my experience with one very professional and creative teacher in my school who in past years was adamantly opposed to students using laptops in her class since she felt they were usually a distraction for her students. In fact, she was probably right as I blogged  about a number of years ago. Letting kids use a web-enabled device in class without giving them opportunities to share what they are doing in constructive ways with their classmates is often a recipe for distraction. However, this teacher was a happy volunteer to be one of our first educators to work carefully to seriously integrate the iPad into her classroom teaching last year. Only later after volunteering did she realize that the iPad was in fact a web-based device similar to the laptops that she loathed. To her great credit, she persisted in our many workshops together and ultimately created many very engaging lessons in her history classroom where iPads were an integral part of the learning process using apps like Nearpod and Skitch. She is now sold on the iPad, despite her misgivings, and sees the benefits of the student centered learning the iPad fosters to far outweigh the possibility of distraction which is less so on a school supervised iPad than on a personal laptop anyways.

I also shared some reasons why this year's one to one iPad deployment to our 9th graders has been such a success. One thing that I learned from past experience was the importance of teaching our kids about ways to consistently back up everything on their iPad. On the very first day we gave our freshmen iPads shortly after the Chagim in early October, we taught them about cloud based storage solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, and iCloud. While this might not sound as exciting as many of the magical apps on the iPad like Nearpod and Skitch which I mentioned above, it is probably the most important life long lesson to give our students so that they are both successful juggling multiple devices throughout high school including desktop computers, laptops, iPads, and smartphones, and that they continue to excel in college and later in the "real world" as well, since cloud based computing if anything is going to grow exponentially in the future.

Using their cloud based storage systems, students from the first day were given important, useful items on their iPad like their entire math textbook in their Dropbox so from the beginning they saw that the iPad was not a toy but rather an integral part of their learning process. Our teachers were also very prepared for the iPads this year, many had training sessions during our summer boot camp and multiple faculty inservice events. Our students no longer view the iPad as some magical device but as I have blogged in the past about other technologies, the iPad just is. It is a necessary component of their high school learning experience.

I also spoke about how many teachers have used the iPad to strive to make a more paperless classroom through learning management systems like Edmodo as I blogged about this past week. Expect a follow-up blog post about Edmodo in the near future reflecting on the soon to be finished project about the next president on Mount Rushmore. An English teacher in my session from the Yeshiva of Flatbush, which has its own one to one iPad program, shared how she used Schoology another learning management system to host online discussion forums for her classes. This is very similar to how I have used wikis in the past in my school. Asynchronous text based online discussions are often an ideal platform to reach every student in class and give students who are too shy to speak up in a traditional classroom discussion "a voice" in the class.

One final item that I was able to focus on during my session is the real-time assessments that the iPad makes possible. These assessments can come in many forms. In Judaic Studies, many teachers use multi-media apps like Showme and Educreations to give the students reading assignments. This allows the teacher in a short amount of time to have every student practice reading, a skill that everyone in Jewish education agrees is vitally important but most devote too little time to because it is very boring and time consuming to do this in a traditional classroom setting. These apps are also very powerful for "flipping the classroom" so that students can watch the videos prior to the lesson and/or view the videos as a review after the lesson which many of my teachers are already doing. This might be the subject of a future blog post.

A second type of real-time assessment tool is a quiz app like Socrative, Nearpod, or the web-based Infuse Learning which allow teachers to create quick assessments in many formats for students to immediately answer on the iPad. These quizzes are a great way to check for understanding or use an exit ticket at the end of class. Other real-time assessments like classroom polls can serve as an excellent anticipatory set to get students interested in a topic at the beginning of class and jump start further traditional classroom discussions.

These are just a few of the many lessons that I learned in my one to one iPad deployment at my school. You can read the entire presentation below. Please share your lessons integrating iPads into your classroom in the comments to this posting.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad