AES ES iPad Pilot Evaluation – Semester 1

The AES ES is nearly midway through a year-long pilot of 20 iPad2 devices serving a population of 719 students and 70 teachers.

Goals of the Pilot

• Evaluate the iPad as a possible 1-1 device.
• Evaluate the iPad as a laptop replacement in our current laptop cart system.
• Evaluate the iPad as a supplementary device to our existing laptop carts.

Structure of the Pilot

Given the goals of the pilot during the first semester, we wanted to see examples of the iPad being used for content creation, skills practice, direct instruction and assessment in a variety of content areas and grade levels with-in the first semester’s budget window.

In order to gather the most useful data possible,  we first deployed the devices into the hands of teachers that had a specific time frame and unit of study in mind which would let us see the iPads being used over the course of several days by a group of kids. For example a class might use the iPads in a math unit where they watch tutorial videos on two column addition, then use an app to practice the skill over several days and then make a video of themselves applying that skill to a real world situation or record themselves explaining their thinking on how to solve a problem that uses that skill.

Once we had those more structured and longer experiences on the calendar we opened the pilot up to more one-off opportunities (like using the iPad for one class period to try Mind Mash as a way to brainstorm for a piece of writing) in the remaining time slots.


The 20 devices are housed in a purpose built cart that moves from location to location as needed. Syncing of the iPad is performed as needed by one of the members of the AES tech center. Apps are purchased though an iTunes account that is shared with the middle school.

To promote the pilot several actions were taken. First, at the start of the semester open demos of the iPads and selected apps were run and well attended by teachers. Next, the tech facilitators pushed into all grade level team meetings to provide short exposures to the iPads and apps that are relevant at appropriate grade levels. Finally, the weekly ES tech note highlights an “App of the Week” and ways it could be used in classrooms.

To facilitate signing up for the iPads, a Google calendar is available for all ES teachers to view. However to allow for greater diversity of experience by the entire ES staff, only the ES tech facilitators have the ability to add and modify events.

In most cases prior to the iPads being scheduled on the calendar, one of the ES tech facilitators meets with the classroom teacher to help structure the experience. The facilitator then pushes in to either co-teach or provide support and then de-briefs with the teacher after the experience.

Systems Evaluation:

  • The Google calendar is working well so far. It has allowed us to facilitate a greater diversity of experience and equity of deployment than opening the sign-up to teachers on a first-come first-served basis would have.
  • Pre/post conversations with teachers have lead to sharing of apps in a variety of grade levels and situations.
  • As evidenced by the back-log on sign-up (currently about two weeks) there is more excitement over the device than any other in recent memory.
  • Sending screen shots as e-mails to classroom teachers has helped build additional interest.
  • App of the week in the tech note has been helpful is sustaining interest.

Systems Improvements:

  • To allow for flexibility over loading photo sets, documents and customizing settings on the iPads themselves syncing needs to come under our control.
  • Create separate iTunes accounts for MS/ES to facilitate syncing and save memory.
  • Placing a  Wi-Fi printer, located in a convenient location (2nd/3rd floor Neem), in the ES would streamline and speed up printing issues.
  • Word processing applications such as (Quick Office) need to be explored more.
  • Best practices for how to best use the cloud (Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud) for both students and teachers need to be developed.
  • Dialogue needs to occur on how to best publish products out and reflect on them.
  • Debrief more extensively with teachers close to the end of their experiences.
  • Develop a debrief guide for conversations with teachers (how is this different or better than before), then push the data into a Google Doc.
  • Push into team meetings to request info on upcoming units to facilitate iPad as content delivery device and also to co-plan more in depth experiences.
  • Collaborate and communicate more often with Tammy, Kathy, Robyn and Miriam as to how the iPad can meet needs in the library, for literacy and math instruction and meet the needs of ESL students.

Educational Experiences Observed

One of our main objectives in semester one of the pilot was to see the device used in a variety of ways and grade levels. We have directly observed their use in the following ways.

