Last year I helped to deploy 23 1:1 iPads to our 5th graders. Their teacher was motivated to find a engaging tool to help inspire learning with this group of students. She and I worked together over the summer and throughout the school year to try to discover the best apps to use and activities to complete using the iPads, and overall, I would say that our efforts were successful. Though I do not have hard core data to back up my thoughts, discipline referrals declined and student engagement increased over the course of the year. The classroom teacher used the iPads as effective tools for natural differentiation, and I observed students growing increasingly more comfortable with using technology as a tool for independent learning.
This year we are going to be expanding our iPad deployment by adding a cart of iPads to the new 5th grade, allowing 35 students to share 18 iPads. Though it will differ from last year's deployment because this year's budget is a little tighter, but my principal and I thought it was important to continue our efforts to develop the technology skills of our students and teachers.
In preparing for this deployment, I conducted some research to help make things run as smoothly as possible and to gather the necessary data so that this program can be expanded again next year. One valuable resource that I found came from the blog Hooked on Innovation. The author has experience in iPad deployment and offered valuable suggestions to help make it successful.
One critical idea that he discussed in his Top Ten Things Not to do in a iPad Initiative post was that you shouldn't evaluate the success of iPad usage with test scores alone. My principal and I need to remember this when reporting to the school board. The board wanted to know how we had evaluated the program during the 2012-13 school year, hoping to see a surge in test scores. Though my principal whole-heartedly supports the use of iPads in our school, he didn't quite know how to respond. He hadn't analyzed test scores, especially since the state tests that would show the most growth won't be conducted until October. He also didn't want to point to the improved student behavior and engagement because he felt that it would undervalue the efforts of the classroom teacher. In short, he knew that the iPads had made a positive difference in the learning of that group of students, but he couldn't say that it made THE difference.