The Do’s and Don’t’s of Using School iPads

Teachers in my building were recently given iPads. The devices were paid for through Title I funds; they have to be used for reading and math intervention. Not all teachers received an iPad. They had to sign up and agree to three months of training.

As they were distributed, a couple of teachers asked, “Can we use them for personal use?” This is a slippery question that doesn’t have a clean answer. My initial response was, “Yes; how else will you learn how to use them?”

As I reflect, I now believe there should be more clear guidelines for my staff when they receive school-owned mobile technology. If you are in a district that has a clear-cut policy AND it is sensible and realistic, the work has been done for you. For me, I have to start from scratch.

Here is what I believe are the do’s and don’t’s for staff using school purchased iPads:

Do use the iPads for personal use.
Don’t treat them as if you own them.

Teachers don’t have time to explore the devices at school. Therefore they should take them home and play with them in order to build proficiency. If part of their purpose is to get on Facebook or talk with friends via Skype, aren’t they still learning how to use the iPad at high levels of engagement and effectiveness? My job is to try and guide the teachers into connecting how they use them to what is possible in the classroom.

At the same time, it is clear that teachers cannot be running a side business using the devices or selling personal items on eBay. If they aren’t sure it is appropriate, it probably isn’t. My staff also understands that the iPads belong to the school and, ultimately, the district. If they leave our building, the devices stay at Howe and are repurposed in another classroom.

Do allow your families, especially your kids, to use the iPads.
Don’t use them as a babysitter.

My staff and I are sharing our learning on Edmodo. One teacher posted how her students used the Math Garden app together on the document camera to prepare for the basic math facts test. Another teacher chimed in with a reply, stating her husband can’t put the game down.

This is great to see, having teachers explore new ways for learning with their family. It is quick action research to find out new and different ways to use the iPads. As an example, two boys I am working with split the keyboard in Pages by accident. My first reaction was, “What did you do?” Once I realized they didn’t break it, we explored the different uses for each keyboard when typing.

At the same time, it is very easy to plop an iPad in front of your daughter and say, “Have fun!”, while my wife is at mass and you need to give your son a bath. (I did this today!) It is my personal device, however, and not something I do often. With school equipment, a teacher does not want to be responsible for a broken device or someone else downloading illicit content. This applies to the classroom too. If the iPad is being used with students, intent, structure and assessment should be a part of the activity.

Do put your own content on the iPad
Don’t spend a small fortune on Apple content

A few of my teachers have Apple devices already, like iPhones and iPod Touches. I showed the staff how to log out of the school’s iTunes account, log back in using their personal account, and download their already-purchased music, apps and other media. This allows the staff to utilize their own content when it would be beneficial in the classroom. For example, one teacher bought a handwriting app for her son. She realized this app would also be a good fit for her second graders.

As part of this project, teachers have $100 to spend on apps for their classroom. I didn’t want them having to spend their own money on iPad media for school purposes, knowing how much teachers already spend on their own classroom. If they make personal purchases but do not have their own device and they moved out of the building, the content they purchased would be essentially gone.

This is all I can determine at this time. The devices are so new to all of us. It is hard to predict future issues. As long as we continue to reflect about our current practices with iPads in the classroom and learn together through collaboration both in person and online, we should be on the right path.

Do you have a good district policy in place that addresses this new technology? Please share.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

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