iPad Carts, Year 2

Last year we introduced iPad carts into our offered technology for the classroom.  We had a mass push to give all of our teachers iPads, allow our students to bring their own technology to school, and put iPads in the hands of our students.  We choose iPads very specifically.  We thought about many different technologies, however, at the time the iPad was head and shoulders above the rest.  The main reason we chose iPads, especially in the lower school, was because of the iTunes store.  We felt it was extremely important that the apps we use and the devices we put in front of the students have an extra level of security on them.  The security I am referring to is the fact that the apps have been rated and approved by Apple before being put in the iTunes store.  For android devices, anyone can post an app to the store – we wanted the assurance that if a student went to the app store and downloaded an educational game, that the game would really be educational and not something we didn’t want our students to see.  As students move into middle and high school I could see an argument for android devices – especially in programming classes.  For our school the iPad was the best choice – although if our students bring their own device, they may bring whatever device they have.

We started last year with three iPad carts.  I used the Apple Configurator to setup the devices, along with the Volume Purchasing Plan for apps.  I have had many frustrating moments with the Apple Configurator and I managed to erase student work many times last year with the configurator.  I know their are other ways to monitor and deploy iPad carts, but right now this seems to be the best option for us.  The configurators latest version, appears to be much more user friendly and I have reimaged and deployed four iPad carts this year with ease.  I am hoping that Apple has decided to put a little more effort into the configurator and the software will continue to improve.

A few notes about the configurator – DO NOT unplug a device while it is updating with the configurator – even if it appears to be in a loop – this will erase the device (I know from experience!).  The configurator also automatically loads the last setting for the device you are updating when you plug in the device again.  Be sure that after you have updated your device, BEFORE you unplug the configurator that you put the settings where you want them to be next time you plug in the device.  For example, if you are loading an image that restores a previous iPad, make sure that you change the setting to “Don’t restore Backup” and apply those settings, before you unplug the cart.  This way, next time you plug that cart in the configurator won’t erase everything the students have put on the iPads.  I only know this because I have had to explain to little second-graders that I erased their Puppet Pals creations.  Nothing can make a person feel worse than explaining to a 7 year-old that you made a mistake and cost them their work :-(.

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This year we added a 4th iPad cart and I haven’t had any of the trouble with the configurator I did last year.  During last year I stopped updating the iPads because I was worried I was going to erase more work! Over the summer the I restored all the iPads to a “backed up” image, to erase them and begin fresh.  I added Tony Vincents backgrounds to our iPads, so that as soon as the students open the iPad, they know the iPad slot number and the cart.  I used sketch, to add the iPad cart letter (our carts are labeled A-D) so the first iPad on the cart A, has 1A as the background.  Inside the cart, I also number each iPad slot with sharpie and each cord that connects the iPad to the cart.  This helps the students put the iPad back in the correct slot.

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One of the best posts I read on the Apple Configurator is, Oh Apple Configurator, I will Not Be Defeated!  If you have used the Apple Configurator you understand that the title of that post is extremely fitting!  In my next post I will post examples of all of the FABULOUS work our students have created with the iPads.

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Bring Your Own Device Pilot – phase 1 FINISHED!

We finished our BYOD pilot last week and I have to say, it was an amazing success!  The students loved the program, as did the parents!  We are in the process of wrapping up the pilot and trying to launch another one with more classrooms.

To effectively measure the success of the pilot I created surveys for the parents and the students, using Google Forms.  When we set out to do the pilot we decided that the program would only be useful to us if the students were engaged and excited about learning, if the technology enhanced learning, and the technology was easy for the students to use.  So, in order to measure our effectiveness, those are the types of questions I asked of the students and parents.

We just sent the parent link out today, so no parents have answered yet.  The student’s responses are coming in and if you are interested in seeing what they have to see about the pilot you can find their answers here.  I think the thing that has surprised me the most is one of the students said they would have liked more direct instruction on how to make a video.  I guess I went into this project thinking that the students are digital natives and therefore wouldn’t need any extra reinforcement on the process.  Also, being that they were using their own devices, I wanted them to pick the tool that they were already familiar with.  In hindsight, I should have had a “mini-lesson” for students that wanted to hear how to make the trailer, instead of relying on the students to teach each other and ask me if they had questions.

