Largest Deployment of iPads in Schools

Using an iPad in school

Students are quick to figure out the steps to making a movie with their iPads. Pacific Elementary School, Manhattan Beach. Photo by Brad Graverson 2-15-12

The iPad is making significant inroads in schools. Just over a month ago when Apple announced iBooks Author software and the iBooks textbook distribution method, Apple’s Phil Schiller said that 1.5 million iPads were in use in education settings, leveraging more than 20,000 education applications. While that’s a small number compared to the total number of students in the US, there are a number of recent announcements that will add to those numbers.

The state of Texas likes to do things big. In an announcement today, McAllen Independent School District in the southern part of the state began distributing 6,800 devices this week — mostly the iPad tablet computers, but also hundreds of iPod Touch devices for its youngest students.

The school district is planning to provide every one of its more than 25,000 students in grades K-12 an iPad or iPod Touch over the next year. The district believes it’s the largest to try for complete coverage and while Apple would not confirm that, other districts the company noted as having made large investments have not made ones as big as McAllen’s.

The district hopes to transform teaching and learning, change the classroom culture (making it more interactive and creative) and close the digital divide. The district has a significant number of lower income students.

Zeeland Public Schools in Michigan gave 1,800 iPads to all of its high school students last fall and hopes to eventually cover every student in grades 3-12. Chicago Public Schools bought about 10,000 iPads and some individual schools in the district have bought more using discretionary funds, but it’s far from districtwide.

Texas District Embarks on Widespread iPad Program

A number of schools in the south bay Los Angeles area are experimenting with iPads.

“There is not a ton of debate about whether this is a direction the schools are heading,” said Annette Alpern, assistant superintendent of instructional services at the Redondo Beach Unified School District. “The question is more: How quickly will the future arrive?”

Leading the charge is Manhattan Beach Unified, which purchased 560 devices for a pilot project this fall. That’s one machine for every dozen kids in the K-12 school district – although many more students get a little face time with the iPads, as the devices are rotated from class to class, usually on a cart with wheels.

While 97 percent of the participating teachers in Manhattan Beach reported in November that the iPad makes class more engaging, that proportion had dropped to 86 percent by the end of January. The proportion of students who said so also dropped, though less steeply, from 81 to 77 percent.

This kind of drop in interest and excitement makes sense to me. Anyone who has experienced a new gadget will experience a similar type of drop in enthusiasm. That puts a tremendous onus on teachers to change the way they think about teaching and learning. I hope this kind of feedback spurs innovation and creativity in teachers to try new things.

South Bay schools on an iPad mission

A new research study shows that Kindergartner students using iPads scored better on literacy tests than students that didn’t use the device.

“The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there,” said Muir. “We are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.”

The study, conducted in Auburn, Maine, randomly assigned half of the districts 16 kindergarten classes to use iPads for nine weeks. In all, 129 students used an iPad, while 137 students were taught without an iPad. Each of the 266 students were tested before and after the iPads were introduced into the classroom.

“Too many innovative programs don’t prioritize their own research, and even if they collect observations and stories later, they don’t make the effort to do a randomized control trial, like we did,” said Muir. “We wanted to make sure we could objectively examine the contribution of the iPads.”

According to the literacy test results, classes using the iPads outperformed the non-iPad students in every literacy measure they were test on.

 “We are seeing high levels of student motivation, engagement and learning in the iPad classrooms,” said Sue Dorris, principal at East Auburn Community School. “The apps, which teach and reinforce fundamental literacy concepts and skills, are engaging, interactive and provide children with immediate feedback. What’s more, teachers can customize apps to match the instructional needs of each child, so students are able to learn successfully at their own level and pace.”

iPad improves Kindergartners literacy scores

Fourth graders in teacher Kristie Mahin's class at El Camino Creek Elementary School use their school issued iPads. — Charlie Neuman

As mentioned earlier, Apple announced their iBooks Author software just over a month ago. There is evidence that schools are considering going digital for their textbooks.

School Districts in Southern California are purchasing iPads for their classrooms. The biggest roll out by far will be done by the San Diego Unified School District, which announced late Monday it will be purchasing close to 20,000 iPads for its fifth- and eighth- grade classes and select high school subjects this spring.

The shift to digital text books will however take time. Many school districts will slowly phase in digital textbooks while some will go all in. The US Department of Education would like to see the shift made within five years for all students.

