July 3, 2013

ISTE Followup: It’s not an iPad Initiative, It’s a Learning Initiative

McAllenHome to what may be the largest 1:1 iPad initiative in the United States, McAllen ISD, Texas, understands that bringing 25,000 iPads into a school district doesn’t alone transform learning. However, when the distribution is coordinated as part of an innovative teaching-and-learning framework that leverages technology and challenge-based learning, the initiative can be transformative for an entire community.

During a poster session at ISTE 2013, Carmen Garcia (shown right, center), director for instructional technology, shared insights from McAllen ISD’s Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus, and Community—TLC3 program. The TLC3 program was launched in spring 2012 when the district issued 6,000 devices to students and equipped all 1,600 of its teachers. The remaining 19,000 devices were distributed in fall 2013.

“The whole community came together to support the TLC3 program,” said Garcia, who stressed that the district’s students really motivated the change.

Garcia attributes the district’s rapid adoption of the technology to its universal availability. “Normally, there is a three- to five-year adoption period, but this time is cut in half when everyone has a device,” she said. To support educators in thinking innovatively about the use of the devices in engaging and empowering students to master 21st-century skills, the district has provided comprehensive professional development resources.

According to Garcia, students are provided a new iPad every three years. While McAllen ISD charges each student $40 per year, the district has lessened each student’s annual supply budget by that amount and allows them, after a $10 initial payment, to pay the balance over the remainder of the academic year.

Garcia notes that the influence of the program extends far beyond the classroom. “This is a family learning tool,” said Garcia. “Not only do the students use the technology, the whole family can benefit from the experience. And, because the students take these devices home,  their learning continues after they leave the school.”  For districts considering a 1:1 initiative, Garcia encouraged them to prepare parents, particularly in the area of digital literacy and citizenship.

More information is available at http://www.mcallenisd.org/tlc3/.

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