The great iPad rollout: Remarkably smooth at Alemany
It helped that Alemany started building their infrastructure more than five years ago, “because we needed it, but also we were seeing that technology was already growing and the big need was wireless devices,” said Michael Schaaff, technology director.
He noted that some of LAUSD’s iPad implementation program centered on infrastructure issues and counseled those in attendance to make sure to have Internet and Wi-Fi infrastructure in place before they “even think about purchasing iPads for students.”
According to Schaaff, LAUSD also relied too heavily on Apple’s built-in restriction systems as opposed to controlling iPads centrally using an MDM (mobile device management) System. Alemany’s MDM provides software that secures, monitors, manages and supports the iPads, allowing over-the-air distribution of apps.
The school can push data and modify content to the iPads, which are on a two-year lease from Apple at an annual cost to school families of $495. E-books are available for most classes at an average price per book of $14.
Students use their own Apple ID to order books and apps, making the leased iPad feel more personal. “LAUSD didn’t give students a sense of ownership,” said Schaaff. “We’re allowing the iPad to be customized; students can add their own personal apps, music and games as long as they save room for books.”
At school, the MDM system monitors the students to keep them from venturing to unsafe websites. At home, where students do homework on the iPads, Alemany turns over the Internet monitoring responsibility to the parents.
“When they’re here, there are places they can’t go; we block them,” Schaaff pointed out. “We can also look to see what’s on the iPad as far as what apps have been installed.”
Richard Guante, director of studies, noted that Alemany is one of the first high schools using Canvas for its learning management system to track student progress and performance. An online course system, Canvas allows students to submit classwork and homework to the teacher and offers collaborative tools for group work as well.
“This Canvas system just opens up a whole other world of engagement with our students,” noted Guante, a government and economics teacher who was pleasantly surprised that his classes were able to go totally paperless the first week.
“Soon we have to be thinking on the high school level about going to hybrid classes, where some of it is purely online for the students; where they come in and we just hold discussion sessions or problem-solving sessions,” said Guante, who noted that adding a seventh online class to a student’s six-class schedule was in the future realm of possibility.
As part of a classroom demonstration, Matthew Judge, religion teacher, explained how educational technology is helping students develop the “4C” skills needed in today’s world: critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration.
“The iPad in one sense enables us to present the world of the Internet to students to enable them to consume content, but it’s not just about that,” stated Judge. “The best thing about this technology is that it provides lots of different ways in which students can demonstrate their learning to us and demonstrate what they’re doing and use these tools to communicate and to share their work.”
For example, Canvas allows students to self-select into groups and meet in Google Docs to work together on the same document at the same time, while the teacher can observe what they’re doing and step in as needed.
“There are discussion boards on Canvas and we’ve been using those,” said Judge. “We can attach discussions to particular assignments and, once students are in a group, that group appears on their iPads through the Canvas app. They can run discussions through just that group, so the functionality is really flexible, really broad and enables us to do lots and lots of really good things in terms of developing their skills in collaboration, communication and creativity.
“The great thing about this isn’t, for me, what you can consume on it but what you can create on it,” using tools like the iMovie app and podcasts, noted Judge. “It provides a lot more breadth in terms of getting the students doing active learning rather than passive learning, and really stretching their ability to think.”