I am frequently asked what apps schools should initially install before deploying iPads in a 1:1 environment. After seven weeks of observing and learning, I think I can safely say schools should start with a small number if content-agnostic apps and build as the need arises.
Two years ago, we implemented a 2:1 iPad textbook replacement in social studies. We rolled out iPads with more than 50 apps from a digital Constitution to various atlases and content-heavy apps. The vast majority of the apps went unused.
One possibility is that really digging in and learning 50 apps is a full-time job that most teachers didn’t have the time or inclination to undertake. Teachers quickly settled in on a core group of apps like Evernote, Dropbox, and the Google Apps suite for day-to-day classwork.
Based on what we learned in this initial implementation, when we had the opportuny to go 1:1, our Instructional Technologist and I, along with our district curriculum director decided that a narrow but powerful set of apps was the way to go. Others would be added as needed.
Every iPad was delivered to students with:
With this suite of apps, in addition to Edmodo, our kids had everything they needed to get started.
By limiting the starter set of apps as we did, we ended up with apps that are content agnostic and can be used in any class. For us, this meant students didn’t have to learn different routines in different classes.
As we continue in year one, we are also able to be strategic about how we spend our limited amount of professional development time. Teachers for whom this is new and scary have four apps on which to focus, each with a very specific purpose.
Finally, using these apps teach students skills that are widely applicable. Writing, presenting, and note-taking are skills they use in all their classes and which they’ll take with them, hopefully, long after they leave our school.
If you are in the planning stages of a 1:1 deployment at your school, the best advice I can give is to begin with a simple set of apps and support your staff and students in learning them well. Then, when it’s time to begin adding content-specific apps, you’ll have a strong foundation of key skills on which to build.