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iPad Management: Tips for Educators

EducationWorld is pleased to share this technology integration advice from iPad in Education For Dummies® by Sam Gliksman (Wiley, 2013).

The potential of iPads as educational tools is beyond exciting. But without proper management, these devices can devolve into distractions. Imagine a classroom of kids surreptitiously playing with downloaded free apps and surfing the Web instead of paying attention to your lesson!

ipad management Sam Gliksman, author of iPad in Education For Dummies®, notes that "The rush to purchase iPads often precedes the careful planning and preparation that are so crucial to their success as educational tools.”

It’s wonderful that kids love iPads, and educators will too—if they know how to incorporate them into teaching. According to Gliksman, having iPads in the classroom won’t make much of a long-term impact unless teachers know how to roll them out. He offers 11 vital components of a successful iPad implementation:

First, determine whether you’re ready. “There’s no point in purchasing iPads if you don’t have the technical infrastructure to manage and deploy them,” Gliksman points out. He urges educators to consider the following questions:

  • Do you have adequate incoming Internet bandwidth to connect all the devices and use them at the same time? Remember that you may also need significant upload bandwidth as students start to create and deliver large media files.
  • Is your wireless network robust enough to manage and distribute a strong, reliable wireless signal all around campus?
  • Do your classrooms have safe, secure locations to store iPads?

Understand and communicate why you want iPads. Yes, iPads are cool and cutting edge, and kids love them. But you’ll need to evaluate these devices more closely from an educational perspective and make sure that your entire organization is on the same page before pulling the technology trigger.

“You’ll need a clearly communicated explanation of how iPad use complements your educational mission, which then needs to be clearly communicated to all the various constituent groups, including teachers, students, parents, directors and administrators,” says Gliksman.

Target 21st-century learning objectives. Many teachers, especially older ones, prefer to stick to the methods they have historically found to be successful in the classroom. (Plus, there’s a natural human inclination to stay in your comfort zone.) According to Gliksman, that’s why it’s so important to target 21st-century learning objectives when developing an iPad program. After all, what point is there in purchasing expensive technology and then using it to reinforce outdated pedagogical practices such as frontal lecturing, content delivery and drill and practice?

“That means integrating multimedia, communication, collaboration, project-based learning and more,” he adds.

Develop simple iPad management strategies. As many parents who have left their iPads unsupervised in little hands know, kids can wreak surprising amounts of digital havoc in a short amount of time.

“Kids can do anything from making unsupervised purchases to accessing inappropriate online material to damaging the iPad itself,” Gliksman shares. “Organizations need to have an iPad management plan that addresses these dangers—and many more—before distributing devices to students.”

Understand that iPads aren’t laptops. Many laptop programs use network servers and domain logins that also set permissions. Laptops are controlled and administrators can often view screen activity. It’s important to remember that iPads are not laptops. There’s no login, and the ability to secure and control them is minimal.

“If you’re using iPads, utilize their unique assets,” recommends Gliksman. “Look for ways to take advantage of their mobility, built-in camera, microphone, video and so on. If monitoring and controlling activities are important criteria to you, it may be advisable to consider staying with laptops.”

Don’t be overcome by “There’s an App for That” Syndrome. You hear it all the time: “There’s an app for that.” (And often, it’s true.) According to Gliksman, though, one of the biggest mistakes teachers make is to constantly search for apps that directly address specific curriculum content—everything from 20th-century American history to the geography of Utah. Many great apps exist, but the real benefit comes from viewing iPads as tools that can be used as part of the learning process, not as replacement teachers.

“Encourage students to create mock interviews with famous historic figures, explain scientific phenomenon with stop-motion animation, create podcasts for the school community, practice and record speech in a foreign language, create a screencast to explain a principle in algebra, and more,” Gliksman suggests. “Given the opportunity, students will naturally gravitate toward creative and innovative iPad use if allowed to use it as a learning tool.”

