August 9, 2014
What a week! As the title suggests, this is our second year of every student having an iPad. This year we added freshmen to our building and to our one-to-one initiative. My mantra for the past year has been that if technology teaches us nothing else, it teaches us patience and perseverance. This has never been more true than the last three weeks!
Planning for deploying 2700 iPads began back in January. At that time, we had no idea what shape the school would be since the freshman center and new offices would be added to our building. After about twelve iterations of the plan, we thought we were set to go. I stop in school in late July ready to iron out the details but ended up with sheer panic. The school did not look ready to have 2700 students and their parents traipsing through it in two weeks! Administration assured me it would be ready and I had no reason to doubt them so I tried to calm down (if you know me, that’s no easy feat).
The week before, the school looking much better. One could actually walk through the cafeteria and the LGI was cleared of all the band equipment it had been storing for the summer. I have always known that we have an amazing custodial and maintenance staff but this was above and beyond. They worked weekends and twelve hour days to make sure the building was ready for students. Our district technology staff also put in numerous hours to make sure the iPads were ready for the students. I am still thinking of how to properly thank them for all the hard work but I don’t think there is any way to truly express my gratitude. The day before deployment, I was confident we would be able to host students and their parents.
Distributing schedules, ID, books, and iPads to 2700 students in two days takes a little bit of science, art, and a lot of human power! It was a beautiful two days that would not have been possible without our volunteer teachers, staff, and students. Everyone did an amazing job of helping the students prepare for another great year of school.
If I thought I was in a panic when I came to school two weeks before deployment, that was nothing compared to our learning management system not being ready for the teachers. It was supposed to be ready July 17th but there were still errors every time we did a test. Finally, the Sunday before school starts on Monday, it was ready to go! Through email, instant message, and Google Hangout, I was able to support the teachers so they would be ready to go on Monday.
Then our App Portal (the way students get apps paid for by the school) went down. Students would not have Notability, Keynote, Pages, or iMovie to start the year. We did not have this many technical difficulties in our first year!!! All of these problems were out of the control of our district. Services we pay for are trying to upgrade for ease of use. As Travis Penn said to me, “I hope all this pain is worth it.” Four days into school it seems to finally be working but with 6000 students (both middle schools are one-to-one as well) hitting the same server, it was a little slow to say the least. I’m hoping that by Monday, the second week of school, we will be past the major technical difficulties.
Even with all the difficulties, as I showed a visitor around our school on Thursday, one would never know. The teachers were teaching, the students were engaged and using the iPad when appropriate. It was business as usual in our classrooms. The new piano lab even connects to the iPad for an amazing new experience for the students taking Piano.
Patience and perseverance continue to be my mantra. I am so grateful for all the wonderful people I have the privilege of working with. Through all the difficulties, everyone has been patient and appreciative of the hard work we have all put in the last few weeks. I know that it will be a year for the record books because our teachers and students will continue to strive for greatness.