Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

Primary Preoccupation - A grade one teacher inviting the world into  her classroom

Managing: The Nuts & Bolts of an iPad Classroom

Awhile ago, I wrote about the beginning of the one-to-one iPad journey in my classroom.  I have always appreciated when others have shared not only their pedagogy,  but the organization of their tools or classroom as well.  I’ve also had more people ask me questions about my set-up than how I use iPads to actually teach in my classroom, so here’s my “share”.

Purchasing the iPads was the easy part. Managing them is another matter.  Dean Shareski says that “iPads are meant to be owned, not managed.”  I think he is correct, but managing them still needs to be done for my grade one students.  Managing them is the nuts and bolts that makes our iPad classroom run. Truthfully, the management has turned out to be more work than I imagined. Setting up email on each device (gmail worked the best), syncing apps, updates to firmware, making (and re-making) folders and keeping the devices charged has kept me busy. My IT department has been supportive, but they are clear that this is my job and not theirs.  I am not complaining–I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything–but it has meant a great deal of learning and planning.

Organizing

Each iPad was named with a number.  This number is also written on its case.  Initially, I  had put numbered stickers onto the iPads, but they began to fall off the first day, so I used a gel pen to write the number right on the iPad case. I have a record of which child goes with which iPad, but I have rarely had to use it. Each student knows their own number as well as many of the numbers of their friends, so if an iPad is not put away correctly, it only takes a moment to find out who it belongs to.  This is working, but next year, I think I will put student’s names on stickers on the front of the shelves as well to eliminate my “who didn’t put away their iPad?” questions.

Before we purchased the iPads, the students had been storing their headphones at the other end of the classroom.  The students use the iPads and/or headphones over and over during the day so it has proved to be time consuming to be fetching and returning both to two separate places.  We now keep their headphones or earbuds on top of their iPad, making getting and putting them away a much quicker process.

Ipad Storage

The iPad shelf in my classroom has become as hot an item for discussion (at least for the adults who visit us) as the iPads themselves.  Designed and built by my ever-supportive husband, it has been working exactly as I hoped it would. I had heard from more than one person that iPads are more often broken putting them in and out of a charging station than they are broken when in use.  I wanted the students to be as independent as possible in getting, putting away and charging their iPads themselves. (Avoiding the high cost of a cart–not available through my winnings–was also a big factor.)I frequently mused about this and my search for some type of shelving on my daily walk with my husband.    Since he had already designed and built a book trolley, a bench and a poster storage unit for my classroom, he began to see the writing on the wall and started making plans.  The day we drove to Best Buy to pick up the iPads, we stopped to pick up the wood for the shelves as well.

To power the iPads, I used four Belkin charging stations, which are fastened right onto the back of the shelves. Their size ‘just’ allows for the chargers.

Students Making the Rules

Up to this point, we had had a couple of the original iPads in our classroom, so the students were fairly familiar with their care, but having so many more in use at a time is a different story, so I asked the students to come up with any rules they thought might be necessary to keep our new devices safe.  They came up with two:

  • Use two hands to carry the iPads.
  • Don’t leave the iPad on the floor. If you have to go to the bathroom or somewhere else, leave the iPad on a table or a counter.

I can’t recall a time I have had to remind any of the students about these two rules.  I often hear the students policing the other students themselves.  No one wants anything to happen to these engaging devices.

Updates and Adding Apps


Because we chose to not get a charging cart, I instead purchased two 7 Port USB Hubs. Since we have 30 iPads, I sync new apps or do updates in three separate lots of ten iPads. It does take more time, but has saved a lot of money.

Currently, I have to remove ten charging cords from the shelf to do this, but my plan is to purchase ten extra cords that can be left attached to the USB ports.  This way, they will be able to be used for easily syncing other iPads in the school with other computers as well.

So for what it is worth, this is how I am “managing” our iPads. It’s like the nitty-gritty of all teaching. You have to deal with report cards, policies that you don’t agree with and lots of frustrations so that you get to do the incredible job of  teaching kids.  In the same way, you have to take care of the syncing, the storage of the iPads and the frustrations to get to use tools that have such tremendous potential. In both instances, it’s well worth the effort.

As always, I know that there are people doing this better than I am. I’d love to have your input in the comments.

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