Six years with 1:1 iPads: A reflection

One of the reasons I left my high school position to teach at the middle school position was to move to a school that was going 1:1 with iPads. Incidentally, seven years later, my former high school will be 1:1 with Chromebooks next year. I remain a massive enthusiast for iPads, but my support for iPads as 1:1 student devices has shifted, and I wanted to write about that.

I do think there are massive benefits to students have technology in schools, and I still believe that the iPad is a fantastic device for content creation in educational settings. The problems I witnessed were either due to the teacher’s integration of iPads in the classroom, or to student misuse of iPads in the classroom.

When we rolled out iPads in the Fall of 2013, it was the wild west of 1:1 programs. At the time, district-level administration wanted as little restriction of student devices as possible, meaning a wide open App Store for every student, and no teacher controls whatsoever, unless you physically took an iPad from a student and set restrictions on the iPad.

When iPads were rolled out at our school, there was an expectation to use the devices–as much as possible–and to replace paper with the devices. This past year, the new principal at the school began to question why teachers were using iPads when other approaches might be better (e.g. paper and pencil). Focus groups were held with every department, and they discovered is that the mentality that rolled out in the school six years ago was still the status quo, and that new teachers to the building were indoctrinated to the practice as well–even though the new principal never demanded such an approach. My former school has to address that issue, but it is amazing how quickly a school’s practice can become part of its long-term philosophy. Educational leaders would be wise to learn from this example.

Furthermore, many teachers stopped searching for better or new solutions with the iPad after the second year with the device. When the iPads were new to the school, teachers were scrambling to find apps that could be used in their curriculum. Most teachers stopped looking for new apps by year three of the program. Additionally, we moved to Schoology as a Learning Management System over the past three years. Once Schoology was adopted (SeeSaw is used district-wide in our elementary schools) teachers spent their time with Schoology, and the majority of student educational interaction with iPads was connected to Schoology in some way or another.

In choir (my subject), students used iPads in five ways–which, if used properly, would still require iPads for 75% or more of the class period:

  • As sheet music through Showbie
  • To complete in class audio or video assessments (sight reading, singing, or ukulele) in Schoology
  • To complete daily reflections in class (also used as an exit ticket) in Schoology
  • To make up missed assignments in Schoology
  • A very small amount of composition with

This doesn’t include the ways I used the iPad, it just includes student use.

Apple continues to try to help teachers with classroom management of iPads, and they keep investing in services like Apple Classroom, but the experience is a lot like trying to herd cats.

In the early days, we fought apps like Five Nights at Freddy’s and students installing profiles on their devices which allowed them to do whatever they wanted on the device. Things got better as Apple added more features for schools. We were able to lock the App Store, turn off Bluetooth management, lock access to Profiles, migrated to JAMF management, and took advantage of Apple Classroom when it was released.

But the problem remained–and remains–that students did not see the devices as a privilege and as an education tool–they saw them as “their iPads.” Furthermore, all a student has to do to avoid supervision is to put their iPad into Airplane Mode. In Apple Classroom, a student in Airplane Mode is no longer supervised, although they CAN be on the Internet–and keeping tabs on thirty to fifty iPads in a class (icons that do not all fit on one screen) while trying to teach is a losing situation. While I did my best, I couldn’t keep tabs on every student–and I know that some teachers never even used Apple Classroom. Apple Classroom is now available on Macs as well, but you need OS X Mojave to do this, and we are not upgrading district-wide to Mojave until the fall.

We also ran into the challenge of what to do with a student who was off-task with an iPad. Some teachers approached the situation with a sense of seeking holy justice; others just ignored the problem all together. Administration didn’t quite know how to handle those situations, either, as there were legitimate larger issues for them to deal with. Contact home was usually ineffective, and removing an iPad from a student always required more work from the teacher who now had to make paper copies for students without iPads.

Left unchecked, students were happy to play online games like (which happily offers MANY additional URLs so that schools are unable to block access to their page) and And should you dare to ask a student to stop playing a game in class, the response was anywhere from rude to insubordinate. A few teachers weren’t even aware of the problem. There were also plenty of times where students would simply choose not to bring an iPad or would choose to not use their iPad in class. How do you deal with that situation without a standardized school management plan for iPad use?

