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« School-owned iPads redux | Main | Horizon Report K-12 - accurate or wishful thinking? »

Will teachers be disappointed using school-owned iPads?


It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business. - Michael Corleone, The Godfather

The excitement among teachers surrounding the iPad is the biggest I've seen for any technology I can remember. By hook or by crook - grants, budget dust, training programs that throw the device in for "free," begging, and other sundry methods - iPads are creeping in. I expect by the time fall rolls around we'll have close to 200 of them scattered throughout our district of 7300 students. My techs shake their heads and mutter and I reply "job security!"

Although the iPad's been out now for over a year, management systems for the device are still pretty primative - or at least very different than those to which we are accoustomed with our regular PCs. Each iPad needs to be tied to an iTunes account through which it is managed, updated and supplied with applications. And the iTunes account will need to be an institutional account, not a personal account, if the user wants school paid applications and support.

While we can set up a variety of profiles for different "classes" of users - administrators, elementary teachers, librarians, special education teachers, etc. - with its own set of software, users will NOT be able to download any personal software, music or other media to these devices from personal accounts.

What this means is that if an educator hopes to play a game of Angry Birds or listen to a little Metallica during prep time, it ain't gonna happen. Unless the curriculum director tells us that Angry Birds or "Ride the Lightening" is approved instructional support material. Granted, a good deal of personal use of iPads can be made via a web browser. It will be interesting to see if Netflix, Pandora or Kindle apps - that can access personal media - can be justified for educational use.

We've always had a relaxed policy about personal use of school computers. Maybe too relaxed. But to my knowledge the positive attitude toward technology such a policy creates more than makes up or any problems it's caused. In managing iPads - and perhaps going into the future as Apple's Lion OS becomes more "iOS-like" - we may not have a choice in giving teachers the ability to use school technology for personal enjoyment. 

I just hope not too many educators will be disappointed when they discover "It's business, not personal."

I'd be very interested in hearing from readers who have more institutional use of iPads if my observations are accurate or wildly off-base.

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Reader Comments (11)

I think you're pretty much on point here. I've been managing 350 mini-iPads (iPod Touches) for almost 3 years now and you're right- the management is still bare bones. Managing accounts, syncing stuff up, having to register each device, not being able to customize too much....etc. I think we've got a good system figured out now, though, where we are setting things up with school accounts and then handing them to teachers to allow them to put whatever content they deem appropriate on the devices.

So we're a bit more lax, it seems. But taking that barrier down of- "So you want an app, eh??? Well turn them in and I'll put it on there for you if I deem it appropriate" has been very empowering for our staff. We've had kids come in, suggest an app or video series, and teachers have been able to download it to the Macbook, sync all the student iPods, and have them ready with the new content in less than 10 minutes.

We haven't had any problems with it at all (knock on wood) because it's all teacher driven. I think they appreciate the trust and haven't broken it yet (unless it's been totally under my nose, which is definitely possible and I'm kind've ok with that too!!)

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Johnson

This is a tough one. iTunes management complicates it a bunch. In my district we have decided to allow users to do whatever they like with Android based devices owned by the school. I know, it is a VERY lax policy. However we feel it is the best way to teach responsible use, allow for innovation and academic freedom, and allow users to feel "ownership" of their devices. Of course, our environment is a bit different as these do not connect through our district network (they are all 3g) and students and teachers take them home. A 1 to 1 program has different considerations than a "classroom" set.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Wagner

Right now our mantra is "these things are for the KIDS!" Outside of administrators, and our soon to be learning leaders, iPads have been purchased for instructional use, not staff use. When the first question is "how do I set my email up?" you know you have an understanding gap...

We have staff set up iTunes account with their district email (because it's our email account, not theirs) and if they're part of the group that has funding we do apps via vouchers. If they don't have district funding they buy iTunes cards with PTO money or their own. Not a perfect setup by far, but just the way it is right now. At the end of the day we're trying to cram a personal device into an enterprise type setup. Not really a match made in heaven. We'll see if things change on Apple end (haha).

Casper claims to be able to manage iOS devices remotely...not sure about that one yet.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Mielke

2002: "I recognize that these folks are professionals and that lessons will be planned and homework graded whether at school during a prep time or at the kitchen table after supper. It’s the nature of professionals. And professionals need to be accorded professional respect."

2011: "What this means is that if an educator hopes to play a game of Angry Birds or listen to a little Metallica during prep time, it ain't gonna happen. "

I have to say that I agree a lot more with you in 2002 than I do with you in 2011. :)

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave

I also agree more with your 2002 statement. I was blessed to have the more or less permanent loan of an ipad via a teacher resource center. We were told to go forth and make them our own - since that was the best way to learn. I really appreciated that freedom. We all downloaded different apps and shared them. We downloaded apps for the classroom, personal productivity apps, ereader apps .. and "just for fun" apps. It helped us to understand just what it is that makes an ipad a different animal than a netbook or a PC or a cell phone or a get a feel for a personal digital device that has a bit of all those worlds in one, convenient-sized option. Some have dismissed the ipad as an expensive "toy" - but "play" can be the most powerful learning tool of them all.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacquie Henry

I'm also curious about the ability to track the impact specific apps have on student achievement. Anyone developing systems to track this?

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Lindholm

Hi Dave and Jacquie,

Actually I like my 2002 philosophy better as well. But my point (which I obviously didn't make very well) is that this is a technical problem not a policy decision. Unlike a PC, either personal or school apps and media can be on an iPad, not both at the same time as far as I can determine.


June 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Am I the only person with a concern about "management" or "controlling" these devices? We hire teachers to be professionals - use common sense, good judgement and a genuine desire to have kids learn. Heck, we leave them alone with 30 kids all day with minimal supervision. Why can't we trust them to use an iPad for both educational AND personal uses?

What got me especially concerned was the Angry Birds example. I'm in a division right now that requires I get approval (and a tech) before any software can be installed or used. You know what ends up happening? I hear about a great resource to teach my latest statistics unit on a Monday morning from a blog. I ask for permission on Monday at school, it gets passed on through the various layers, it gets approved on Wednesday, the tech is available on Friday, and I'm already DONE the unit before I can even use the tool.

Therefore - treat teachers as the professionals they are and let them have unrestricted access. If they screw it up, there are ALREADY things in place to deal with it - various rules they've broken, charges of inappropriate use of class time, etc.

I'm actually surprised I'm the first person to say this - usually Ed-Tech people are the first to ask for more freedom....

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGraeme

I apologize - I just now read your previous post (not seeing the nice blue line under it) about your attitude towards personal use.

So, why the shift for iPads then?

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGraeme

SBISD got iPads a year ago. I have never seen teachers so excited about a piece of technology. I checked out everyone of the library's 15 iPads to teachers for the summer and I could of checked out 10 more if I'd had them. Right now we can't put on any "paid" apps so I had to tell a teacher "no" to playing Words with Friends. They all have the free version of Angry Birds - the kids love it. Actually, Angry Birds teaches strategy and reasoning. I'm still trying to justify Pimple Pop though.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGuusje

My ipads are for my classroom. I have 4. The account is linked to my school e-mail account and I can get gift certificates - then turn in the e-mail receipt. I rarely buy apps though. Most of the ones I use are free.

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

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