cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Cristian Borquez

This year we rolled out iPads to every high school student.  This was a huge initiative for us as our goal in handing out iPads was to transform teaching and learning.  We desire increased student engagement and want to see that translate to improvements in our student achievement.  For us it wasn’t about the device–it was about what this tool could do to transform teaching and learning in the hands of a skilled educator.

Going into this project we knew:

  1. We wouldn’t get everything right the first time.  There would be bumps.
  2. Even though we knew there would be bumps–we researched as much as we possibly could to learn from those who had gone before and hopefully avoid as many potholes as we could.
  3. This would be an evolutionary process transforming teaching and learning over time.
  4. That we needed to provide professional development before rolling out the new tool and throughout this year and years to come to support teachers in utilization of the tool.
  5. This is just a tool.  The art of teaching is still in the hands of the passionate educator.

Going in knowing those things–there was still learning to be done that could only be accomplished through experience.  So here’s what I have  learned (just a couple of weeks into the school year):

  1. I like control–and despite all of the research and planning–things still happen that are beyond my control.  While I thought it would be configuring the devices that would be challenging to complete by registration–really it was the fact that our covers had not arrived that delayed our distribution.  This was beyond my control and I had to come to terms with the fact that I could do nothing to change that the covers did not arrive on time.  Control is an illusion–and can make you lose sight of the bigger picture and take your focus off of what is important.  More important than control is the ability to respond flexibly to the challenges that arise–because they will come!
  2. You can research all you want–there will still be unexpected bumps.  We spent time talking to other schools who had gone 1:1 with iPads, visited schools, talked to companies about management approaches, read articles, researched options for training and support, attended training sessions, and made sure our IT Department had the training they needed.  Even with learning from all of these various efforts, we still faced bumps that were unique to our setting.  If one chooses to focus on the bumps–the implementation process will be fraught with stress.  Instead, focus on learning from each bump and tackling each one as they come.  Expect the bumps–and respond quickly to them.  When others are surprised and frustrated with the bumps–remind them that we knew this was part of the process.
  3. Even if you go into this with the mindset that there will be challenges to tackle–they are still frustrating when they come.  It’s alright to be frustrated.  In fact, this is a great life skill for students to see us model when we face challenges and tackle them with a growth mindset that not everything comes easily in life.  Sometimes what we think will work doesn’t.  It’s not about the fact that we didn’t foresee every challenge–it’s about how we don’t back down from challenges.  In pressing through the challenges sometimes we experience the greatest growth.

There are going to be more obstacles ahead to tackle.  Am I glad we did it?  You bet!  Have I seen iPads being used as powerful tools in the hands of skilled educators?  Without a doubt.  I can’t wait to see how this tool in the hands of talented teachers transforms teaching and learning.  On top of that, I get to watch engaged students create and engage in new ways every time I walk through the halls of our high school.  Obstacles are inevitable–but I am excited to see us continue to tackle them to positively impact student achievement!

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” Bill Gates



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