And the issue wasn’t only misuse–it was shocking to see how often students would feel free to throw iPads up in the air (like a ball), throw them on the ground (in anger), or to other students like a frisbee. Yes, we had a lot of cracked screens. We asked students to buy insurance, and it was surprising how often they would say, “Well, if it breaks, I have insurance.” And to complicate matters, our latest iPad cases had a stand which “clacked,” and it was common for students to “clack away” on their iPads throughout an hour.

Perhaps these issues were only at our school, as it is trying to establish respect for learning, property, others, and self through PBIS. But my guess is that these issues occur at many other 1:1 iPad Schools.

No, I’m not on the Chromebook bandwagon, but I would teach at a Chromebook school. Our district decided to go with GoGuardian’s management system this fall for the district’s new Chromebook initiatives. GoGuardian seems to be an application that will ensure that students use the devices as intended. If teachers take the time to set up their class properly, students are only able to access specific sites during class. And Chromebooks don’t have the same issue with Airplane Mode as iPads (giving unmonitored access to the Internet while in the Airplane Mode).

In my opinion, two things could make iPads a much better solution for schools. The first is the necessity of a school based management plan which would outline what would happen if a student misuses their iPad (off-task use or physical misuse). Such a plan has to have consequences (not punishment) that places the onus on the student and the parent. Lose your iPad? Then getting copies of the materials that are online and bringing them to class are your responsibility. The challenge with such a plan is that many students who lost iPad privileges were already disengaged in their classes, and in many cases their parents were also not engaged with their students’ academic career–so how do you put the consequence on a such a student? One of the things I love about the Love & Logic behavior plans is that it calls for children to experience consequences for their actions. One of our biggest issues is that teachers usually felt those consequences.

The other thing that Apple needs to solve is the ability for a student to simply enter Airplane Mode to avoid management of their iPads. There should be a way for those iPads to still know where they are (geo-gating) and to force them into management by Apple Classroom even if they are in Airplane Mode. Until Apple solves this situation, and as long as School-Based Management Plans are not put into place, teachers are playing a game of whack-a-mole instead of being able to simply use those devices, when appropriate, as a way to improve the learning environment.

In closing, I’m not anti-iPad, but changes are necessary, and Apple has the ability to solve both issues. Apple could offer a suggested management policy for schools to adopt, and they can solve the Airplane Mode issue. I still think the iPad is great for education, even 1:1, if students can use them at times that make sense to enhance education or to create content. And I certainly support the use of the iPad by teachers, who are not going to be tempted to misuse their devices while teaching a class.


Presentations from the 2015 Ohio MEA/Central TI:ME Conference

This past weekend I had the pleasure to present three sessions at the 2015 Ohio Music Educators Association and Central TI:ME conference.  The conference has a unique focus on technology in music education, as the state conference turns several rooms over to the Ohio TI:ME organization, which then schedules technology sessions for those rooms.

My first presentation was on scanning music…the first time I have presented this as a session.  Ins and Outs of Scanning Presentation (PDF) Ins and Outs of Scanning (Handwritten PDF Notes)

My second session was on iPads in Secondary Music Education.  iPads and Secondary Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) iPads in Secondary Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

And my final session was on Chromebooks in Music Education.  Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

**In the Chromebook session, someone asked if the Adobe Creative Suite could be used to edit video on Chromebooks; I replied that some parts of the Adobe suite worked, and others didn’t.  From my research this morning, it appears that (as of 2/2015), only PhotoShop is working as a web app on Chromebooks via the Adobe Creative Suite.

Thank you again to the Ohio TI:ME committee for approving my sessions, and to everyone that attended those sessions this past weekend!

Presentations from the 2014 Iowa Music Education Professional Development Conference

This weekend (Friday), I had the privilege to present three sessions at the Iowa Music Education Professional Development Conference (I usually just call this the Iowa MEA).  If you are in a surrounding state, I really recommend this conference.  It is a smaller conference and most of the vendors are local–but clinicians come from across the country to present on a wide variety of topics.  Don’t let the size of IMEA fool you–it is packed with professional development.

My first session was a summary on the latest with the iPad in Music Education.  (PDF of the presentation: The Latest and Greatest with iPads in Music Education).  In summary: better hardware, better iOS, better [and continually improving] apps, and better accessories for music education.

