Easier as it would be to pretend otherwise, the truth is that integrating mobile technology into a school is not a ‘one size fits all’ sort of thing. That said, there are some basic principles which I think probably stand true for all schools going on this journey.
This graphic illustrates the model which I think any school would benefit from understanding if not following.
To explain it briefly I believe that there needs to be a vision for WHY you are embarking upon this project (I will discuss this briefly later).
This WHY will be different for each school and that is how it should be. However, if that vision is not coming from the Head/Principal of your school/institution, then it will be infinitely more difficult to achieve your desired end result. There are a lot of Principals who don’t ‘get’ technology (Prensky might argue that this is because they’re Digital Immigrants) but that doesn’t mean that they don’t see its potential. Each school will have a different reason for engaging or not with technology, but essentially it is the responsibility of you as the person who wishes to push this project forward, to find out what that is.
The Principal and the Lead Teacher need to share this vision.
I have deliberately labeled a ‘Lead Teacher’ and not ‘Head of ICT’ and to me it is absolutely essential that the Network Manager and the Lead Teacher are different people as the roles are ridiculously different.
If the person leading this integration at teacher-level isn’t actually a teacher, the project is destined to be less of a success. Having a teacher who understands the benefits of technology in the classroom adds a massive amount of credibility to the project, but also reassures those around them that it can and does work because they are seeing it being done.
The Network Manager should share the vision of the Principal and the Lead teacher, but if they don’t, it isn’t a deal-breaker. What would be, is if the Network Manager doesn’t facilitate the vision coming true. This is the person who can make or break your plans and so it is important that they agree with how it is implemented and that you trust them to give you good advice. If you have this, and you have the infrastructure to support your vision, then you will be well on the way to implementing a successful mobile learning strategy.
The next step is to train up a core set of teachers who will fly the flag for you. I offered each of these members of staff in excess of 7 hours training (and an iPad!). Very little of this training centred on what I would call ‘showpiece apps’. The focus is getting the right workflow, improving productivity and teaching lessons that engage and inspire in ways that can be maintained and developed over time.
This training seems to be the component that many schools forget. The iPad may be an intuitive device, but not if you haven’t grown up with touch devices, smart phones and social media. And certainly there is a massive transition from the iPad as a personal leisure device to the iPad as transformational learning tool.
It takes time to make this change and this change should happen before the students have devices in their hands. To empower your teachers, they need to feel that they have had time to adjust and learn how to make the device work in the way they want it to.
There is a huge amount that can be achieved with 1 iPad in the hands of the teacher, and an Apple TV.
Whilst this is happening, you can still engage your students. You need a lead group from the student body just as much as you do from the staff. It may be that these are the students who will review apps, or run a ‘Genius Bar’ at lunchtimes, they may use iPads to control homemade robots, or they may just have really strong opinions about the amount of technology that should be used during the school week. Whoever they are and whatever their perspective, they can help make this journey more successful and that is why they are your Digital Leaders.
Once these groups are in place winning over the rest of the staff and the parents should be fairly straight forward, because you’re not trying to fool anyone; you will have done your research, made your mistakes, improved your infrastructure all based on recommendations and experiences in live, but controlled environments and as a result the next step – a wider rollout – will be easier.