iPad Initiative Background

The Big Question: Why?

The changes in the world our is unprecedented and will continue to grow exponentially. These changes impact how students learn, what we need to teach them, and how we set up our instruction. As we transition to a mobile device world, information is more readily available. Education's focus is transitioning from memorization of facts to accessing information and understanding how to critically analyze it and use it in an authentic manner. To do this we need to create as 21st century learning environment as prescribe by the Glastonbury Public Schools 4th Generation Strategic Plan.

One component of this transformation to a 21st century learning environment is providing the most effective resources to our students, including the devices. The use of a personal computing device has great potential and has shown to

  • increase student motivation and interest
  • increase student engagement in learning
  • facilitate collaboration between students and teachers
  • increase student achievement
  • reduce discipline issues
  • provide a meaningful learning environment that meets the learning styles of today's students

Device Selection

Glastonbury Public Schools research team utilized a number of criteria in determining which device would be best for students and staff. It is common sense to expect that the most inexpensive device be chosen. While cost is an important factor to consider, what happens after the sale is also important. This is especially true when introducing a new initiative. Experience has shown that selection of the least expensive technology devices often leads to other associated costs that make the total cost of ownership significantly higher. The success of the 1:1 program will not solely be determined on the device that is purchased, but the extent to which we can provide technical and instructional support afterwards.

After considering many tablet devices, The Glastonbury Public Schools Technology and Information Services Departments recommended the Apple iPad as the tablet computing device for both students and staff. Certain factors make this device the best choice for management, implementation, support, professional development and educational success.

Educational Success

Apple Computers has a long history of supporting education. There are divisions within the company that are dedicated to the educational field. These divisions provide professional development for schools as well as education development staff. The supports are provided to the school district at low or no costs. Other vendors of tablets do not have the educational support infrastructure in place to support our initiative. The importance of this support cannot be minimized as the district does not have technology integration staff that can work with teachers on this instructional paradigm shift.


The iPad’s iOS system makes it a multifunction device that supports multimedia, facilitates collaboration, enhances communication, can be used as an e-reader or product development, and provides superior resources compared to its counterparts.

Market Share

Apple is the leader in global and educational markets in tablet device sales. A good majority of the schools implementing a 1:1 computing environment are utilizing iPads because of their versatility, reliability, customer support, and track record of success (all contributors to their market share).


Reviews of tablet resources show that apps for the iPad are far superior to its competitors. The quantity, quality and security of apps available for the iPad will play a significant role in the initiative. Apple has over 500,000 apps for the iPad and offers these at discounted rates to school systems. The Kindle Fire offers comparatively fewer apps. Gartner said that “fragmentation and a lack of tablet-specific apps are the main burden on Android device sales” (as cited in Chaffin, 2012). Security is another important consideration. All iPad apps must go through an intensive quality review by Apple before being released. This assures that no virus or other imbedded destructive code is delivered to the iPad that can have extreme detrimental effects on data and other network services. This is not the case for other tablets and their associated apps.


Continued technical support is a critical component of any initiative. It happens behind the scenes is unnoticed by the end users yet, can be time, labor and cost intensive. Apple Computer provides intensive support to educational entities. Below are some of the supports Apple provides to districts to assure initial and ongoing success:

1. Professional development services

2. Educational consulting support

3. Dedicated account representatives

4. Dedicated inside account representative

5. Dedicated system engineer

6. Volume purchasing programs

7. Apple certification programs for district support staff

8. Logistics, management and security systems

Financial Stability and Longevity

Apple Computer has longevity in both computing and the education fields. Its financial stability is strong assuring it will be around to continue developing and supporting its product lines.

Review of Literature

The introduction of the iPad into education is expanding at a rapid pace. Many of the research studies (both formal and informal) are from post-secondary institutions. Studies involving K-12 students focused on achievement in specifics topics or skills sets. Three common themes occur the research reviewed - increased engagement, collaboration, individualized and differentiated instruction. These themes are foundations for meaningful student achievement. Additionally, many of the themes are defined as 21st century skills by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011) as well as goals as determined by the Glastonbury Public Schools Fourth Generation Strategic Plan (Glastonbury Public Schools, 2012) .

Increased Student Achievement

There is growing research on the effects of iPads and student achievement. Research studies have been conducted at the college/university level or target specific apps in predetermined content areas in public education. Many research studies have found that use of iPads and apps have had positive impacts on student learning.

