30-day iPad Challenge

The reality is that the only way change comes is when you lead by example.
~Anne Wojcicki

When I arrived in the district last year, I was immediately charged with making some positive changes.  One of these changes included identifying a new vendor for our lunch program.  Instead of simply dumping our current vendor, I elected to collect some data about the quality of the lunches served.  Hence, the 30-day challenge was born.  For 30 days in a row I ate the school lunch.  In the end, the data collected confirmed the choice to change vendors and provide our students and staff with a higher-quality meal program. This is a good example of making a significant investment of time and effort to better understand the lived experience of those impacted by our decisions.

As you may know, we are currently piloting iPads as 1:1 devices for our students.  Over the course of the past several months, I have been meeting with teachers and students to better understand how these tools can be fully utilized.  Through those conversations, it became clear that I needed to get a better understanding of how the iPad is used as a stand-alone computing device.  As such, I pledged to use an iPad Air 2 and the student-issued keyboard as my primary device for a full month.

At first, making the transition from a computer to a tablet was awkward and a bit frustrating.  However, as I became accustomed to the user interface and started tapping the screen as opposed to clicking the mouse, I found the workflow much easier.  While I don’t think I am ready to completely ditch my computer, I am now more convinced that the iPad is a tool for deep, productive work (I’m writing this blog on my iPad) and allows the user to maintain a high level of creativity in his/her work.

I am what you may call a “heavy user” of professional technology tools and found that the use of the iPad didn’t slow me down and actually made me more efficient in keeping up with my email correspondence.  I fully expected to have issues with file management on an iPad, but due to my use of Google Drive, this really wasn’t an issue for me.  If I got stuck with an app or not being able to perform a task on the iPad, I was able to google the answer within seconds.  This lead to being able to use the device in ways that I didn’t think were possible.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There were some limitations to being an “all iPad, all the time” user.  There are some applications I use on my computer that are not compatible on an iPad (yet).  For example, when sending out mass messages through our mail app, Constant Contact, I needed to use my computer.  However, these emails were composed on the iPad.  Likewise, the ability to edit video was more limited on the tablet.  However, being able to shoot high quality video and photos was greatly enhanced with the iPad.  Finally, the Google Drive application Google Forms is not available on an iPad, which limits my ability to collect data and launch surveys.  These were three issues for which I was not able to find a work around.  Despite these limitations, my 30-day iPad challenge was an eye-opening success.

As we continue to rollout new technologies, we need to spend the time to discover how this change impacts our end users (our students).  Engaging in these types of challenges gives us the “boots on the ground” data we need to make good decisions.

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