DAILY INSIGHT: iPad Deployment

By Carl Hooker, CIO Advisor

School has started for most of us around the country. Alarm clocks are set, bleary-eyed kids stumble their way to class, and iPads are being handed out. Just a typical day here at Eanes and at many districts across the country. As the amount of 1:1 schools and districts continue to grow with many different devices, but specifically the Apple iPad, I thought it might be good to reflect and share the laundry list of items we’ve prepared in getting ready for our rollouts (all high school students, 8th graders, and 2 grade levels at the elementary schools are 1:1 this year). I’ve already written about 10 things NOT to do in a 1:1 here (the list is growing in year 2), but what about things we SHOULD do?

I’ve broken down the check list into three main categories: administrative, instructional, and technical. There are parts of each that intermingle, but needed some general categories to go off and these are the main three components.

Administrative Duties

Communication - This covers everything from Board presentations to community dialogues to basic stuff like making the campus aware of when deployments are taking place. I can’t stress enough the amount of communication that will be needed in this entire process, which is why it’s in all three components. Face-to-face communication is extremely important and should always be anchored in district goals and strategic plans. Remember, like Simon Sinek talked about on TED, the “why” is more important than the “what.”

Documentation - This almost goes hand in hand with communication, but these are areas where districts should seek some legal input. Handing out expensive devices, while the total cost may be less than a stack of textbooks and a TI-83 calculator, needs to be properly documented for each and every iPad that is distributed. Each student and parent should sign a loan agreement and acknowledge the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). In our district, we updated our AUP and turned it into a Responsible Use Guideline for all technology, whether it be BYOT, iPads, or computers.

Budget - These devices, their accessories, and their apps cost money. There needs to be time spent on the cost to fulfill a vision of 1:1, which grade levels to start at, and ultimately, which funds will be used to sustain it once it’s off the ground. Depending on the model of deployment that is used, there will either be a lot of money put towards apps or personnel to manage the apps.

Process - Having a core group of educational leaders on campus and throughout the district is an important part of the buy-in phase. Part of the beauty of these devices is surrendering control in some senses to allow students to personalize based on educational needs. That means there needs to be a process for getting apps to them and an idea about what happens when they break their loan agreement or have discipline issues.

Instructional Duties

Staff training - It can’t be overstated enough that these devices need to be in the hands of teachers well before the student models arrive. They need to feel comfortable with them and start thinking of ideas to integrate them into their instruction. Summertime is an ideal time to get most of the level-based integration training, but consider putting training in an iTunesU course to revisit at a later date. Throughout the year, provide opportunities to share what they have learned with their peers in an informal setting (which we like to call "Appy Hours"). The collaboration doesn’t have to be face-to-face; set up grade-level teams in Edmodo so they can share ideas across the district as a way to virtually meet.

Student training - Don’t assume that every kid knows how to use the iPad. These kids may be digital natives, but most of their exposure to these devices has been for entertainment more than for education. Lessons in digital citizenship and Internet safety will need to be developed and taught, but also don’t overlook the fact that many students will need tutorials on how to set up their email, submit assignments, and back up their data.

Tutorials - To assist with the high-level of training, both prior to deployment and during the year, instructional teams should build a database of resources and FAQs for all staff, students, and parents to access. This will help take care of some of the little questions that can really bog things down once distribution has happened.

Process - Like administrators, teachers and instructional folks will want to develop and deploy processes for purchasing apps. There will need to be clear expectations for teachers and students in terms of use and what happens if that is violated. In conjunction with these processes, devoting time to research an ever-growing list of apps and online textbooks is important to better inform future decisions.

Communication - Teachers are the conduit to the parent. They are the first person many parents see in the morning and last one they see in the afternoon. It’s important that they have a clear understanding of district mission and how apps/iPads are distributed. They’ll also want an avenue for sharing exciting projects as the year progresses. These projects help with both campus and district-based communication.

Technical Duties

Prior set-up - Prior to even thinking of deploying iPads, evaluation of wireless infrastructure is a must. Nothing can bring a network down quicker than the sudden introduction of a few thousand devices into the system. The devices will need to be prepped with some form of identification (we went with this laser etcher) and a profile if distributing these to younger students.

Apple configuration can help with some of these profiles and detection of iPads lost on campus, but it’s advisable to have a form of mass deployment for apps pre-established. Entering these devices into a student information system helps with tracking all the pertinent data, so forms and fields will need to be established prior to distribution day to make that process run smoothly.

Communication - The common thread in all three components is also extremely important from the technology department. Any glitches, issues, budgetary discussions, and processes for repair will need to be constantly communicated to campus staff and leadership. The actual process of distribution and pick-up can be pretty cumbersome as well. This is where a type-A person comes in handy for organizing these events in making them as trouble-free and emotional-less as possible.

Repair - The first few weeks after deployment be prepared for any and all issues. Technology departments would do right in finishing any other campus projects prior to these distribution days as the amount of issues will spike immediately following deployment. Most of these are workable with proper training and tutorials in conjunction with the instructional department, but it doesn’t stop little Johnny from coming to the help desk to ask about a certain app. Ideally, there would be a service desk (ours is called the Juice Bar) that is centrally located and manned during high-density times for student off-periods (lunch, before and after school, etc.). The final piece of the puzzle is having a plan for processing insurance, getting spares from Apple, and having a quick way to assess and turn-around repairs so students are not without this instructional tool.

There you have it. I tried to make most of this list as district agnostic as possible, but some of the “Eanes way” snuck in there. Here's a handy iPad Deployment Checklist that details these above duties in greater detail for you to use or adapt. Best of luck in all your iPad launches and I hope you have a successful program putting this technology in the hands of kids.

Carl Hooker is director of instructional technology at Eanes ISD in Texas and blogs at Hooked on Innovation, where this is cross posted.