Our 1:1 — What Went Wrong?

As I have mentioned previously, I taught this year in a 1:1 iPad Middle School. In a continuing series of posts, I am addressing some of the things we learned in our first year. This post will focus on some of the things that went wrong in our first year of an iPad implementation. I don't write this to add fuel to the fire of naysayers, but to be honest when talking about our 1:1.

Problem #1: Apple, then MDMs, were not ready for 1:1 programs. Last fall, Los Angeles began a 1:1 iPad program, and it didn't take long before the news outlets were covering the program in a very negative light. The LAUSD program distributed iPads that were heavily restricted, basically making the iPads digital textbooks. It didn't take long for students to realize that they could delete the profiles and have nearly full access to those devices. LAUSD and Apple took quite a beating in the media over this issue. Furthermore, iOS 7 promised the ability to distribute and reclaim apps via a MDM (multi device manager). This feature came at various points over the school year, and to our MDM at the END of the school year.

Because our MDM couldn't handle managed distribution of apps, we could not purchase any apps, including Pages, Keynote, iMovie, or iPhoto–or any other teacher-requested app. Because our devices were purchased in July of 2013, we could not purchase the Apple apps for free (as they are now…the starting date was September 1). This meant that all teacher-used apps had to be free apps. Although there are ways to use free apps, you do get what you pay for.

Ultimately, Apple has addressed the profile deletion issue and MDMs have solved the app distribution process; however, we lost a year to these items. In-App Purchases are still not available to educational instutitions. If a device is registered via Apple's new Device Enrollment Program (DEP), profiles can be permanently attached to a device, and if the device is restored, the device reboots back to the original enrollment screen (if a device is stolen, it isn't good for anything else).

Problem #2: iOS updates occur in late Fall. Apple's hardware and software patterns do not match the purchasing process of schools. Schools order new hardware in July (new fiscal year), and most software “work” is done in the summer months, meaning that updates can be tricky later in the fall–either due to not wanting students to update until a version is proved stable, or to stagger an update so that it does not take as much bandwidth.

Problem #3: Student misuse of devices. Our philosophy over the past year was to not restrict iPads; we asked that students not be on social media or games during school. We wanted to teach responsible behavior; and furthermore, if students were off task, to discipline the student and NOT punish the iPad. As a whole, it seemed that our middle school students were not able to resist the temptation of games (e.g. Minecraft) or social media (e.g. Instagram) during classes. When asking students to turn over a device or to put it down, a number would say, “Just a second,” and continue to do what they were doing on the iPad. Some students had to lose their iPads completely; several broke two iPads (after they broke two, we cut them off). Even our random checks had very few actual consequences for the students–we did far more punishing of the iPads rather than dealing with the misbehavior of students.

One of the things I ask students to do in choir is to answer a daily journal question, and several of my questions centered on the iPads. Students generally indicated that they would prefer more restrictions and to keep students on task in all their classes. We are hoping we have permission from our upper adminstration to do this next year.

Problem #4: Broken/lost charging cables. Just an epidemic…hundreds of broken cords. The cables wear out with normal use ($20 each), but middle school student placed undue pressure on the connectors (particularly the lightning plug side of the cord), usually by winding the cord around the brick, or using the device while plugged into the wall. This is potentially a $20 per device per year expense.

We did have a number of broken devices this year, some accidental, others not. I believe nearly all were covered via the optional warranty that was available for $29 for the past year.

Problem #5: Griffin screen covers. We used the Griffin Survivor cases with our students, and although this is an $80 case in the store, our district purchased them (en masse) for $30 a piece, also receiving a $10 discount per insurance policy for using those cases. The front (clear) cover just gets gross, if not ruined. This is a potential $10 cost per device per year expense.

Problem #6: Distribution issues. Each student, upon device activation, had to use or create an iTunes account. We changed procedures while rolling out the iPads. Orginially, we asked students to use their own iTunes account; we quickly changed that to asking students to create an iTunes account with their Google Apps for Education e-mail address. With Apple's DEP program and streamlined start-up process, this will be easier next year than it was this year–even if new students have to create their own new iTunes account.

Problem #7: Undercharged iPads. Too many students came to school with an iPad with less than 100% charge, or would use their iPads in such a way during the day (gaming) that they would not have enough battery left on the device for the last two hours of the day. Again, we did not follow any particular consequence for this behavior.

Problem #8: One device leads to others. Towards the middle of the year, we saw an increase of students using other devices (iPhones, Androids, etc.) in classes, and we were not a BYOD program. The mindset of students was, “if I can use an iPad, I can use this.” That wasn't true–but they tried.

Problem #9: Training new students during the year. We had a “tech week” during the first week of school; but for students who moved to the school during the year (close to 50 students), we did not have a plan to train those students into the iPad or the apps they would use as we did for all students at the beginnng of the year.

Problem #10: Workflow. Many teachers tried to “go paperless” by utilizing Google Docs and Google Drive, with a combination of strategies. There was no good way to open work, correct it (drawing by hand), and getting it back to the student for feedback. Some LMS or CMS (Learning or Classroom Management System) have some of these features, but no one has all of them. We are hoping Google Classroom has some soluitions in the Fall.

Problem #11: e-mail. Student GAFE e-mail could send documents, but not receive docucments from any sender BUT Apple. This means that we could not sign up for any service that required e-mail verification, and as teachers, we would not e-mail students from our work e-mail accounts (kind of an important thing as permanent records are kept about our teacher e-mail accounts.

In conclusion, a lot of things went wrong in our first year of 1:1. Many of those problems were caused by things out of our hands, such as timing on the part of Apple or MDMs, or certain aspects of a district philosophy (top-down) that impacted how we could distrubite and use those devices. Other issues were caused by our lack of clear consequences and follow-through. And some could be attributed to adolescent behavior. These are issues common to MANY (if not all) platforms, and to many 1:1 programs.

We also lost a very small number of teachers to other buildings that do not have 1:1 iPads; they would rather not teach in a 1:1 school. Overall, however, most teachers would admit that even with the problems, we cannot imagine teaching in a school without the iPads.