This past year we’ve been gearing up for several Student Technology Leader projects across the country with a new twist. This fall, for the first time, many of our Student Technology Leaders will be equipped with iPads as they assist teachers in technology integration, tech support, and technology literacy efforts. Two projects in particular, College YES (a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant) and a project funded by the Rural Schools and Community Trust for improving STEM education are kicking off this fall.
We are in the middle of a busy summer teaching some amazing students leadership and technology skills, plus how to use the iPad as a technology integration tool. Student Tech Leaders will use the iPads to assist teachers with STEM project resources, help teachers track and assess technology literacy projects, manage help desk and trouble ticket requests, and more.
We’ve learned quite a bit about iPads and school deployment in the past few months which I hope to share soon. But in short, there is one major decision that schools must make when deploying iPads – whether to set them up individually or as a managed group. Now, there are lots of great websites that help with this, but this one basic decision has ramifications beyond the technical – it’s a decision about student agency and ownership.
I don’t mean who really “owns” the device – but who has responsibility for it day to day. Who is making choices about its setup, use, and apps. I’m also not talking about the kinds of loaner situations where you hand an iPad out for an hour or two with no expectation of long-term use. I’m talking about an expectation that the iPad is a tool that a student will use for real work on a long term basis.
If you configure the iPads with a management system, the agency will lie primarily in the system administrator. If you configure them individually, the agency lies primarily with the student user. The point is, it’s not a totally technical decision, nor should the only consideration be making it easier for technical staff. Yes, you must be sure that students can’t access “bad stuff”, can download great apps, and that problems can be fixed quickly. But that’s possible with both kinds of configurations.
So, in our iPad deployments, we’ve set up them up individually. We believe the students will take their responsibilities seriously and not abuse them. Time will tell if this trust will be rewarded – but it usually is!