Friday, February 4, 2011

Becoming A 1:1 School Edition 6 - Fox News Comes To BHS To Talk About Our iPad Plans

The headline on Fox 25 states Burlington schools trade in books for iPads: and the topic is actually the topic of conversation for this morning's "Let it Rip" segment on the Fox Morning Show which you can watch here. You can also see the interview that Dr. Conti and I did for last night's Fox News above.

I would like to respond to a few of the points that the Fox reporters made this morning: 

Kind of a pricy thing to put in the hands of kids?
We have been putting textbooks in the hands of kids for quite some time and these are quite pricy as the report from Fox News in Georgia mentioned yesterday where the state spends over 40 million dollars annually on textbooks. I know that we spend in excess of $100,000 dollars in Burlington in most years on textbooks. So it would seem that we are putting pricy things in the hands of our students.
 What is the cost to the school system?
I will get to the concrete number, but seriously what is the cost of not doing this? Look at what is happening outside of our schools. Our students need to be ready to enter a world outside of our schools where people are connected through technological tools.  If they do not learn how to use these tools responsibly in our schools then where will they learn them?
Most school mission statements state the need to develop competent citizens and we simply are not fulfilling this if we are not teaching our students to be competent in the area of digital citizenship.  Tony Wagner cites Seven Surivival Skills for Careers, College, & Citizenship in the 21st Century in his book the Global Achievement Gap. It is quite clear that integrating technological tools into our classrooms will benefit in each of these areas.
Finally, in regards to cost, the iPad goes for $499 and if we dump out a typical students backpack we will get to this amount very quickly. Add in the conversation about the amount we are spending on copying and the amount climbs even higher.
 What kind of access will they (students) have? Will we be blocking inappropriate content?
We have federal and local guidelines that state our obligation to filter inappropriate material. Many students are online during the school day here at BHS now in our various computer labs and our library/media center. We will meet the same guidelines when each student has a device to access our wireless network. 
 Apple's plan to take over the world
I know that this comment was made tongue-in-cheek and I want to be clear that are longterm plans are to be a Bring Your Own Device School (BYOD) school. We love the idea of students having choices and managing their own devices and we plan to be there within a short time (3-4 years tops).  The whole 1:1 move is not about one specific device or application. However, to make things more manageable in classrooms, we decided that all students having the same device would be helpful in as we start out.
 Updating textbooks 
I think we have to be very careful in this areas that we do not just transition from traditional textbooks to the digital textbooks. We need to start creating our own textbooks as Joyce Valenza pointed out this week in her great  post How To Grow A Textbook.  In addition, Scott McLeod has also pushed educators on this idea with his Textbook Challenge based on his statement that "there’s not much in your children’s textbooks that isn’t available in at least a dozen places online for free."  
It is quite clear that if we give our teachers time, they will create resources for their students that are much more meaningful.  In high schools we should also have students helping to create these resources for their classes.
In fact, this is already happening in some schools:
An example from Harriet Tubman Democratic H.S in Albany, NY
An example from Bering Strait School District in Alaska 
Don't we want these opportunities for all of our students?
50-Percent Will Be Broken Within A Month

I am so disappointed at the lack of faith that so many have in our students. We have had a number of iPads in our district utilizing iPads this year with none of these issues.  In addition, I am confident that the fact that Apple has sold over 7 million iPads is indicative that fragility is not a major concern.


  1. How many people do you have in your IT dept? How many of your textbooks are available online?

  2. It is so good to hear your school embrace technology this way to better education for our students. I love how you said in your interview, ". . .prepare the students for their future, not for our past." Very true!

  3. Great post Patrick. It is interesting that the title of this segment was iPads vs. Textbooks. That says a lot about what some people think about one to one. They simply believe we are doing the same thing with a new technology.

    Nick Sauers

  4. Great responses to some "attempt to get attention" questions! Your approach is fantastic. Keep up the good work!

    John Strange
    EDM310, University of South Alabama College of Education

  5. Nick and John,

    Thanks for the positive feedback. It is truly an nexciting time to be an educator. The ability to connect an learn from others is someting that every students needs to experience.

  6. What are the support plans for these devices and will this increase IT costs.

    How will these devices be monitored and managed by IT staff. What kind of security policies will be pushed to these devices or will each individual device need to be manually protected so that social networking, imaging and geo-tagging (etc) features are not used to accidentally or irresponsibly expose children personal information.

    What training will parents have for those unfamiliar with iPad technology to help with device+OS support and protect student web use?

    How will these devices fit into a comprehensive technology approach to enhancing education especially since Apple’s App store pricing methodology discourages developers from making products that enhance collaboration, data sharing and communication? In fact, your plans to develop textbooks in no way meshes with Apple App store since you will be charged for the delivery of every piece of content

    If the interest is digital textbooks what kind of research was done into platform independent technology like the Nook and Kindle. With these, students have the choice of choosing dedicated hardware or a platform independent application to run off hardware and OS of choice. In fact, B&N recently launched the nookstudy program for college students which they are planning to expand to K-12. This has the added benefit of significantly reduced costs on digital textbooks.

    iPad devices to read books is an odd and expensive idea to push to your community, and it certainly doesn’t represent to me some sort of exciting forward thinking technology initiative investment.

