We hired a new superintendent just over a year ago and he conveyed to me that he wanted to be 1:1 K-12 within 5 years. We [already] had 180 iPads in 6 carts, but to be honest, they were hard to maintain and if anybody is out there who has ever tried to manage iPads without an MDM they know it’s touching every device, it’s very cumbersome and it’s time consuming. I was looking to find some kind of a unifier to make this educational experience on the iPads meaningful for kids. I started doing homework and came across this really neat program called eSpark.
With the eSpark folks, I knew that they had a clue with what to do with their MDM and how their product worked. But it all came down to management and rollout: how do you get [iPads] out there and get them in the hands of kids to be effective tools for education?
I was looking to find some kind of a unifier to make this educational experience on the iPads meaningful for kids. I started doing homework and came across this really neat program called eSpark.
If you’re going to purchase technology, you have to look at the support side as far as getting teachers to use that device effectively, because ultimately our goal is to do what’s best for kids... We needed something that came with good professional development and a good team to support that professional development. In my visiting with the eSpark folks, I felt like that was very important to them. Proper roll-out is one of the big keys to success. Of course you have to have a good solid device and a good program to run on that device, but great professional development—[we take] that very seriously.
The way that [the Orchard MDM] integrated with Apple’s new infrastructure with the Device Enrollment Program, Volume Purchase Program and the Apple ID for students, and how that integrated with eSpark—it was just the right fit. The beautiful thing about the Orchard MDM is that it isn’t exclusive to eSpark. They fully support third-party applications on these devices and the MDM is getting better and better as time goes on. eSpark has been very, very responsive to us tech directors and technical people out in the field. One important thing for us was to not only be able to do eSpark but to also leverage other apps that are out there, and the MDM fully supports that.
The first thing we had to do was pare down our third party apps that we wanted on the iPads, other than eSpark. The one thing going in that everybody should know is that you do have to have some free space on the device to be able to do the automatic rolling in and rolling out of apps within the eSpark curriculum and the management software. We loaded up all of the apps that the teachers wanted, which come to find out only left us with about 2GB of space and we needed about 5GB to effectively roll in and out apps. We immediately went to our principals and teachers and we asked them to pare down the apps that they had identified to get us to a manageable level. We wound up going with about 70-75 third-party apps along with eSpark.
I can walk into one of my elementaries today, right now, and I would see my kindergarten, first and second graders engaged on the iPads pretty much any time during the day. They work in centers, and just seeing the students engaged and hearing positive reactions from the teachers...as a tech director you always worry about if it's working. That’s our number one concern. And it’s working, that’s the great thing. The apps roll in and out of eSpark like they are supposed to. We do have a robust wifi network that we’re constantly monitoring. We always ask our teachers to let us know immediately if they are experiencing any problems because we want the kids to be engaged on these devices. We’re seeing engagement, we’re seeing positive test results, and hopefully mom and dad are seeing better grades for their kids when they get their grade reports.
In any program that has a large deployment—whether you are a small district or a very large district—everyone needs and wants to have focus. That’s the one thing that I saw from eSpark: it would help us focus on our kids. The bottom line is, who wants to vet through around 300,000 educational apps to try to figure out "this one’s going to go with this piece of the curriculum and this one’s going to go over here." Some are free and some are paid. With eSpark, you pay the fees and they handle the rest of it, and that allowed us to be focused and really let the kids do what they need to do, which is to be engaged on these devices to help them with their homework and in their outcomes.
We’ve seen enough success in these 2 months of this semester that we’re already looking into renegotiating our lease with Apple and doubling our iPads to be true 1:1 K-2, and also adopting the math portion of eSpark. The stuff just works.
We’re seeing engagement, we’re seeing positive test results, and hopefully mom and dad are seeing better grades for their kids when they get their grade reports.
Mr. Scott Harris
Scott Harris has been the Technology Director at Neosho R-5 School District in Missouri for 5 years. Prior to his current role, Scott spent 12 years as the Technology Director at Miami Public Schools in Oklahoma. Scott is passionate about technology in the classroom and was instrumental to the iPad deployment at Neosho. This interview is an excerpt from a previously recorded webinar on Tackling iPad Deployment.
Location: Neosho, Missouri
Technology: 570 shared iPads in 17 carts
Partnership: 1,146 students in K-2 complete eSpark personalized learning plans in a classroom centers model