Encinitas Union Superintendent Tim Baird said he’d like to see publishers break digital books into individual units so teacher can purchase a unit on photosynthesis, for example, but not have to buy the entire book.

“I think digital textbooks are an intermediate stopgap between where we are now with paper textbooks (and the future) but I think in this day and age, you don’t need something that starts on page one and goes to page 327. You don’t need a textbook model,” Baird said. “Ultimately, my hope is that the child will never have to take home a textbook again or it will be the iPad. … That ultimately we are textbookless and paperless.”

One of the hurdles districts will have to overcome is how to pay for these digital books. The State Department of Education in California is broke. So individual districts will have to use local funds to purchase what they want. That may slow down the adoption rate for some districts – while other, wealthier districts, may find the cash they need more readily.

Schools get in touch with digital books

My opinion is that this shift will happen. What’s your opinion about the shift to digital textbooks and the proliferation of the iPad in schools?


13 thoughts on “Largest Deployment of iPads in Schools

  1. The size of some of these iPad orders is incredible! You mention that one “hurdle” districts must overcome is finding the funding. Another huge hurdle is figuring out where to store all of them, secure them from theft, sync them, and charge them. Finding the right solutions to these issues took our district a long time, but we went with several options from We particularly like the small, portable sync-charge devices that we share between classrooms, helping us overcome both the financial hurdle and the syncing & charging hurdle with just one product.

    • Our schools have found that our IPADS get demanding use and delighted responce from our students. We cant keep up with the headphone demand that allows a one on one work at your own speed solution. Deploying vast amounts of technology demands vast storage and security. Discoverycart has built our carts and cabinets and we have redesigned our classrooms to be recharging stations rather than book shelves. Space planners and classroom designers need to reevaluate everything based on a world that now uses a light source to read from rather than a reflected light sheet of paper.

  2. This is going to be a very interesting case study.
    I think the biggest hurdle will probably be staff training. If the iPads are used to their best it will challenge the conventional role of the teacher. iPads are in themselves better sources of information than the teacher, this means that the teachers role may evolve into more of a facilitating role. This role is no lesser than the ‘teaching for the front’ method, it could be equally challenging to channel the children into understanding the skills necessary for more research based learning. But are teachers prepared to take that step? Or will the iPads sit and gather dust or be under-used because teachers don’t want to change their style of teaching? We’ll have to wait and see…

    • I’m with you. I really think that’s the crux of the opportunity. The iPad is creating the ‘opportunity’ for the whole construct of ‘teaching and learning’ to change. The pressure is now on the teachers – and the system that supports them – to adopt and really ‘recreate’ what it is they do and how they do it. I’m excited about this and look forward to seeing the types of creativity this could spurn.

  3. There are several trends that I believe will contribute to the proliferation of Ipads

    1) Ipad 3 which has resulted in lower prices of Ipad2. This is a sign of future trends where the price of hardware should keep going down
    2) Apple’s investment in creating the eco-system to make this an “educational” product
    3) Ability to make great education available anytime, anywhere and almost self-guided.
    4) Involving multiple sensory inputs to learning (sight, touch, listening) versus the traditional method of learning
    5) Gamification – making learning fun and a by-product. This is such a powerful concept

  4. iPad is great for Education, but one thing that strikes me as an issue is the durability of the device. I wonder what kind of cases the schools are providing for the iPads. With students using them, iPads will be getting thrown in back-packs, used with messy hands, exposed to dirt, dust and spills. Schools and students looking to provide a protective case/stand at an affordable price should check this out as an option.

  5. Pingback: iPad In Schools Increases Test Scores | Podium Pro is Coming Soon to The App Store!

    kids are losing eye to eye contact. Can no longer communicate. Reductive thoughts.
    Moronic vocabularies. Lost generation. Like smoking. SHEEPLE all do it. We are giving kids 24/7 gaming devices and TVs thats what Iphones are.

  7. Pingback: Apple, iPad, and the brainwashing of education | Dave Schwartz

  8. Ipads just make the difference! they are worth it and can turn your students highly receptive in a few seconds. Let’s face it, kids love technology in order to keep them focused we must be wise and integrate those tools in the process of learning. I’ve been doing research on which apps to use in classrooms with ipads and I found this one called Nearpod. fyi:
    It has worked really well for me, I hope some of you can explore it and use it too to make ipads in class a success.

  9. Pingback: iPads in Schools » iClevedon

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    iSmart Protection Plan

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