One of the “ah-ha” moments for me came with the students said the groups were too big.  I had put the students in groups of three for the project because that seemed like a good number!  However, the students said that working in a group that big on this type of project was problematic.  They would have preferred to just have two students in each group.  I think this is great input.  As a side note, I should mention that surveying your students after any lesson is really important!  The students are the audience and the consumers of the information we as teachers are delivering.  The students have really great insight into how to better deliver a lesson and what worked effectively and what wasn’t so great in the lesson.  I always have a “debrief” with my students after a unit and get their input.  I tell the students that they can’t make me cry, but they can tell me anything negative as long as they phrase it politely.  I also tell them that I reserve the right to NOT take their advice, because sometimes they can’t see the big picture of why we did something (but I do always try to explain the big picture to the students!).

To sum up, I think the pilot was a smashing success and I am looking forward to expanding the pilot group to a larger group of students.  I will post the parent feedback as soon as I have the results.  Additionally, if you are interested in seeing the student’s work, it can be found here.

Bring Your Own Device Pilot – Day 1

Well, we did it!  We pulled together a Bring Your Own Device Pilot program for our 5th grade.  It was easier than I expected to be and amazingly ALL of the students are participating!  We sent home letters to the the students and the parents asking them to attend a meeting to discuss the pilot.  We also sent home a contract for the students and parents to sign.  On Wednesday when the parents came in, we only had 2 parents!  The parents had so much faith in the program that they didn’t even come to the meeting ( Pilot Letter and  Bring Your Own Device KR)!  One of the parents at the meeting said, “It’s about time the school did this!”.  The parents were ready for this and have been extremely supportive!  I can’t even say that we have had any problems!  In my estimation so far the pilot is going GREAT!  All of the students today opted to stay in and work on their project rather than go to recess!  I think for fifth-grade we can mark that as a success!

For this project the students will be creating a book trailer for the book Hatchet by Gary Paulson.  The students have brought in a variety of devices – one laptop, many ipod, ipad, and itouches.  No other types of devices – the apple devices really are preferred in my opinion.

I was worried about all of the students working in different software packages and with different resources and tools, but it has really not been a problem.  The students have all helped each other with their devices and I have really been managing the process and checking in with the students.  The students themselves are working hard and mostly staying focused – we have had a few music issues where the students get sidetracked by music on their device.

I will continue to blog about my experience with this pilot program, but so far I am very pleased!

Ipads in School

My school is trying to decide if we are going to starting using IPADs in school and all I have to say is WHY NOT?  I am so impressed with the learning that can be done using an IPAD I can’t wait to get one in the hands of all of my students!  There are so many great apps and great ways to use the ipad.

Some of my favorite apps are spellingboard, puppet pals, math racer, ithoughts HD, noteshelf (I LOVE THIS APP), and read2Go.

Spell Board lets the teacher or parent or student input their spelling list and then practice the list using a practice session or a word search.  The app will also give the student a spelling test!  The best part is the teacher or parent use the app to see how much time has been spent studying!

Puppet Pals lets the students make puppet shows!  My daughter makes a puppet show for every test she has to study for!  You could also use puppet pals for an assessment on the learning that took place during a unit of study.

Math Racer lets students do speed drills of their math facts.  The number of facts and the type of facts can be switched up every time the student plays the game.

ithoughts HD is a mindmapping app!  I love this app!  It has wonderful graphics and is super easy to use.

Noteshelf is by far my favorite app!  It is a note taking app.  The only draw back with noteshelf is it does not offer the ability to mark-up PDF’s (yet!).  I use good reader to mark up my PDFs.

And last Read2Go is an app for the learning disabled.  My son has dyslexia so I use this app to download books for him from bookshare.com