When my freshman year of high school drew to a close, we scrambled for the doors that would lead us to summer. Relatives called over the next few days asking how my year had gone. My usual responses were, “I loved history class” or “Tennis was fun.” But one response that was surprisingly absent was about the iPads we’d been given in our 1-to-1 program. Thinking back, I marvel not only at how useful my iPad was for school, but also about how much I took it for granted.
It was lunchtime on the first day of school when we were introduced to our new devices. They weren’t elementary school iPads outfitted with Internet filters and locked down with school apps alone. These were real, unaltered Apple iPads. With this gift of freedom and responsibility, I realized that I’d crossed over from middle school into high school. Then I began installing every app I could think of! The whole cafeteria was abuzz with talk of the iPads. My classmates were as excited as I was.
Initially, my teachers didn’t seem to welcome the new technology as much as we did. One teacher would sternly tell us to leave our iPads in our backpacks. As the year progressed, some teachers began to incorporate iPads into the curriculum. Others were adamant that we keep them tucked away.
To understand how other people's experiences of the iPad program compared to my own, I polled several school community members (including the academic dean) for their perspectives.
My informal poll led to these four DO’s and DON’Ts about how to successfully introduce 1-to-1 programs.
- Introduce iPads with care. iPads can be fantastic learning tools if students are taught how to use them responsibly. My school is creating a tech seminar to teach incoming ninth-graders about the best uses for iPads in an educational setting. The year after, this group of students can pass on their knowledge to the next class.
- Pre-install lots of fun apps. Incorporate fun and engaging learning apps into the curriculum, such as:
- SAT Vocab – MindSnacks, which helped me learn vocabulary without being boring or tedious.
- Lino – Sticky and Photo Sharing, which gave me a useful way to collaborate with teachers and other students in and out of class.
- Use eBooks. They:
- Weigh less. My lower back definitely approved of the switch from a 20 lb. textbook to a 1.5 lb. tablet.
- Save you money. The eBook version of the Pearson Chemistry textbook was $14.99 as opposed to $85 for the hardcover version.
- Offer added features. Searching the whole book and saving and highlighting text made learning more interactive. The chemistry book we used featured helpful videos about each topic and an interactive glossary that turned definitions into flashcards.
- Pick apps that can work across classes and allow teachers to see progress.
- Dropbox. My English teacher had us turn in all our writing drafts using Dropbox, which allowed her to observe the changes we made between our first and final revisions. Using Dropbox in other classes would have been even more efficient.
- Microsoft Office app with Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. QuickOffice Pro is a good one, and you can save documents to Dropbox directly from the app and then access them on a home computer.
- Don't allow iPads to become a distraction. The goal should be for students to use their tablets for learning. In order to prevent distraction, you could put all school-centered apps on a separate page from non-school ones and then ask students to turn on Airplane Mode or disable notifications during class. For more advice about setting school policies that work, see Common Sense Media's collection of free resources called the 1-to-1 Essentials Program.
- Don't think of iPads as laptops. Although I faithfully used only my iPad for the first few months of school, I finally realized my laptop was more efficient for some tasks. For example, when I was writing an essay on Catcher in the Rye, we were given time during class to revise our first drafts. Thirty minutes and hundreds of typos later, I had managed to craft only a few sentences on my iPad. Writing and revisions are sometimes best done on a laptop.
- Don't give students iPads without educating them about responsible use. Use a curriculum, discussion –- anything –- but definitely talk to students about the power of having a machine that's connected to the Internet, for better and for worse. Tablets can be so enriching, but only if students understand how and why they're getting and using them. One great resource is Common Sense Media's K-12 curriculum for teachers on topics ranging from "Privacy and Security" to "Digital Footprint and Reputation."
- Don't type essays without an external keyboard. Add a keyboard case or Bluetooth keyboard. With an added keyboard, students don’t have to rely on the touch screen, which can really slow them down. Don't worry -- it’s easy to find cases that fold down really small.