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5 Mistakes to avoid when using iPads in the classroom

My youngest brother is attending a private school this year, and the school just started requiring iPads.

They’re still figuring out how to run an iPad program and right now it’s the parent’s responsibility to support and maintain their kids' iPad. Guess who got stuck with being his IT department?

I can’t claim to be an expert on the topic, but after having stumbled through their vague and contradictory instructions last night I feel I know a thing or two. Let me cover a few of my biggest gripes.

First and foremost, the school should probably be managing the iPads. This is the first time that I had ever heard of a school that requires the parents to do the work instead of the school’s IT department. Cost savings alone are enough of a reason to argue it’s the wrong approach, and then there is the vast amount of wasted time that parents will spend setting up each iPad.

Next, I don’t think the school provided enough information. They want Dropbox, Evernote, Kindle, and a bunch of other apps installed on my brother’s iPad. Here’s the problem: There are no instructions on whether I should create accounts for any of these apps. I never even heard of half of the apps before and I honestly have no idea if I need to do anything to set them up. (He’s getting a restricted account for the ebookstores, yes, but only because they require certain ebooks.)

Speaking of ebookstores, they didn’t coordinate their textbook requirements – not one bit. They’re using digital textbooks from no less than 6 ebookstores, including Kindle, iBooks, Coursesmart, Nook, eCampus, and """. This is an unreasonable requirement; I don’t even have an account at half of those stores much less want to give them all my credit card info. Ideally the school should have planned ahead and found the titles they needed in just a couple ebookstores. It would be a lot easier on all.

That brings me to the many different digital textbook platforms that they’re supporting. I would have thought that in this day and age everyone would know the benefit of standardization. Offices will buy the same model PC for everyone not just because it’s simpler but also because it reduces overhead.  This school apparently doesn’t know or care about standardization because they require 5 different platforms.  At the very least, any teacher subbing for another will stumble over unknown tools.

And then there is the instruction sheet itself. Now that was a barrel of monkeys.  Do you recall how they wanted a Nook textbook? Well, they forgot to require a Nook app. But it gets better; I can’t find 3 of the 40 apps they require. Some of the names on the instruction sheet are too generic for me to know which app I’m supposed to get.

The other major problem with the instruction sheet is that it is poorly organized. The school gathered each teacher’s requirements and slapped them into 1 PDF, and it’s organized by class. The better way to organize the sheet would be to split everything up into paid/free apps and paid/free ebooks.  It would also be good to have more metadata on the titles as well as some indication on whether a title is absolutely necessary.

Anyway, that’s what I think on the issue. Do you think my points are valid?

P.S. I know I have a number of teachers and librarians  reading the blog and following me on Twitter, and I really would like your feedback.

images by martinvarsavskye_cathedra


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Marc August 22, 2011 um 12:05 pm

Although I’m fairly new to the library world, I’ve been in education (at a private school) for the past couple of decades and this whole situation reeks of a lack of research and preparation. I understand that in the currently evolving world of ebooks, it is likely that one will only be able to get the textbooks they require from different retailers. I have personally purchased iPads for our school library and agree that they are the right device for ereading when you also need to take notes and produce basic work, but the instructions that you have received seem to give you the confidence to move forward and know that you are doing the right thing.

As for the apps, I love Evernote and find DropBox very useful. Both are free but there are issue with privacy of information whenever one puts their work "in the cloud."

As for the IT department doing the work, it is possible for the IT department to install the required apps on each machine, but because most of the apps you mention require some sort of account, you would have to do that part of the work anyway.

Overall, it sounds like a potentially good approach to technology in the classroom, but the school seems to be in the early stages of implementation and there are many wrinkles to be ironed out in the process. It troubles me though that someone who is obviously technically savy enough to write a blog post has been turned off by the process to embrace technology! I hope that it all works itself out.

curiosity killed the.. August 22, 2011 um 1:07 pm

he’s not turned off by the embracement of technology he’s turned off by the fact that the school slapped together a list of requirements for a device thats barely been on the market 4 months(if he’s actually talking about 1st gen ipads thats even worse they had over a year to come up with a decent protocol) and they didnt bother to organize anything into a clear concise small list of stores to get the 40+ apps required.
i agree that if they wanted to make this work smoothly they should have hired more help in the it department cause putting all this on parents and students that may never have touched a mac device in their life(the world is still 80% microsoft oriented) they should have at least standardized the damn textbook file formats.

Nate Hoffelder August 22, 2011 um 1:28 pm

/\ This.

The list was for either iPad, but they did recommend getting an iPad 2.

The Digital Reader – The Best News and Info on eReaders and Tablets June 27, 2012 um 7:02 pm

[…] know, my one experience with iPads in the classroom involved a private school, my brother, and me being forced to be his IT department. The school required us to buy and set up the iPad before the student arrived at school. I was […]

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