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School Administrators as Leaders of iPad Implementation Programs

by David Mahaley on April 15, 2012

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High school Principal David Mahaley discusses his school’s carefully planned and methodically executed approach to iPad implementation.

Technology cannot be considered in isolation, defined only by the potential use found in academic literature in a number of fields of study.  Technology should become a supporting element finely integrated into the pedagogy of educators and productivity of their students daily.  This requires some clear direction from school leaders, rich and sustained professional development, and the facilitation of the skills in our students.

Practice What You Preach … Know What To Preach
Modeling is a sound educational practice in the classroom and workspace.  To be an administrative leader with technologies like the iPad, there must be some level of self-education that can be imparted upon those within a school.  While becoming the best at every use of the iPad in the educational setting is elusive and impractical, accepting the role as innovator and experimenter is not.

Within each educational setting there are those who will be on the cutting-edge, looking forward to the next best practice in the classroom.  Capture this spirit and make it the norm in the organization.  As a school leader, take the time to discover new apps, integrate ideas of those on the cutting-edge, and inquire as to the benefits in the classroom instructors find with each strategy they try.  It is important to draw upon the experiences and successes of those around and share with other staff members.  The facilitation and dissemination of these ideas and experiments across the educational setting becomes the script from which to draw.

Feed The Flames … Sustained Staff Development
Having worked in instructional technology for many years now, the most frustrating situation can be the implementation of a new technology without providing meaningful and consistent professional development.  Unfortunately, this is commonplace and the result of acquiring the latest technology with sometimes time-bound funding, and planting these devices into the classroom.  Instructors are left with little or no training and expectations for change are high. A recipe for certain failure has been followed.

As leaders of schools, administrators should be wise to such implementation fallacies.  Contemplate the required elements for success of a technology implementation initiative: commitment of funding, proper training, modeling of best practices, integration into daily practice, and methodical steps towards full capacity. Each element requires some level of training.  Key persons should be given the background knowledge and skills necessary to carry out their functions with the project and be in a position to feed the continued growth of the implementation.

One Possible Implementation Scenario
Shortly after the original iPad hit the market, we began planning our implementation.  This involved identifying a few educators who would embrace the opportunity, be risk takers, and become ambassadors to the other staff when bringing the devices into their classroom in the next phases. The students were key in helping us identify road blocks, discover possible solutions, and provide us with suggestions of applications that would be useful in the classroom.  Over the course of the following two school years we expanded from one classroom, to two, then one grade level, followed by a second and eventually pushed the devices to all students and staff in the high school. Throughout this sequence we had to evaluate our network viability, training needs for staff and students, and methods by which to deploy apps and content to specific devices.

This method of implementation model provides a solid foundation of instructors, users, and builds support to facilitate moving to the next levels. I have found through my travels that many schools and school systems have jumped in enthusiastically with the iPad in the classroom.  What is commonly missing is appropriate training and attention to infrastructure concerns.  Once ignored the implementation is destined for potential misuse, underutilization, and loss of potential.

Sustaining iPad Projects
As with most forms of technology innovation and implementation, there are costs associated with sustaining the project.  Replacement cost, additional applications, advanced training, integration of related devices, and network considerations should be some of the few considered. Some have opted for insurance policies or student fees to cover the accidental damage to iPads.  We chose a flat one-time $25 user fee for each student when they were issued their iPad.  Initial results using the student fee system has been favorable.  We currently operate at a 1.5% replacement rate – well within the acceptable range for the fees collected.

Commitment to ongoing training for students and staff will ensure the project moves forward.  Offer short introductions to new applications and how staff use them in the classroom during faculty meetings, workdays, or other inservice training opportunities. Student training can be considered by class, grade level, or school depending upon the configuration best suited to your educational setting. Keeping the training short but detailed helps to avoid the overwhelming feeling new users can have when launching into the use of the iPad.

As a leader of schools, administrators should identify opportunities where they can demonstrate the potential benefits of the iPad in the school. This should include not only the instructional benefits, but other areas of impact such as efficiency, resource management, and communication. Challenge users to change their behavior to avoid printing every document that comes across their desk.  When implementing activities, look for ways to provide electronic copies.

At the start of last schools year, I demonstrated how 3,500 copies were saved by providing staff electronic copies of the documents necessary to start off the new school year on their iPad. Keep track of your copy machine use and disseminate the downward trend of number of copies made throughout the course of the year to your staff.  This will make a big impact and can be related to other ways resources can be utilized or redistributed.

Responsibility for Success
Whether a veteran iPad project leader or finding yourself faced with a pending initiative in your own district, administrators must provide the leadership to produce positive results. With proper evaluation of existing support structures and the identification of key players, the initiative can set a strong foundation for the large-scale deployment of iPads in the classroom.  We must acknowledge the importance of both continued staff training and the value student input can provide when guiding the process.  After two school years into our project we have found great savings in resources, increased efficiency, and positive learning experiences in the classroom.

The future is exciting and supported by our continued support for training and development of our students and staff.  As administrators, we should work to model and demonstrate the positive impact the iPad can have in our learning environments.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
15 Favorite iPad Apps As Selected By Teachers
10 Education Technology Implementation Pitfalls and Ways to Avoid Them
Apple TV In The Classroom – The New Smart Board

About 

David Mahaley is the Principal of the Franklin Academy High School, a North Carolina K-12 Public Charter School located in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Mahaley has overseen the implementation of iPads in the teaching and learning process at the Academy, a program initiated in 2010. Mahaley has also authored the eBook TEACHING AND SHARING WITH THE IPAD: INSTRUCTOR QUICK GUIDE, and has coordinated several regional conferences focused on teaching and learning with the iPad.

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