Content Creation
The nimbleness and ease of use of the device has lead to this area being the number one use of the iPad in the ES. The quick learning curve of both the device and most apps have lead them to being used for creating content pieces that typically take two or three thirty minute periods rather than longer term projects using laptops. Examples of these products included:

  • Students in Grade 3 have used Strip Design to create digital presentations of research they did on specific landforms.
  • Students in Grades 1,2 and 3 have used PuppetPals for creating digital stories that illustrated elements of fiction in literacy time.
  • Using Popplet students in Grade 1 created mind maps that illustrated key ideas they were learning in Math and Literacy.
  • iMovie – Grade 2 Needs Movies
  • Drawing Pad – KG patterns, worm drawings, Grade 1 meal worms

Formative Assessment
Using the iPad for formative assessment has been one of the largest uses of the devices. Examples of these activities included:

  • Grade 3 students used Explain Everthing in Math to illustrate and explain how to solve multi-digit subtraction problems.
  • Grade 5 students used Explain Everything and Socrative to for check for understanding using the CSI thinking routine during their unit on Freedom in social studies.
  • Students in Grades 1 and 2 music classes used ScreenChomp as a way to record rhythms and patterns as a precursor to writing musical notation.
  • Students in Grade 4 used Evernote for recording and achieving reading assessment. Using Evernote, they were able to take photos of the pages they read, record their voices and write a short debrief all in one place.

Content Delivery
At this point there has been little demand for the iPad as a content delivery device. This is a bit surprising given the huge number of apps available for the purpose. Examples of this include:

  • The Grammar Jammers app has been used by Grade 1 students to begin understanding the parts of speech.

One fifth grade classroom has blogged using the iPad and Safari browser with some success. While it worked well for entering text, the inability to embed multi-media content to the blog from the iPad limits the usefulness of the device at this point. Perhaps embedding through Dropbox or trying a more robust blogging app like Blogsy may be work arounds.

At this point there as been little interest in the device for this purpose. Since all ES classrooms have robust paperback libraries and most are using online subscriptions from Raz Kids and Tumblebooks for reading enrichment, teachers see little need for the iPad. Perhaps as Tumblebooks begins to offer iPad compatable versions demand in this area will increase.

  • Students in some KG classes have been using the iPads to read multi-media storybooks

Additional Educational Experiences Desired in Semester 2

Learning Center and ESL – The personal nature of the device lends itself well to remediation and differentiation. In addition the nimbleness of downloading and installing apps makes learning center and ESL seem like natural sweet spots for the iPad. Our challenge in the second semester is to figure out how to leverage this. One idea for second semester is to dedicate a small number (perhaps 3 iPads) to the learning center so that teachers and students could have access at any time.

e-Reader– In the second semester we will actively recruit two classrooms to pilot this experience. In the upper grades we would like to see students use GoodReader for non-fiction reading and annotating via PDF and another class use the Kindle app to read a classroom novel. In addition world language classes have expressed interest in using the device to read simple multi-media storybooks in French and Spanish.

Formative Assessment – Clickers- When demonstrating the e-clickers app to several groups of teachers in the Fall there was interest for this use in the classroom. We would like to find one upper ES class to use this app for a period of a week to see if it is has long term potential or if it is more of a novelty.

Blogging – With the growth in blogging in the ES during the first semester we would like to see how the WordPress or Blogsy apps function for both upper and lower ES students. The instant on feature of the iPad may, if the apps are user friendly enough, make it a more desirable device for blogging than the laptops.

Voicethread- Voicethread is used extensively in the ES for documenting learning. The release of the Voicethread app this Fall has been of keen interest to us. During second semester, we would like to have one or two classes use the Voicethread app exclusively for their Voicethread needs so that we can see what its limitations are prior to the arrival of more iPads in SY 12-13.

Summative Assessment – We are actively seeking a class to use the iPad as a research tool for non-fiction writing. Our ideal would be a project where a classroom uses the iPad to carry out the entire process: online researching, notetaking, organizing and producing a final product. This experience will allow us to judge the ability of the device to serve as a laptop replacement in the future.

Summary of Semester One

In conclusion the iPad pilot in the ES has been an overwhelming success. The unique learning needs of elementary age students coupled with the ease of use and nimbleness of the iPad makes it a nearly perfect fit for the ES as a technology device. Current demand for the device far outstrips our supply. This demand was underscored by the requests from teachers for nearly 400 additional iPads as part of the capital budget requests for the 2012-13 school year. Our best hope is to build capacity with the iPad during the 2012-13 school year while reducing, but not eliminating, the capacity of laptops in the ES. Subsequently during school year 2012-13 we will evaluate the potential for moving to a 1-1 iPad scenario in grades four and five.

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