The students have begun to get their iPads at school.  It has been a slow process to get them all out and with only a few glitches to slow the process down.  All in all, I am very impressed with the organization of the distribution.
One disappointing note- on Friday the IT guy announced that Facebook and Twitter would no longer be blocked on the VPN- allowing students to access them both at home- and school.  I was so against this that I actually sat down and wrote a quick email with all the reasons why I thought it should be blocked- at least during the school hours. I felt that as a student of technology I had learned so many times that change happens slowly, and the process takes time for all, so I felt that this was too much too soon.  My email can be viewed here.
By the end of the day, students were telling me how they had been on Facebook all day long, whenever they had access to a computer.  I found this disappointing but not surprising.  My email has since been forwarded on from the principal to the higher-ups- hopefully they will take notice and block it - at least while we are in school.  
Students were originally told that they would not be allowed to take home their iPads until the VPN apps were installed and working.  However, when the time came, students were given a handout and told to install the process at home.  Many students have not yet done this.  No surprise there.  I have offered to work with students during ATL and after school in order to get it done.  At some point they should be checked and the students without it should lose the privilege.  
Today was the first day most kids had their iPads.  Today's glitch- the wireless system seems to be topping out and won't let new users onto the internet.  This means that many students can't set up their iPads at all, while others are able to get on Facebook and Twitter, or download apps.  Hopefully that problem will be solved in the next few weeks.  In the meantime, I will assign downloading apps as homework and not counting on the internet.  The kids are very excited about their new iPads, but not realizing the educational possibilities of having one.  It will be interesting to show them new things they can do to help them learn.  In the meantime, we will all be suffering "growing pains" as we learn to function in the new technology world.
 
 
They have announced that students will begin getting their iPads on Monday.  However, they have announced this before...given dates that come and go.  The students are getting frustrated but I am glad that they are taking the time to make sure it is all done properly. They have figured out a VPN that will filter internet access for both students and staff that will keep the device from accessing inappropriate sites.  The good news- students will not be able to access Facebook with their iPad at school...or at home.  The bad news- neither can staff!  As I have told the students, they can still access it however they do now- just not with their school iPad.  
I tried to turn the VPN off, but it turns itself back on within a minute.  I tried to access Pandora radio at home, but that didn't work either.  The filters are required; they won't watch what we do but they do get a message if we turn it off.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes a student to over ride it, and get their iPad taken away.  I can't get over how many of the students are just threatening to jailbreak the system.  In the end, I think they will take care of it and value the opportunity.

I am disappointed that only about 1/3 to 1/2 of my students have been given permission to receive an iPad.  The parents either don't know how to access Skyward to give permission or don't want their student to have the added responsibility of the iPad.  I have tried to explain to my students ways we will change the class through the use of technology- such as creating a podcast or ShowMe rather than writing a paragraph to show knowledge- but I don't know how much of that information gets home.  The thinking is that once we get them distributed and using them, the rest of the parents will come on board. I hope so.  We already have ideas for our first project- and a paper and pencil alternative for those who don't have an iPad.
The students need to be able to open their school email account, and then create an iTunes account using that email.  So many of them changed the password and don't remember it; many of them have been changed back to password,  and many can't open it anyway.  The students who have technology class will be working on it tomorrow; I am not sure that the students will actually be able to get the iPads on Monday.  it is just one more hold-up for the students.....but still exciting for us all.
 
 
It has been an incredibly busy month.  I have been working with individuals trying to help them navigate the iPad and Edmodo as well as trying to plan engaging lessons for my own students.  Many of the 8th grade teachers are now using Edmodo regularly in their classes; they have created several quizzes each and used them in class.  I had a particularly successful lesson with an Edmodo discussion which I have shared with many staff members. 
This past week I held a PD session on the accessibility features that come on the iPad and within Pages.  Many of our students can use the extra assistance of Speak Selection and Speak Auto-Text.  I myself use Speak Auto-Text.  In attendance were teachers of both core class and Special Educators.  We all played with VoiceOver for a while and talked about how it could be very helpful with longer text such as books, but leaving it on constantly could become very frustrating for the student.
This session was particularly engaging for the participants and myself because although the special education students have had an iPad since October, I was able to share with their teachers tools that they can use with their students.  Unfortunately, the students were given the iPad but the teachers were not given adequate training.  I did not realize that until just recently, or I would have been able to help them earlier