7 mistakes to avoid when introducing iPads into the classroom

Introducing iPads into the classroom is a significant undertaking and requires a mental shift across the school. Most teachers have not been trained in leveraging the iPad in their teaching and need time & support to adapt their teaching methods.

I won’t pretend this post will tell you everything you need to know to make iPads a success in your school, but here’s a list of 7 mistakes to avoid when introducing the iPad.

1. Attempt to implement too many initiatives simultaneously (e.g. iPads, differentiated instruction, no grades, etc.)

Try this instead: Develop a multi-stage, multi-year plan to broaden and deepen the use of iPads

  • Start with basic usage of standard iPads apps
  • Expand to general third party apps like Explain Everything, Penultimate or PDF Expert
  • Develop a 1-page graphic showing how all of this are stepping stones toward the same goal

2. Mandate that every teacher must use it for ALL of their teaching immediately (without sufficient training, on-going support, or structured planning time)

Try this instead: Think big, but start small

  • Work with volunteers at first.
  • Ask all teachers to create at least ONE lesson involving iPad in Stage One.
  • Encourage teachers to work with a colleague or team, and begin with a familiar unit topic.
  • Provide additional designated planning and peer review time.
  • Consider working with a local or online consultant for support.

3. Assume that staff members understand the need for iPads and/or will naturally welcome it. i.e. hurriedly prescribe iPads before helping staff to understand and appreciate the need for change – ensuring that they do not own the change.

Try this instead: Establish the need for a change – the diagnosis – before proposing iPads as a prescription. Make sure that staff see iPads as a logical response to a deficit or opportunity that they recognize and own.

4. Provide only one introductory presentation on iPads in the classroom and assume that teachers now have the ability to implement it well.

Try this instead: Based on your multi-stage, multi-year plan, assemble a professional development trajectory that gives gives staff what they need, when they need it:

  • Organize staff meetings and walkthroughs devoted to iPad learning and trying out
  • Encourage knowledge and best practice sharing among staff members
  • Work with a PD professional to deliver piecemeal, short & focussed trainings and periodic onsite “office hours” support

5. Provide iPad training for teachers, but not for administrators

Try this instead: give leaders and supervisors the same training as teachers.

  • Establish parallel tracks of training for Principals and Asst. Principals in which they work on how to look for elements of iPads in action. (They do not need training in how to craft lessons, only how to offer feedback)
  • Develop peer review systems so that teachers and administrators work together in informally and formally giving feedback to each other
  • Develop supervisory teams to develop an approach to interactive curriculum writing, e.g. using iBooks Author

6. Provide minimal iPad training for some willing teachers in a Train-the-Trainers program, then expect immediate and effective turn-key training of all other staff by those few pioneers.

Try this instead:

  • Establish a process for carefully soliciting, interviewing, testing, and hiring would-be trainers.
  • Develop a year-long, staged training program
  • Support trainers with online and in-person troubleshooting

7. Standardize all implementation and experimentation. Don’t permit options/alternatives/different approaches to learning, trying, and using the iPad. Don’t play to any particular interests, talents, and readiness of staff.

Try this instead: differentiate based on skill and interest level of staff members

  • Build in choices of role (trainers/creators/piloters/observers)
  • Try out simpler as well as more advanced teaching methods, based on readiness
  • Build a schedule that permits others to join in with R & D later, on a rolling timeline

If you’d like to learn more about running a 1:1 successfully, I recommend Brian Dawson’s iBook. It documents how Pleasant City Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Florida was transformed with iPads at the center of curricular advancement. It is jam packed with great advice from an experienced teacher with real, hands-on experience of running a successful 1:1 iPad program.

You'll learn:

  • How an Acceptable Use Agreement holds students accountable for their iPad
  • Why a school-wide coordinator is critical for iPad management
  • Recommended apps grouped by subject
  • And much more...

Download it from the iBooks Store here.

Niels Vanspauwen

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