There is no greater investment we can make in the future than to prepare our children to successfully navigate the challenges of tomorrow. Of course, predicting the workforce requirements of the future is a bit like trying to capture a fly with a cargo net—just when you think you have it, it slips through the holes and buzzes in a different direction. Nonetheless, it’s safe to assume that workforce mobility will be an essential aspect of the coming generation’s career experiences. Mobile technology is already an integral part of nearly every business role, and its use can only be expected to increase in the years to come. To help support this revolution, Apple has pledged to donate $100 million worth of teaching and learning technology to 114 underserved schools across the country and has offered special discount pricing and volume-purchase programs to all educational institutions. A large number of grade schools have embraced these financial enticements and introduced 1:1 iPad programs that provide every student with their own personal iPad to be used during the duration of a school term.

Naturally, simply giving a student an iPad would do little to foster an academic atmosphere and would likely just result in increased downloads of Minecraft and Angry Birds. Careful thought should be placed into how best to deploy, secure, and utilize tablets before such a program is adopted. As a starting point, I highly recommend learning all about the SAMR model for introducing technology in education. This model defines the general processes that should be applied to all technology deployments in a classroom setting. Specific practices for iPad management and support that address each organization’s unique needs and teaching objectives should be adopted. While a comprehensive list of best practices for deploying a 1:1 iPad program would be too extensive for this modest blog, here are a few key tips that should be considered when developing a project plan:

  • Empower the Educators – One of the biggest pitfalls of introducing a 1:1 iPad program is trying to adapt the technology to existing lessons, rather than utilizing the technology to its fullest potential. The true value of iPads in the classroom is in their ability to customize lessons to match each teacher’s unique style. Educators can combine topics and lessons to essentially create their own textbooks, and audio, video, graphics, and web links can be added to enhance educational opportunities. Teachers must be trained on how to properly utilize the tablets and how to build lesson plans around them. Additionally, it is important for teachers to have access to tablets well before the start of the school term so they have sufficient time to develop digital classroom materials.
  • Deploy Applications Strategically – While there is an excessive amount of educational content available, not all of it is accurate and useful. All applications should be carefully vetted before being deployed to student device to ensure they are acceptable and appropriate to the lesson. Since student iPads should only be used for education purposes, approved applications should be explicitly white listed to prevent the installation of unapproved games and apps. Additionally, education software should be deployed to student iPads as it is needed, rather than all at once. This prevents networks and application servers from being overtaxed by hundreds of simultaneous downloads.
  • Optimize Data Sharing Practices – Used properly, mobile devices provide a powerful method for communication (i.e., student-to-teacher or student-to-student). Teachers can interact with students in real-time by answering questions and providing feedback on assignments as the student is focused on them. Students can revise and submit corrections on assignments to enhance their education experience. While email is an easy and popular method for sharing data (and can be done safely with a secure email package), it can be challenging for teachers to orchestrate. For instance, homework assignments will be sent from each student and may need to be collected in multiple phases of review. Organizing all these files in an email package is both challenging and time-consuming. A better approach is to enable secure data repositories for each student to store their assignments in a logical and organized manner.
  • Teach Safe Practices – Students’ familiarity with iPads and internet access varies by a great degree, and it should never be assumed that they intuitively understand safety practices. Even the use of malware protection and other security software while only have a limited affect if the students do not develop safe communication and web surfing habits. As technology continues to become an integral part of business and social interactions, this lesson will also extend to broader mobile device and computing use that will be invaluable throughout their lives.
  • Empower the Students – While security is of paramount importance in a 1:1 iPad program, it should not be implemented at the cost of stifling creativity and learning opportunities. Allow kids to customize their own devices to express their unique personalities. Encourage them to safely explore the capabilities of the technology and learn new ways to accomplish tasks. Offer multiple methods for completing assignments so they can discover which work best for them and allows them to develop the skills that will enable them to most effectively function in a technology-driven world.