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.


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.

Independent Learning

I was in third-grade this week for the first time.  It was quite an experience for me to go from teaching 5th grade last year (and for the previous 4 years) to go to a 3rd grade room!  I had a definite learning curve on how to teach the students!  One thing I learned was that I threw too much technology at the students too soon!

We are studying a rock unit.  The end goal of the unit is for the students to present to the class answering the following question, “How does the rock in my hand fit into my world?”  I knew these students had limited computer time, so even when I was planning the unit I had pared down what we were going to do.  The plan on Monday was to introduce the students to the unit and then set them free on a website I had created (located here) to gather information on the three types of rocks.  I also was going to use the website Exploratree to have the students fill out a graphic organizer online.  Well, the students had such a hard time figuring out how to research on the internet that the online graphic organizer completely overwhelmed them!  I think my problem was two-fold.  1.  I expected that the students could do more than they could on their own and 2.  I did not model, step-by-step what I expected the students to do.

For my first problem, that I expected the student could more more than they could on their own, I think ultimately this comes to the fact that, in general, teachers spoon feed students.  Meaning that the students, since they were in kindergarten, have been told exactly what they should learn and when.  The students don’t have any stake in their learning, because it is all doing what they are told!  The students didn’t know how to look at a question and tackle the question to find the answer.  When I told the students to go to the websites and find information, they had no idea what to do!  I quickly figured out that I needed to walk them through researching on websites, step-by-step.  The students needed to understand that if they didn’t find what they were looking for on one website to try another!  I spent the next class period we had together, methodically walking the students through how to research on a website and what to do if they don’t find the information they are looking for.  It was interesting for the timing of this lesson because a 2nd grade teacher was telling my principal this week that she is struggling with teaching guided reading because the students in her class don’t know how to manage independent learning.

I think as we shift from the “sage on the stage” model of teaching and moving into more student focused learning this problem will disappear.  As students aren’t directed in their every thought and action from a teacher, then the students will begin to branch out!  I guess my biggest problem was that I didn’t even consider that students wouldn’t know how to direct their own learning, but just like everything it is a process!  Maybe, if we never forced students to sit and listen to a teacher talk all day, and instead we put kids in groups where they could research and learn in a guided, self-directed way their exploration senses from preschool wouldn’t ever disappear and be replaced by a “you tell me what to do” attitude.