Increased engagement

One of the most predominate results from the iPad studies was the consistent reporting of increased student engagement. While these results were not quantified into student achievement, “researchers agree that engaged students learn more, retain more, and enjoy learning activities more than students who are not engaged” (as cited in Bowen, n.d.). When educators equip students with the tools to become self-motivated, real engagement in learning takes place (Wasserstein, 1995).

Increased collaboration

Students today are moving from independent to collaborative learning where they can share, compare, and utilize each other as learning resources. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills identified collaboration as one of its core skills and states that students should "assume shared responsibility for collaboration work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member" (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, n.d.). The iPad "enables collaborative learning" (Sheperd & Reeves, 2011) which will help students acquire these 21st century skills. A research study indicated that "seventy five percent of all students said that the iPad was very helpful or slightly helpful for sharing information with others in class" (iPad Research Study. n.d.).

Individualized and differentiated instruction

Many researchers have supported the argument that all individuals do not learn in the same way (as cited in Subban, 2006, p. 937). This fact has an impact on how we teach as the one size fits all model does not maximize learning potential. Being able to identify a student’s learning style and teach to accommodate those styles allows students to achieve better academic results and improve their attitudes toward learning (Green, 1999). Unfortunately, differentiating and providing individualized instruction has been difficult to consistently implement in public education. The iPad and associated resources are showing great promise in facilitating differentiated instruction. Electronic textbooks provide a multi-sensory approach to learning and support individualized learning (Wright, 2011). Additionally, research has shown that iPads facilitate the creation of innovative and effective learning environments (Morrone, 2012) which is essential to individualize learning and differentiated instruction.

GHS Pilot Programs

During the second semester (2011-12), two pilots were conducted at GHS. The objective of each pilot was to help determine which computing environment (1:1 iPad or Bring Your Own Device) would yield the best educational results.

The 1:1 pilots at GHS revealed differences between the two technology initiatives. They are dynamically different in a number of areas such as instructional design, student access issues and technical support. The pilots lasted only six months and should not be the sole determinant, but they did provide valuable insights into which initiative will likely have the most success.

Feedback from both teachers indicate a 1:1 iPad distribution will have the most beneficial impact on students. The iPad initiative was described as a “qualified success” while the BYOD had very limited success. This was due to a number of reasons such as:

Uniformity of devices

Instructional design and implementation was more effective when developed for a single device (iPad). There were major problems in the BYOD initiative because instructional design couldn’t be uniformly applied to a variety of devices. The BYOD instructor indicated he experienced significant frustration after spending numerous hours on a technology infused lesson only to discover during class it didn’t work on all student devices. Instructional design in the iPad environment revolved around a single device. While there was still substantial prep time in developing lessons for the iPad, all students were able to access the lesson due to the uniformity of their device.

Access to apps

All students in the iPad initiative had common experiences through the apps that were used. This allowed the teacher to better focus on instruction instead of trying to determine what apps were available that all students could use. This was not the case in the BYOD pilot. Because of the various devices, apps were often not available for students to access. Most often this limited the use of the devices to accessing the Internet only and thus didn’t significantly change lesson development.

Technical Support

The iPad initiative was better supported by both the TIS Department as well as the teacher because of the uniform device. Technical issues were frequent in the BYOD due to student owned devices not being compatible with district systems and not being updated or current. Additionally, the teacher and TIS Department were unfamiliar with many of the devices and thus not able to problem solve issues quickly.

Students indicated a higher positive impact of the iPads compared to BYOD (see Chart 4).

  • 83% of the iPad students had a positive impression of their experience compared to only 28% of the BYOD students.
  • 72% of the iPad students believed the devices had a positive impact on their participation, enthusiasm, interest, approach to note-taking and homework compared to 9% of the BYOD students.
  • 91% of the iPad students believed the device had a positive impact on learning the material compared to only 7% of the BYOD students.
  • 91% of the iPad students believed their device had a positive impact on collaboration compared to 22% of the BYOD students

Conversely, parent responses were more consistent between the two pilots

  • 67% of iPad parents noticed some or significant changes in the way their child studied compared to 75% of the BYOD parents
  • 78% of the iPad parents saw some or significant changes in their child’s enthusiasm compared to 75% of the BYOD parents
  • 78% of the iPad parents believed the device would have some or significant positive changes on their child’s performance compared to 100% of the BYOD parents.

