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Tech Talk Live Blog

Middletown’s Journey to 1:1

Darren DiCello


Middletown Area School District is a small, suburban school district located in Central Pennsylvania. We have approximately 2,400 students in three elementary buildings, one middle school, and one high school. We are 1:1 with iPads in grades 6-12 and have provided sets of 8 to each of our elementary grade level classrooms.

Middletown Area School District’s journey to 1:1 began in the 2011-2012 school year. During this time, we explored various devices and set the foundations to increase our students’ access to technology. In previous experiences with laptops in our District, we were familiar with issues with battery life, slow login times, and overall durability. We knew that the device we wanted to provide our students had to be portable, dependable, and have a battery life that would last all day on a single charge. At the time, the technology landscape was beginning to change. Mobile technology and tablets were really beginning to take off. We started to consider the iPad as a possible device for our implementation.

When the iPad first came out, its functionality appeared to be more for media consumption.  When Apple released Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for iOS, we started to see more content creation capabilities with the device. Add in iMovie, iBooks, GarageBand, and the growing list of quality apps in the App Store, we saw a great opportunity to provide a type of instruction that we were not capable of providing to our students previously. The “instant on” ability, battery life, and accessibility features also met our requirements in a device. We ultimately decided that we would provide our students with iPads, and our teachers would receive a MacBook Air and an iPad.

While we were evaluating devices, we were also having frequent conversations with our staff and administration. The teachers were excited about the possibility of going 1:1, but they expressed their concerns that they wanted quality professional development. We knew that professional development would be the key to success. Traditionally in our District, most teachers were handed a computer at some point in time, given minimal training, and were expected to perform their job duties with the devices and very little continued support. We desired to change that. We wanted our professional development to be relevant, focused, continuous, and fun.

We decided that we would begin our 1:1 rollout at our Middle School. One advantage to starting with the Middle School was because they already had common planning built in for each grade level on a daily basis. We began training our middle school teachers in the fall of 2012; almost a full year before distributing iPads to the students. Since we were traditionally a PC District, we decided that we would capitalize on the switch to Apple and provide a very thorough training experience. Our middle school teachers each received two days of training on their MacBooks (OSX, iWork, and iLife). We started “Tech Tuesdays” where once a week, we would meet with staff during their common planning time. Initially, this time was used to train them on the features of the iPad, but these sessions gradually morphed into instructional strategies and integrated curriculum planning. The key to this success has been the leadership of the building principals. They have attended every training session with their staff and have even run several of the training sessions themselves.

When we finally distributed the iPads to middle school students at the start of the 2013-2014 school year, each teacher was prepared with well over 20 hours of professional development. Over a period of two weeks, each teacher provided their students with training related to general use of the iPads, online safety/digital citizenship, and selected school issued apps. We provided training scripts, as well as posted tutorial videos on our website for teachers, students, and parents to use if needed. We also placed a dedicated technician in the building to provide support for the students and teachers throughout the day.

Our implementation at the high school level was similar to the middle school approach. Each step of the process followed one year later. One notable difference was that the High School did not have the built in common planning time, so we had to be creative with blocking out time for training sessions. From a student training perspective, we provided more large group instruction to the students followed by classroom support from the teachers.

Overall, we feel that we have experienced success with our 1:1 iPad implementation so far. We are constantly reevaluating the process and continue to strive to make the experience the best it can be for our teachers and students. At the end of the day, a 1:1 program is only going to be as successful as the teachers and students make it. Our job as administrators is to provide the leadership, support, and opportunities to make that happen.

Darren DiCello is the Director of Instructional Technology at Middletown Area School District in Central Pennsylvania.  In his 15 years of experience in education, he has been a Supervisor of Educational Technology, Instructional Technology Specialist, and a High School/Middle School Science Teacher.  Darren graduated from Shippensburg University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and has a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Wilkes University.

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