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The Great American iPad Buying Binge Has Commenced!

It’s time for Superintendents and Principals to Step UP!

iPads have been a hit in K-12 classrooms since Apple issued them in March, 2012. Indeed, it has been reported that Apple has 95 poercent of the tablet market in K-12!

But, folks, while it might have felt that iPads were everywhere, the reality is this: that was just a pilot phase. iPad buying has kicked into serious overdrive now. Districts all over the United States are buying iPads by the boatload. The current buying binge will make the first buying wave seem like a drop in the bucket!

How do we know?

Based on what we are hearing: We presented at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta and virtually every teacher, every principal, every IT person we talked with was either buying iPads, buying Chromebooks, going BYOD or all of the above. (Interestingly, the number of Android devices that were being purchased has gone from essentially nothing in 2013 to about 5-10 percent in 2014.)

Based on what we are seeing: In Michigan, several districts around Ann Arbor have passed tech bonds (north of $100 million) and they are going 1:1 with iPads for K-5, with Chromebooks and laptops in middle and high school.

Admittedly our "evidence" is weak scientifically speaking, but we are confident that our assessment will be borne out: the "Great American iPad Buying Binge" has commenced!

Why iPads?

The die has been cast. The Rubicon has been crossed. That train has left the station. The chasm has been crossed. Energy would be better spent in making the iPad Buying Binge a success than plumbing the rationale for why schools buy iPads instead of, say, Android tablets that are half the cost.

And here's the key to making YOUR iPad Buying Binge an educational success:  Make the 1:1 iPad rollout a school-supported enterprise, not an isolated-teacher activity.

Historically, when rolling out technology into their school, principals call for their teachers to integrate the new technology into their existing curriculum and then each teacher decides what he or she will do with the technology. Teachers who are already busy enough, teachers who have been given 1-2 periods of professional development on how to use the technology, teachers who are trying to integrate the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards into their curriculum, teachers who by training and disposition are not curriculum developers are being asked to develop curriculum that integrates yet another new generation of technology in their curriculum.

It doesn't take a crystal ball to predict what is going to happen: at best, the technology will be used as a supplement to the existing curriculum and at worst… well, let's not go there…

If an activity is a supplement, then by definition, it is an add-on, it is an extra. Extras are the first things to be eliminated if there is a time crunch. Extras are the first things to be eliminated when some new mandate comes down from central office. Extras are just that — extras.

And when technology — be it mainframe, desktop, laptop or, yes, even a shiny, beautiful, new $400+ iPad — is used as a supplement, the crystal ball predicts that no substantial impact on student achievement will be observed.

Superintendents and principals: Your school, your district does not have to go down that well trodden path of disappointment, disillusionment.

Superintendents and principals: it's time for you all to exert leadership; it's time for you all to organize your teachers, your area department heads (science, math, etc.), your IT staff, and form teams that work together to create new curriculum that leverages the affordances of the technology, that makes the technology an essential part of learning and not just a supplement.

We (CN &ES) have worked in many schools around the world and when the principal does exert leadership and does organize his or her "people" into teams — who are provided with resources (funds to engage the services of a curriculum developer, for example) — then the resulting curriculum can use the technology as an essential element and increases in student achievement can be observed.

It's time for Superintendents and Principals to step up — You can make the difference! Lead your teachers now!

About the Authors

Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at www.intergalacticmlc.org.

Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at www.intergalacticmlc.org.

Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Being Mobile blog at thejournal.com/beingmobile.

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