Professional Development

A strong professional development program is the key to any initiative. Implementation of new technology requires that staff possess the technology in their hands while they are going through training and well in advance of student implementation. The proposed professional develop program is based on a scaffolded iPad deployment process. The philosophy is to train administrators (Phase 1) on instructional and productivity practices so they can use these skills and train their respective staff. Phase 2 focuses on a full year of teacher professional development in exploration, research and training on best practices of instructional design. They will work with the curriculum directors to design professional development opportunities throughout the 2012-13 school year. Phase 3 will be the distribution and training of students (summer of 2013).

Throughout the school year, administrators, teachers and students have been receiving professional development opportunities. These training sessions focus on both the basics of iPads and apps as well as instructional uses of them in the classroom. Additionally, staff and students are transitioning to GoogleApps to help create our 21st century learning environment. Below is a list of some of the opportunities being provided:


  • Workshops with Apple Trainers
  • Friday Tech Forums
  • Administrative meeting dedicated to instructional topics


  • October distribution and training sessions
  • Election Day professional development (full day training)
  • Dept. meetings and professional development days throughout the year
  • Professional Learning groups at GHS
  • Instructional specialist at GHS for support
  • "Appy Hour" Tuesdays after school


  • iPad training at SMS (8th grade) in the spring
  • GoogleApps training at GHS in the spring
  • Summer (2013) iPad institutes for incoming freshman and sophomores

Technical Support

As the initiative and training proceed during the 2012-13 school year, technical support will play a critical role in assuring all systems perform as expected. Staff and students must have easy access to technicians that will help solve problems as well as provide training and guidance on a regular basis.

Tomahawk Technical Center

The current location of tech support at GHS is not conducive for quick drop in sessions for assistance. The proposed Tomahawk Technical Center will be centrally located and easily accessible by the GHS community. Initially it will be staffed by TIS Department technicians. As the initiative proceeds, student technicians will also be on hand to lend their expertise in problem solving and training.


Parents will have the option of purchasing insurance for their child’s iPad. The school district will not take out extended warranty coverage on student iPads. Insurance will cover a wide variety of issues depending on the coverage selected.

Digital Content

Electronic textbooks and content management systems will be components of the iPad initiative and directly support Goal #3 of the Fourth Generation Strategic Plan. This transition from paper based text and resources to digital will occur over 3-5 years. The GHS staff appears ready to make this transition as many teachers are currently utilizing alternate resources from the text book. Free open source textbooks, content and course management systems will be utilized in the digital transition. Additionally, financial resources currently allocated to textbooks could become realized savings.


The wealth of information and resources available on the Internet is unprecedented. These resources and content are available through subscriptions or can be free under Creative Commons Licensing and Open Education Resources movements. Websites, companies and educators are now making access to resources easier while still providing reliable content that can be adopted or even modified to meet Glastonbury Public Schools standards.

In January of 2012, Apple Computer announced a partnership with three major textbook publishing companies (Pearson Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill) to develop electronic textbooks exclusively for the iPad. These textbooks provide students with high end content, multimedia, and interaction. At the same time they announced a new free app call iBooks Author. This app allows teachers to organize their own content into an effective electronic textbook for the iPad. It is the same tool that is used by the textbook companies, now available to the general public.

During the research process, staff at GHS was asked about resources they use the most in instruction. A good majority of staff utilize web-based resources or create their own (see Chart 6) indicating a readiness for the transition to digital content.


The new textbook creation tools, open source content and GHS readiness provides a great environment for a transition away from textbooks (where appropriate) towards digital content. Considerations for this transition are listed below.


A major component of the iPad is the apps that are available to be used. Many are free while others need to be purchased Glastonbury will seek to use free apps along with other web-based resources. We will however purchase a set of "baseline" apps for students. These apps tend to be productivity oriented and thus can be utilized in all the content areas and classes. A listing of the baseline apps Glastonbury will purchase is listed below. Please not this list changes periodically due to new apps that are evaluated or developed.

  • QuickOffice - word processing, spreadsheet and presentation
  • EverNote - Note taking
  • Penultimate - Handwriting (interfaces with EverNote)
  • FreeBooks - ebooks in the public domain
  • GoogleDrive - cloud based storage
  • GoTasks - to do lists
  • iAnnotate - PDF annotattion