We planned. We met to go over the plans. We talked. We planned some more. We made Wikis, created websites, and put it all our plans on spreadsheets and documents. We trained teachers on everything iPad from how to turn it on to how to create an ePub with lesson information. We overwhelmed them with information, and it wasn’t always the information they needed most.
What we didn’t do was address some of the simple day-to-day things that we never thought would be an issue. So let me tell you what I wish I’d done, and maybe I can save you a little bit of time and frustration if you are planning a deployment for next year.
When offering professional development to teachers on integrating iPads, give them training on a management system like Texas’s Project Share from Epsilen (which is releasing an App soon), Edmodo, or Schoology or even eBackPack. You need a way to move information between the teacher and the student. You will want to have a way for students to back up work. We have a WebDav server that has made a huge difference, and there are several services like eBackPack which offer that type of backup solution. Teachers need to know how they are to receive assignments from students and tips on how to organize the student work they do receive. If the students will email work to the teachers, then help the teachers with an organizational format of student folders within class folders in their email.
Teachers also want to know how to deliver content to their students. Whether you choose to have them use a teacher webpage, Edmodo or some other system, please tell them a system to use and show them how to use it. Our mistake was telling them multiple ways they could do it and then letting each teacher choose whatever they wanted. It was difficult for the teachers because they couldn’t collaborate easily. Also, they didn’t know which would be best so they tried multiples which was confusing for them and the students. Finally, the students had so many systems to learn that it was confusing and frustrating for them, too.
Everyone agreed that the better way to do this would have been to choose one, train how to use it and stick with it for a year. If you do this, all of your students will have the continuity between classes, all of your teachers can help each other and collaborate easily, and you will have one system to support.
Finally, give your teachers clear expectations, not only of the iPad use in the classroom, but of how classroom management should look. Will you expect the iPads to be used daily? Say so. Will you expect lesson plans to reflect use of apps or online resources. Be clear and specific. Your teachers want to do what is expected, and they need to know very clearly from the beginning what that is.
We had an expectation that the iPads would be used multiple times a week if not daily. However, we did not model or show teachers what it might look like when students were not using the iPads. Several weeks into the school year, we still had teachers who were worried about telling students to put the iPad down. Obviously, it was not clear enough to the teachers from the beginning that we never expected it would be used every minute of every day. Had we anticipated that this would cause concerns and anxiety, we would have been much more clear and we could have modeled classroom management techniques for our teachers.
Some tips we used for classroom management are:
- “Apples UP!” This means students are to put the iPads face down on their desk with the Apple symbol facing up. No one is working on the iPad. Everyone is listening.
- Use background colors for assessments and individual work to be graded. If your Google form or quiz has a green background, any other color on the screen will be very obvious as you glance around the room. That works for all items you want to be securely graded.
- Paper and pen back-up plan. Students who do not follow rules won’t have the iPad for that period and will resort to the old-fashioned way.
- Give up a little control! Don’t focus on requiring a specific product. Tell the students what needs to be in their final product and then let them create the product of their choosing. Teachers don’t have to feel that pressure of knowing all the tools in every app, and that is a great relief to them. From all reports, the student work improves greatly when students are given the choice to do even greater things than you could imagine.
I hope these tips will help those of you deploying iPads next year. When you plan your teacher training and handouts, make sure to think of the little day-to-day things required of everyone. Once you have those clearly defined, your teachers will be free to conquer the rest!