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Preparing for a Deluge of iPads

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From where I'm sitting, with one foot in research and one foot in practice, evidence continues to mount that schools and districts are making major iPad purchases at an astounding rate. In this post, I first want to share some evidence about the incredibly rapid adoption of iPads, and then share some things that I'm involved with to help educators make the most of this new technology.

From the research side, three of my colleagues (Todd Grindal, Hadas Eidelman, and Tom Hehir) just published a very cool study looking at the use of SPED stimulus funds. Technology accounted for about 25% of SPED stimulus expenditures, representing somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion federal dollars for education technology. Out of that pot, almost as much investment went into tablets as into desktops. Here's Todd on some of the findings:

What is interesting to me is what they bought and how they used it. We asked special education directors to account for their tech purchases using ten categories and then to tell us who was the primary user for the three most common tools: desktops, laptops and tablets (see figures 14-17, pages 50-52). By and large, respondents reported that students were the primary users of these materials, but it is interesting to see which items were mainly used by the adults. Approximately 1/3 reported that teachers were the primary users of laptops. School administrators were not listed by any respondents as the primary users of laptops or desktops, but about 1 in 7 reported that administrators were the primarily users of iPads. Although laptops represent the most frequently purchased technology, it was notable that schools purchased tablets at about the same rate as desktops. This is especially striking given that the first iPad was not released until April 2010, about 1/3 of the way into the two-year period districts had to spend this money. This seems like a pretty rapid adoption of this tool.

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This squares with recent reports from Apple's Q2 shareholder call, where it was reported that "Apple sold more than two iPads to every one Mac to education institutions in the March quarter. Education sales were helped especially by the $399 iPad 2."

It also squares with my experience as the co-founder of EdTechTeacher, a professional learning firm. We've been deluged in the last 18 months with requests from schools for iPad professional development experiences. Every week, new schools get in touch with us explaining that they are starting an iPad pilot and they need some help. We are very concerned that the supply of high quality professional development available to teachers is outstripping what we see as rapidly growing demand. There is a real risk here that schools will buy new tablet technology faster than the education community can really figure out how to make the most of it.

We've launched a few different strategies to try to support teachers who are starting to use tablets in the classroom. My colleagues Beth Holland and Greg Kulowiec are doing some great action research with teachers around using iPads in the classroom. They are documenting their research on a Diigo page, and their respective blogs (linked on their names) are full of articles about their design experiments. We ran a series of free Webinars this past spring (here, here , here, and here). We're running several summer workshops for teachers (all sold out), and we've designed a year long program for working with cohorts of iPad teachers from schools and districts.

Most importantly, we're putting together a national conference of iPad-using educators called Leading Change in Changing Times: EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA, which will be at Harvard this coming November. innovation guru Tony Wagner and MIT professor Eric Klopfer are among those who will be helping us set the frame for our discussions, but we've also just opened a call for presentations to invite iPad-using educators to come and share their ideas, their practices, their projects, their successes, and their obstacles. We hope to create a space where innovative tablet-using teachers can come together, take a deep dive into pedagogy, and ensure that all of this investment in tablets leads to powerful learning opportunities for students.

If you are doing awesome work with iPads in your school or classroom, please consider submitting a proposal and sharing your work in November!

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

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