PRIORITY NO.1 : LEADERSHIP FROM THE TOP.
The initial goal is to ready a school for the quick iPadding of all daily school tasks carried out by Teachers, Admin and students. The first emphasis must be to get staff and students to move their daily routines onto the iPad and not look back. This realignment will only be quick & successful if staff and particularly members of the leadership team understand iPad best practice.
BIG DECIDER: ONE COMPETENT SENIOR LEADER (AT LEAST)
In the beginning, at least one senior leader must become fully fluent in how the iPad deals with the daily school tasks. My experience to date tells me that this will be the key decider on iPad success. I find that most school technicians charged with readying school systems for iPads only ‘fully respond’ to senior leaders. Here’s a check list of good iPad practice the senior leaders must understand:
5 EVERYDAY iPAD ESSENTIALS THAT LEADERS MUST UNDERSTAND AND PROMOTE:
A) DOCUMENTS: How to convert and ensure all documents (forms/worksheets) are shared in PDF format. This includes on the Website, LMS and in shared folders on the servers. We all use apps like Word to create documents but once finished, Word/Pages/Powerpoint should not be the file formats that are shared publicly or internally. Don’t continue to think that because a form or worksheet must be filled in, it needs to be shared in Microsoft Word format. Most PDF apps (both Free and Bought) will allow the staff and students to view, complete, sign or annotate the forms & worksheets and will really start to make the school paperless (a serious ‘Green’ issue). One problem area will be uploading PDFs to the existing school websites / LMS directly from iPad. Some of the LMSs are creating iPad apps and this can help but without clever design, the website might need to continue with desktop updates.
B) COMMUNICATION: Email is dead! Students certainly don’t regularly check emails. New communication tools must be considered. Internally, it’s best using messaging tools like iMessage, your LMS’s messaging service, if its iPad app runs such a service or even Twitter. I find adults like ‘texting’ messages as much as the kids do, you only have to look at Facebook to know that. Externally, the school should also run a Facebook Page for people to follow for community announcements and this too can be run by the senior leader directly from the iPad. It might be with the best intentions that every school aims to run a good website, but for communication, parents rarely check school websites and it’s not the way 21st Century communication takes place. This is one reason iPads have never needed the facility to update website HTML.
C) IMAGES: The leadership must decide on how staff iPads will upload, store and organise photos. This is good for teachers as they can share pictures with students directly from the iPad and good for all staff to share images of student work and activity. Using online services like Flickr or Google’s Picasa, there are ways to ensure images can be uploaded and organised by staff iPads to appear embedded on the school websites etc, without the need for separate login. (See my previous posts)
D) VIDEO: This is quickly becoming the new ‘paper’. Young people are experiencing online video as a first step to understanding anything. They also create multiple videos using devices like phones on a weekly basis. If harnessed, this can make any school a lively exciting place where students really show-off their understanding and even start to learn and leach each other through video. The school must have an official system for staff to organise the videos for the courses and where the school can showcase student video work. The one system that the iPad and all the available apps work seamlessly with is a Youtube account. The school should setup a Google account from which it can organise its Youtube channel with playlists for different courses, classes or general school activities. Students and staff can now login or be logged-in to upload video content to the channel. This channel can be embedded in school websites etc, and will automatically update as the content arrives.
E) LEADERSHIP BLOG & ADVICE: This is a great idea to ensure genuine engagement from all staff and students. A senior leader blogs the schools experiences and advice on using iPads from day 1. This blog is linked to on the school website and can be used by the whole community to find out the latest news in how the school is operating with iPads, including any problems that have arisen. A school “How-to” page is also setup to cover all the basics.
If you can get your school performing the daily basics on iPads, the creative stuff will follow naturally. The more they stick to their old ways, the harder the transition will be. Success and collaboration between members of the iPadding community rely on full understanding and engagement from all parties. And this starts with the basics and from the top!
[Update] Other Considerations:
1. Don’t waste time looking through the App Store. Focus on tasks. Start with only considering all the daily tasks within the school for students, teachers and admin and focus on collaborative systems like Google Accounts and Twitter to bring the new iPadders together.
2. Ensure that all the departments have the basics mentioned above working before you worry about adding extras. The first issue is about building confidence and when staff & students see they can at least do all that they did before but better, the project will really take-off.
3. Get the whole senior leadership team fully immersed by the end of the first year. This will build respect for both the individuals and the project. The school will really come alive if the community see the leaders themselves start moving forward.
4. Build an open approach to web filtering. Like all major businesses, 1000s of schools are now using Social Media and Youtube in the classroom. Other than blocking the ‘obvious’ negative material, it is important that schools are able to teach digital citizenship within school and this requires positive role-modeling in how the internet can be used.