  7. I do think that the idea of giving every student the same device is a huge mistake. We should be beyond the point where we choose student technologies based on vendor pitches or even efficiency - if we are to ever get beyond the industrial education system which has failed us badly for the past century and a half.

    iPads are cool, but they are one choice, and not necessarily the best choice for many. Mobile phone platforms, TabletPCs, Laptops of various kinds, Netbooks, Android Tablets (Samsung, Motorola among others), all offer differing advantages based in student capabilities, disabilities, preferences. Why are schools the one place where everyone has the same thing? And if everyone has the same thing, how are we encouraging independent thinking.

    We need also to stop considering any of these devices as "textbook replacements." Textbooks have been among the worst learning tools we have ever had. They are tools of compliance, not education.

    So if we are replacing textbooks, lets replace textbooks. Let us allow students choice in devices, choice in sources, choice in media types.

    We've seen the consistent failure of "one technology" since the 1860s. Never, in all that time, have - for example - more than 1/3 of Americans passed the sixth grade reading level. Never, in all that time, have we gotten more than 1/3 of Americans through higher education.

    Now we have new opportunities. And if our question is "iPads v Textbooks" we are letting that opportunity slip away.

    - Ira Socol

  8. I've been teaching in 1:1 schools since 2003. I've seen them rock and I've seen them flop. It sounds like you're in the process of developing a comprehensive plan. If you cover your bases for funding, support, and professional development, as well as student and parent training, you're on the right track.
    There's a lot of focus on digitizing textbooks. Initially, this is a great benefit, but having access to the plethora of resources available online can and will outweigh the textbook advantage.
    Invest in good cases and keyboards. Just using an iPad for a textbook would waste a lot of potential your students will soon seek out.
    Best of luck!

  9. Ira -

    Our plan is to be a BYOD, as I mention above. We are trying to get there and our implementation team chose a tables (the iPad) as our school-wide device. I agree with your premise that our schools are moving too slowly, but I would rather move slowly than not at all in this area. I ask this question without any sarcasm - Would we better off not doing anything with 1:1 than choosing a device?

    We are trying to keep the emphasis on the tools that teachers will choose to implement rather than the device. I think it is very important that teachers and students are allowed as much flexibility as possible in selecting the tools that work best for them.

    In regards to the issue of digital texts, I referenced that in the post. I agree that just changing the format of these poor texts will not suddenly make them quality resources.

  10. Here is a bluetooth keyboard/case option

  11. Patrick,

    Sometimes I do wonder if slower were better. Consider. What if you bought a collection of iPads, Android Tablets, TabletPCs, and laptops which students without Student-Owned-Devices might check out? What if you spent the rest of the money improving WiFi access in and around the school and perhaps on Cell Repeaters for 3G/4G?

    Wouldn't you then be moving faster toward BYOD and the idea of choice?

    And I guess I do object to an implementation team making a single choice. This is why I push Toolbelt Theory and student choice for Special Needs students and object to staff making those choices. I really don't think I feel differently for any student.

    Lastly, the iPads you buy today will be old, outdated technology two years from now, if not before, but you will be locked into this huge investment in both time and device-specific training. How does that move you toward your goal?

    - Ira Socol

  12. I like the ideas of delivering textbooks digitally. I’m also very interested in how content providers can integrate interactive features into books especially if they enhance student knowledge absorption.

    What I have difficulty with is locking into a technology such as Apple iPad. iPad’s are unbelievably useful and fun consumer tools but do not fit with public education. They are expensive to purchase and maintain, for organizations with limited IT and technology budgets they are a serious problem to manage and support, and Apple’s push to not only charge developers for applications but now content delivery is going to be costly for users, especially when it comes to ebooks.

    As I had said in a previous comment, there are more affordable ebooks readers that exist, as hardware and platform independent applications like B&N Nook and Amazon Kindle. The Nook is interesting because there are changes coming to make books more interactive which will coincide with their Android update on their hardware reader.

    K-12 should also not be settling for technology adoption they should be aggressively demanding more. Digital books on computers devices need to differentiate more from the paper media with technology assisted learning features. Your teachers should be able to highlight sections of a textbook and generate quizzes, tests or even entire curriculum suggestions. Students should be able select text and do web lookups, automatically imbed in a homework document with properly formatted credit or references sections, initiate a chat request to peers or teachers with questions, generate solutions suggestions from equations, etc. Teachers and parents should be able to, view student reading history and even monitor activity real-time, initiate chat sessions with students and offer suggestion or help. These are a tiny, tiny fraction of the things that education needs to be demanding just for digital textbooks.

    Anyway, sorry if a come off too strong. I like your push for technology in teaching. Though, as a Systems Integrator my spidey senses go off when the technology fit just isn't there.

  13. I am in the process of putting a plan to put 2500 iPads into a middle school and high school. We have several 24/7 iPad projects happening now at the high school and we have an open policy at both schools so that anyone can bring any internet ready device into the school. To date, no problems. Would love to compare notes as we move forward. I will post updates on my blog:

    Good luck with your project. Sounds so very promising.