My second session was an overview of some of the ways you can use devices OTHER than iPads in your classroom (PDF of the presentation: Technology for the Rest of Us).  This was a discussion of web apps for all, Android, Chromebook, and Windows “Tile” Apps.  There was one big surprise about Chromebooks that I will be blogging about soon.  I also recommend Chad Criswell’s post about High Tech options for low-cost budgets:

The final sessions was my core “60 Apps in 60 minutes,” which is more than 60 apps.  (PDF of the presentation: 60 Apps in 60 Minutes).  On the positive side of things, my overall list changes very little over time–but the best apps continue to improve with each passing generation.  As a secondary teacher, it is a joy to be able to recommend Amy Burns’ FREE interactive book, “Help! I am an Elementary Teacher with One or More iPads” to elementary teachers looking for even more elementary-focused apps, applications, and lesson plans.

I love presenting in Iowa–it is a relatively close convention (about a 3.5 hour drive from my house) in a wonderful town (Ames), and Des Moines is only a short drive away.  On Saturday, my wife and I drove down to Des Moines and visited the Iowa State Capitol (it is a beautiful building–if you have not visited it, do so) and then went to blow our own glass Christmas ornaments at Studio Fuzzishü in the West Des Moines area.  We wanted to spend some time in the East Village and perhaps at the Jordan Creek Mall, but parking was an issue in both those places.  We also had the chance to visit some friends of the family that had moved to Southern Minnesota on our way back to the metro area of the Twin Cities.

GarageBand in the Choral Classroom

I have been fortunate to teach in a 1:1 iPad environment this past school year. We used iPads in some way each and every day, whether the student was using an iPad, or I was using an iPad.

Our last concert was held on May 15th, giving me six final days with students after the concert, five with iPads. One of those days was reserved for post-concert activities, and the other four were available for something other than choral singing. I had decided earlier in the year that we would use these last days to experiment with GarageBand.

As of this past fall, GarageBand became a free download for any owner of an iOS device (including iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch). The free version is limited in some ways, coming with only four instruments: keyboard, smart guitar, drums, and audio recorder. The piano and smart guitar only come with a few instruments each. There is an In-App Purchase that allows you to have access all of GarageBand for iOS, but this costs $4.99, and as of now, there is no way for a school or business to make an institutional In-App Purchase. The full version comes with more instruments (smart bass, smart piano, smart strings, sampler, and guitar app) as well as more pianos and two more smart guitars. The free version of GarageBand also includes all 270 standard Apple Loops.

For these last four days, I chose to show clips from a GarageBand training video made by I chose specific scenes which related to the (new) free version of the iPad, each roughly 20 minutes long. After attendance and announcements, this left roughly fifteen minutes at the end of each class session for students to simply mess around on the app and to make music. I invited students to put headphones in their iPad and to follow along with the video; most did this, but some just chose to mess around in the app. For the most part, students were in GarageBand and not on other apps, as they often were throughout the year.

I chose the video purposely; I could teach all of the content, but at the end of the year, after the last concert, they have been accustomed to “shutting down” in the past. This kept them involved, but it also spared them the challenge of trying to listen to me teach the content when my voice had dulled in their ears by the end of the year.

The first video compilation included an introduction to GarageBand, a summary of what you need to know to use GarageBand, and a walk-through of the app and all its buttons.

The second video compilation included a focus on track view, piano, and drums.

The third video focused on smart guitar, song settings, and Apple Loops.

The final video focused on the Jam Session.

As I wrote about a few days ago (a summary of apps we used), I would have liked more time for the students to create music and to show their compositions to each other, but time did not allow this, and by the end of the year, the students were simply “done.” Nonetheless, I feel they had a good introduction to the app, and that they were (overall) interested in the app and learning how to use it. One student whose iPad was taken away from inappropriate use asked to use my school iPad so that he could work on GarageBand, which he did. Students whose iPads were punished and taken away (about 5) did not accomplish much over the four class periods…and some students took the app home and started working on much more complex music.

Apple Loops are certainly a way to get your students composing (or more appropriately, rearrranging audio segments) and a fun way to get them plugged into the app.

It would have been fun to eventually have them create a melody to a song, and to have them record themselves singing their own songs. Next year?

I hope that Apple finds a way to allow schools to make In-App Purchases so that all my students could have access to the full version of GarageBand.

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.