Tuesday, October 18, 2011

iPad Investigations, Navigations and Reflections

Last spring, our school was gifted with 7 iPad from our Indo-US Community. Their implementation has hit a few roadblocks. Here's the funny thing about roadblocks; they eventually crumble. The key is not to give up but to "keep calm and carry on!" It takes a group effort and trust to get something new off the ground and running.

The traditional policies regarding purchasing software with purchase orders didn't jive with purchasing apps for the iPads. Without being able to use a district credit card to set up an iTunes account, we couldn't even download the free apps to get us started. Roadblock number one! Just like many school districts, the business office has very strict guidelines. They need to be audit-conscious and the way digital goods are purchased was something our business office wasn't ready for.

With the help of a contact given to me by Karen Kligman, our library media specialist (and also my partner in crime and ed tech innovator), we were able to gather more information about the relationship between Casper, by Jamf, and iTunes. The district's network specialist and our high school tech integrator/interim tech director, were already investigating how Casper could provide the audit-friendly, over-the-air device management system we were looking for. Anthony Martini, was able to share with us his first hand experiences with Casper. Right now, we only have 7 devices. The way iPads in the classroom setting have taken off, especially with the special ed community in our district, we are bound to get more. Before we purchased more, however, our districts tech folks wanted to make sure we had a system in place to manage our devices. Now, we are waiting for the Casper/iTunes connection to finalize before we can take advantage of Apple's Volume Purchasing Program and Casper to get us going!

This doesn't mean that the iPads are sitting in a box, doing nothing. No, that was last spring, when the tech integrator failed to recognize, on her own, that the best people to have the iPads at that point, were the teachers. (I can say that without fear of retribution since that person is me!) Roadblock number two!

When I was in the classroom and about to introduce a new manipulative to my students, what did I do? I gave them time to free explore with the item. Teachers need the same opportunity when new technology comes their way. They were the ones who would be using the iPads with their students. Summer vacation would give them the time to play and investigate. My principal gave her OK to allow for extended loans, something our district had stopped allowing. It is now October, and we are still waiting for the Casper/iTunes relationship to finalize. Teachers continue to experiment and provide feedback on what they find valuable. Paul Michaels, one of our Speech teachers, is using it with some of his groups as conversation prompts. Gale Vanore, an ELL teacher, has tried it with a student with limited English.

It takes a group of folks to work together when implementing new technology. What one person might over look, someone else can bring it up. Honestly, it takes a lot of trust to be open to suggestions, trust that no judgements are being made. One person can't do or think of it all, especially when we juggle so much during our days. I am surrounded by motivated, knowledgeable and fearless tech supporters in my building and for that, I am grateful. We also have to go about implementing new technology as informed and prepared as we can. Even if that means having to wait after the items have arrived. Implementation needs to be a thoughtful process. As much as we want to get them in the hands of the students who will benefit from their magic, we need to be sure it is done in the most efficient way.

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