What I Wish I'd Done Before Deploying the iPads to 735 Middle Schoolers

There are many things I’ll detail over the course of the year, but there is one thing sticking out right now, and I must share it with you in case you are considering a similar 1:1 project:

TRAIN STUDENTS TO USE EMAIL APPROPRIATELY.

Each of our students and staff members has a Google Apps for Education account to create documents, collaborate online, and communicate. Since they submit many projects and lessons through email, they have the ability to email teachers. These are 6th, 7th and 8th graders who have limited or no experience with email. They do know how to text, so the logical step for them was to use their Google Apps for Ed email account just like a giant texting feature. They are emailing constantly with not that much to say.

The problem is that they are emailing everyone many times a day, including their teachers, principals and former teachers.

Teachers report up to 120 emails a day with such intoxicating content as “Go  Tigers!” and funny cat faces. Their signatures are “PB&J Time!” and “Rangers Fan.” Teachers could just delete them in the inbox, but the students are not using the SUBJECT line, so teachers must open each one to know if it’s class related.

Meanwhile, the principal, assistant principal, and counselors receive email from all the students. You can imagine what their inbox looks like! Sounds like no big deal, but with a little training, it would have been no deal at all. Luckily, each staff member continues to have an Outlook account for school business, so they easily segregate the student email from others.

The teachers like the fact that the students send emails when they are absent or if they forgot the assignment. Another positive outcome is that the frustrated, quiet students are more comfortable emailing to say, “I don’t understand what we’re doing in class right now.”

The counselors and principals are busier than ever because students also email them to say things like, “Maria is being picked on” or “I hate myself” which never would be said out loud. Students also don’t hesitate to forward messages which are inappropriate or mean, and there have been a few of those too.

Each of these needs investigation and discussion. Sometimes the students who emailed in panic were in a typical middle school drama which resolved itself 10 minutes later, but that resolution is rarely emailed to the administrator, so the legwork must be done.  Everyone is relieved that it was nothing to worry about, but it took time and effort to find that out. Our poor counselors and principals are worn thin.

We don’t want to stop the email; we want to train the students. During the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas we are taking up the iPads to upgrade them to iOS5 (more on that later). While we have them, the students will participate in email lessons during homeroom. If you have suggestions, please share them with me. These are the topics we plan to cover:

  • Professional email vs personal email. What’s the difference?
    • We will use teacher email as an example. It is for professional use and is archived.
    • We will show students what types of email are appropriate for school.
  • Who can see my Google Apps for Ed email?
    • We can!
    • Their teachers have access and their parents can have access.
  • Why use a subject line?
    • The reason we need it.
    • It’s quick and easy to do.
  • What should the subject line say?
    • We are going to give them a standard subject line for lesson questions and turning in assignments.
    • We will show subject lines in a list of teacher emails so they can see what teachers see.
  • Who do I email for this?
    • We will detail the types of problems to email to a teacher, counselor, coach, and principal
    • We will give them email addresses to ask for help, both with schoolwork and with technical issues.
  • What’s an email signature and why do I need one?
    • We will show them how to create a signature for emails addressed to teachers and staff.
    • We will show them how the signature looks when sent in an email.
    • We will walk them through creating a signature for their account.


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Kids with iPads are still Kids

We have 6th, 7th, and 8th graders with iPads and email accounts. Do they email each other about things that have nothing to do with school? Absolutely.

They email about their clothes, the big game, their boyfriends/girlfriends, their hair, their zits, their mean parents, their awesome friends and everything else that middle school students all across the country are writing about on pieces of paper, in notebooks, in text messages and on social media sites. Our students just have a different tool to use. It is no different that kids passing notes between classes. It’s age-appropriate and expected. And if off-task email or passing paper notes is happening in class, then we need to monitor more closely and make our classes more engaging. If not, we can expect poor performance and bad behavior. They need a reason to be there.

the disclaimer-This is my opinion only and does not reflect opinions of my employer or my colleagues. 

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Six Weeks Into the Year of the iPad at Middle School

Let me begin by saying that all of the opinions on my site are mine. They do not represent my employer, co-workers or anyone else. Just me chattin’–that’s it!

I live and work in a school district of just under 10,000 students in central Texas. We are about 60 miles north of Austin just so you have a frame of reference.

Our leaders are committed to the best school experience for every child. We want them to learn, to grow, to be able to function in the real world. To that end, we have started putting computing devices in students’ hands. And we allow students to bring their own devices if they have them.

Part of my work this year is to support a new middle school that not only has an iPad for every student to use at school but sends them home with the students. This has been a challenge to implement, as well as a joy to see.

First lesson: Figure out iTunes accounts

We chose to create email accounts and iTunes accounts attached the device instead of the student. That way, we won’t have to set up the iPads every year. Ideally, we would do it just once. (We have seen that students can disable the iPad by putting in too many wrong passwords which causes us to take them back to original settings. A few have done this.)

We purchased JAMF Casper to deploy apps. It can do that. It can let you see what apps are on the iPad and if the iPad is checking in to you network. It cannot delete apps, and the student can remove the profile. If they do, we lock them down and remove their ability to add apps. We also put on a ‘restricted’ profile which reduces the apps they have access to use.

Phew…there is a lot to do. Think through each step for your situation and see what works best for you.

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Hello world!

Hello! I love teaching adults, and I wonder what you think? I want to offer training that is collaborative. In other words, in training for teachers this summer, I want them to pick their own group, sign up as a group, and then ask for what they want to help them make the training exactly what they need it to be. Any ideas from you guys?

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