Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Cartful of iPads in the High School Library - We're Ready to Take Them for a Spin!

It's been months in the making, but we're finally ready to place our new iPads into the hands of our students. Back when our library media specialist first suggested that we had the money in our budget for a set of 30 iPads, I was excited… and skeptical. How could that be possible? But upon further inspection, we realized that money from the equipment, subscription, and book budget categories could all be combined to purchase them. We hit the road running!

Our first hurdle was to convince administration that we should be able to combine all of these resources for this purchase. Why iPads in the library? The first, most obvious answer, is that they are amazing e-readers capable of downloading all of the free public domain classic literary works, iBook, Kindle and Nook books, as well as pdf files and magazine subscriptions. Another important use for the iPads is the creation of multimedia projects by our students working in the library. Screencasts, Keynote slideshows, Prezis, videos, music, desktop publishing documents and podcasts can all be created on this one portable device. A third use, though not as exciting - but just as important, is for research. iPads offer instant internet access at the students' fingertips along with dictionary, encyclopedia, and subject content apps ready to launch at any time. 

Permission granted! We placed the order for 30 iPads, 1 MacBook and a Bretford storage cart to store, charge and sync them all. We decided on the 16GB, WiFi-only model. They won't require a lot of internal storage, as we are moving students' and teachers' workflow into the clouds. I envision that students will be using Google Docs, DropBox and iCloud to store their files. They will also be able to email files to another computer if need be. We'll see how this all works as we get using them. The logistics are yet to be discovered.
Excitement mounted as the pallet arrived with boxes upon boxes delivered from Apple - a dream come true! But the reality of unboxing, setting up and preparing them was not all fun and games. Based upon the advice from many blogposts and articles, I came up with a plan for setting them up. (What did we do before the internet?) The final process involved creating a master iPad image by choosing one iPad to set up with all of the apps we want students to have access to. On this image I adjusted the restriction settings, logged in to WiFi and set up all apps that needed settings configured. I also purchased a few apps using the Apple Volume Purchase Program and made sure they were authorized. Once I was sure this was how we wanted to get started, I connected this iPad to the MacBook and synced it. I made sure to check "encrypt backup" so that all passwords were saved in the backup image. Then I proceeded to restore each of the other 29 iPads to the Backup of the master image. 

Wow - what a process! We have learned so much - my head is spinning. I am now ready to see what happens. I am planning a math lesson using the ShowMe app to get started. The students will solve problems recording them within the app and share their solutions when connected to the SmartBoard. The best of these solutions can be saved and uploaded to our Trumbull High School YouTube channel as a tutorial to help others. I hope to find more teachers who want to experiment. I'm thrilled and a little afraid for the first time that we put them into the students' hands, but I feel confident that they will be engaged and excited! 

Here are some of the resources I used along the way:

Setting up a cartful or two of iPads - blog post

Apple's Official iOS 5 Deployment Guide

Ravenscroft Libraries - Middle and Upper School Library iPad Program

Setting up a Library iPad Program

Apple's Volume Purchase Program - Half-price Apps for Schools

Great Blog About Apps in Education

iPad 2 Basics - Learning Tutorials