Tsk, tsk #Edudemic. How [not] to manage a classroom of iPads

I don’t mind suppliers giving away service or advice as a way of selling their wares. Hubspot does this well. And I mostly don’t mind the practice of letting sponsors and suppliers do that on trade blogs, but this this post by Datamation Systems on Edudemic went up a litle too fast. It’s patronizing, frankly, and not the best advice. Cui bono?-Who benefits?–we should always ask. I at least want the illusion that it’s me.

First, I’m not saying using the iPad can’t be fun to use, but the iPad isn’t about fun, no more than a hammer or a pencil is about fun. One of the more troublesome obstacles we face in implementing the iPad in our junior school is that many perceive the iPad as a toy or entertainment device, albeit a sophisticated and expensive one. We spend a lot of time getting our students and their parents to see the device as a tool.

Secondly, most importantly, when the bell rings the iPads should go home with the students, not into a cart. The iPad is a personal device from the OS to the form factor (you cannot have multiple profiles as you can on a laptop, for example.) Putting it in a cart at the end of class kills the iPad’s chief assets–its mobility and its capacity to personalize learning. It undoes the iPad’s power to provide students anytime, anywhere learning and thus does nothing to change the standard classroom metaphor. What’s the point of this particular device then?

Lastly, the iPad does not need the level of control that first generation computer labs did. (And we shouldn’t be using technology, i.e. a cart, to control behaviour anyway. Behaviour is controlled through policy, expectations and above all good teaching and guidance.) As well, the business of syncing, charging and apps management issues are red herrings. The best way to manage a hundred iPads is to let a hundred people manage them for themselves. We’ve run a highly successful iPad program with about 75 devices among faculty and our two Grade 3 classes. We’ve made the individuals responisble for keeping their iPads ready and so far we’ve had no breakage, no dead batteries at classtime, all apps up-to-date.

(I appreciate practicalities, and if you can’t go 1:1 BYOD, the next best thing is to let a group of students have the devices for a week, to complete a project, for example, then reset the devices and give them to a new group of kids. I have a report on this but can’t find it at the moment.)

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