Several of our schools have asked….”Our school would like to buy 30 iPads. Should we place them in a cart to make them available to all classrooms?”
My response: No.
I don’t hate iPads. Really, I don’t. It’s the cart that bothers me.
I realize other school districts are placing iPads in shared carts – so I understand that it’s technically possible. Instead my concerns relate to whether this type of deployment actually matches up with your desired expectations and outcomes. Many times, schools want to put technology on wheels to make it available via check out from the media center – simply because that’s what we’ve done before. For example, our district still has many laptops on shared carts, but I feel the the iPad is different. It doesn’t need a cart, it needs a classroom.
Why am I so obsessed with keeping iPads out of carts?
1) If you’re fighting to put them in carts, its usually because of equity. I’ve heard things like “My desire is to make sure the technology is available to everyone.” Of course, I read this as… since it’s available to all, it’s owned by no one, cared for by no one, and the expectations for quality usage goes to no one as well.
2) Technology assigned to check out carts is not cared for. Let’s be honest, we’ve all opened up a shared cart and found broken devices. Since no one “owns” the devices, it’s just easier to return broken devices and let the next person deal with it.
Instead, I’m proposing that we consider the findings from our earliest iPad testers…
1) The ability for a teacher to review, select, and install their own apps is critical. If we expect teachers to find solutions to meet individual student needs, we need to let them “own” the device. In other words, the device is best managed by the classroom teacher.
2) Training and deployment of equipment should go hand in hand. Giving training to teachers who “might” use a shared cart is not meaningful and takes time and training resources away from others.
3) If iPads are assigned to my classroom, I feel I am responsible for making sure they are used for the best possible purpose. Yes, this action alone sets an expectation that doesn’t exist with a shared cart.
4) Classrooms that have less iPads than students are reporting the following – they need to break up into groups, centers, and rotations. In some cases, the iPad is becoming the factor thats helps them move away from whole class instruction.
5) Assigning them to classrooms could mean that you don’t have enough money to buy them for every classroom. But do you need them for every classroom? Is everyone ready for training and expectations for use? Why not find out who is ready – and proceed with them first?
6) Our earliest testers reported that the students cared for the devices as if they were their own, since they belonged to their classroom.
My final response to the question: Don’t buy the cart, your best bang for the buck is to assign them to classrooms not a cart.