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iPad Educator Professional Development – The Three R’s

by David Mahaley on August 11, 2013


Professional Development needs to be Real, Relevant, and Right On Time!

Many classrooms across the nation are turning towards iPads and other mobile devices to provide an instructional tool and learning aide for students of all ages.  These deployments include some degree of training, which ultimately can provide a solid foundation for use or, in worse cases, only give a shaky prop for teachers in the classroom.  Professional Development for use of the iPad in the classroom should be Real, Relevant, and Right On Time.

Make It Real
Educators must have a series of training experiences that make the use of the iPad in the classroom a reality for their curricular area and subject matter.  Avoid the use of trainers or workshop facilitators that are far removed from the teaching front lines.  Those providing professional development should be the ones using the applications in the classroom frequently and regularly.  Those of us who have been in education for any length of time have no doubt sat through staff development led by individuals who have never used the software, hardware, or application in the classroom.  Sometimes it’s the bells and whistles that attract attention, but the reality is that we must know how it works in actual classrooms.

This is where careful review of professional development needs to take place.

To help ensure the success of a deployment of iPads in schools at all levels, school leaders must select professional development that focuses on tried and tested application with documented gains and benefits.  This is provided not by individuals that have “reviewed” the app and think it to be great.  Rather, the teacher who has reviewed the app, run trials of the app in the classroom with students, has evidence of the impact on teaching and learning, and can convey this experience to others in a framework for replication.  Canned presentations, based on cursory review and application, are not what teachers in our classrooms need.  Some conferences and workshops offer only this to their attendees.  Make it real!  Find training that highlights the true practitioners and can demonstrate results with their students.

Make It Relevant
Educators want to know how iPads are relevant to their classroom.  First, seek out professional development that targets specific curricular areas and age groups.  This will help ensure that the participants in the training come away with tools relevant to their teaching situation.  When considering staff development, review the background of those presenting and explore what subject areas, age groups, and instructional settings that have led the use of the iPad in the classroom.  This may seem intuitive, but often is overlooked and participants come away with no connection to the relevance for their classrooms.

Second, consider levels of training that get staff moving in the right direction.  This makes the big school picture relevant to the classroom experience.  Certain applications and workflow issues should be adopted school-wide.  Other apps or processes may be more classroom specific.  Ensure the training provides the connections between the whole-organization and the individual classrooms to make the implementation successful.

Teaching and Learning with the iPad Conference

Make It Right On Time
Having led a school-wide iPad development and taught using the device in the classroom for three years now, I receive many inquiries about how to best initiate an iPad program.  In the most unfortunate cases, schools have purchased and delivered the iPad to teachers and/or students already and things are not going so well.  iPad training needs to be Right On Time!  Teachers and students will need a solid support structure from the very beginning of the implementation to ensure a successful program.

Ideally, professional development should be provided to the staff prior to distribution of the iPads and include real and relevant application.  Give the teachers an opportunity to explore and experiment with the apps available to them.  This initial training is not the end of staff development.  Organizations must practice sustained training throughout the year to provide additional layers of use right on time to the educators.  The layering of skills provided to the teacher through real and relevant professional development adds to their instructional toolbox and can provide fantastic results in the classroom.

So Where To Look For Training?
Now that we are over three years into the life of the iPad, seek out individuals, organizations, and schools that have travelled the path already.  Review the credentials and experience of those providing staff development, conference sessions, and workshops regarding the iPad.  With the volume of inquiries we have received over the past three years about our iPad program, we have established Teaching & Learning with the iPad Conferences.  The second annual Fall conference will be held November 15-16, 2013 in Raleigh, NC.  Information can be obtained by visiting  This is the only exclusive iPad conference focusing on professional development sessions brought to the participants by experienced practitioners representing a variety of academic levels and curricular focus.  We have also included the opportunity to hear first hand from students from various grade levels about their experience with the iPad in their classrooms.  What better way to find out what works than to hear from those by whom we are gaging our success – the students!  Join us to see how staff training with the iPad can be Real, Relevant, and Right On Time!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Teaching and Learning with the iPad – a 3 Year Review
15 Favorite iPad Apps As Selected By Teachers
Flipped Classroom Online Workshops


David Mahaley is the Head of School at 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 Learning With the iPad: 20 Days to Expert, and coordinates the annual Teaching and Learning With the iPad Conference

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