Know that "share and share alike" doesn’t work with iPads. You learned the value of sharing all the way back in preschool. Although it may be an important life guideline, you need to forget all about sharing when it comes to using iPads in school. iPads are designed to be personal devices; you need to protect your user login and all of your personal data and files. Sharing them will create huge privacy and security issues.

“I generally push for 1:1 deployment of iPads from fourth grade upward,” Gliksman shares. “If that causes financial concerns, you need to discuss those concerns and either scale down your deployment or consider an alternative approach, such as allowing children to bring their own devices to school—which comes with its own set of problems, especially for families who can’t afford them. But sharing at upper grade levels isn’t the solution.”

Build an ongoing training and support structure. Deploying iPads is a major step toward addressing the learning needs of twenty-first century students. It also involves a major change in school culture, which will require adequate training and support.

“It’s important to understand that ‘training’ doesn’t mean setting aside one day at the start of the year and bringing someone into the school for a half-day workshop,” Gliksman stresses. “Schedule time for ongoing training sessions throughout the year. Develop teacher support groups within your school and with other schools, where teachers can exchange experiences, share their successes, and learn from each other.”

Connect online. Don’t use your school’s iPads in a vacuum! The Web has many helpful resources, and Gliksman urges you to take advantage of them. “You can easily connect and benefit from the knowledge and experience of other teachers,” he points out. “Join Twitter or sites such as the iPads in Education network.”

Enable the unpredictable. Technology is most effective when used as a tool for student empowerment. Don’t expect to control every aspect of the students’ learning, and don’t feel the need to always be the expert.

“For the current generation of kids, technology is a canvas with limitless possibilities,” Gliksman says. “Give them the freedom to paint their own masterpieces!”

Make sure to set restrictions. “Restrictions” are the iPad’s version of parental controls—or in this case, educators’ controls. Whether you manage devices and profiles centrally or by individual device, you’ll want to put some thought into how to set restrictions on iPad use.

Set some ground rules. Your school must decide how to manage its iPads. Ask—and answer—the following questions:

  • How will you manage user profiles? What restrictions will you enforce? Will you have one common student profile or vary them by class or group?

  • Would you consider allowing your older students to manage their own iPads? Have you considered the risks versus the benefits of such a policy?

  • How will you deal with instances of damage and theft? Will you buy insurance? Under what circumstances, if any, will students be held accountable? Has this been clearly communicated to parents through a Responsible Use policy?

Know how to use restrictions on student iPads. Restrictions will be different depending on the users and what they should be doing with the iPad.

If you’re assigning restrictions directly on the iPad itself, go to the Settings menu, tap General on the left, and then tap Restrictions. You’ll be required to set a passcode that can be used later to change or delete restrictions. Here’s a quick look at some of the most important restrictions:

  • Disallow apps such as Safari (in case you want to use a different, filtered browser), FaceTime and the iTunes Store.

  • Disable the camera and FaceTime.

  • Install and/or delete apps.

  • Disable multiplayer games in the Game Center.

  • Prevent changes to the following settings and accounts:

    • Location Services (a good idea if students are posting any data to the Web that contains geolocation data, such as photos)

    • Mail, Contacts, Calendars, iCloud, and/or Twitter accounts.

  • Prevent access to specific content types, such as music and podcasts, movies, TV shows, and more.

Know how to track devices with Find My iPad. It’s almost inevitable that at some point, you’ll have to track down a lost or stolen iPad. You’ll need an iCloud account to use the Find My iPad feature; then you can log in to iCloud on any browser to view the location of your iPad on a map if and when it’s powered on.

Go to Settings on your iPad, tap iCloud, and enable Find My iPad. Then, if you misplace the iPad, sign in to from any Web browser on a Mac or PC to display the approximate location of your iPad on a map. Find My iPad will allow you to play a beep, display a message, lock your iPad remotely, or even wipe your data off of it.

Related resource

Tips for Using iPads With Elementary-Age Students

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