Mobile Computing | Spotlight

Administrators, Where Are Your iPads?

Author, consultant, and former teacher and administrator Susan Brooks-Young will talk about the role school and district administrators have in the implementation of an iPad program in their classrooms during FETC 2012, the annual education technology conference, held this year at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, Jan. 23-26.

Turn around and you'll run into a professional development offering that claims to help you integrate the Apple iPad into classroom instruction. But that can only go so far, said Susan Brooks-Young, who works with educators on the effective use of technology for both adults and kids. What's often missing, she said, is the role that the school or district administrator plays in an iPad deployment.

Teachers may be in charge of their classroom domains, she noted, but they don't always have a lot of impact on what happens in the classroom next door, let alone school-wide.

"It's really the [school] administrator's job to be aware of the effective use of various technologies or other instructional strategies," Brooks-Young said, "and ensure those kinds of uses are present on their campuses."

Brooks-Young--an author and consultant with more than 23 years experience as a teacher and administrator--will cover this important issue during one of the sessions she will lead during FETC 2012. "I Have an iPad--Now What?  Tips and Apps for School Administrators" is one of four sessions she will present at the annual education technology conference, held this year at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, Jan. 23-26.

Brooks-Young said she sees a lot of iPad implementations taking place in districts and schools before administrators "are really on board" or before they recognize the leadership roles they need to take in regard to how the devices get used.

In her view, that lack of broad oversight creates a couple of problems. First, the iPad initiative can end up being hijacked by overly ambitious iPad proponents. "There are some people who argue very passionately, if it's not 1:1, don't bother," said Brooks-Young. "I don't agree with that. I see iPads or other touch devices being one of many tools that need to be made available to kids."

The second problem is that teachers equipped with devices but no guidance from the front office may be left rudderless and forced to sort out appropriate usage on their own. When that happens, Brooks-Young said, "First use tends to become entrenched use. An iPad may simply become a way for kids to get to the Internet to do research faster or to do drill and practice. You can do that with other devices that are less expensive."

What's unique about the iPad, explained Brooks-Young, is its touch technology ("intriguing to kids"), its built-in camera and microphone ("allowing them to create materials"), and its use of apps.

"I can do a bajillion things on my iPad without ever actually opening the browser," she said. "I can be online and offline using various apps."

Why is that important in the classroom? "With thoughtful selection of apps and with thoughtful activities surrounding what the kids do with the apps once they're there, that can make a huge difference in whether or not something is being used effectively."

Apps for Admins
Susan Brooks-Young said she's currently "playing around" with two iPad apps she considers useful for school administrators.

inClass: This free app from OneZeroWare, designed for kids to keep track of their courses, also has some "real possibilities for adults as well," she said--especially its Notes feature. Administrators can use it to keep notes in a text format, by recording their voice, or using the iPad camera. "I can see that administrators could find many, many uses for something like that."

ShowMe: This app from Easel allows the user to turn the iPad into an interactive whiteboard. Have to explain something over and over again through the year? Brooks-Young suggested doing a screen capture, recording it, and making it available on the school Web site. "It's an alternative way for getting your message out there," she said.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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