Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From the iPad of Ron Dodson...

We appreciate everyone’s patience and perseverance as we have worked our way through one of the largest and fastest paced technology initiatives ever implemented in the history of Hoover City Schools.  We’ve seen and heard many exciting things in classrooms across the district, and we’ve also met our fair share of both anticipated and unanticipated obstacles along the way.  One lesson that we’ve learned is that teachers are about four times more likely to break their iPad than high school students.  

One of the obstacles related specifically to the iPad has been the management of and accounting for application and media content purchases through the iTunes store.  We have struggled with this because Apple bases their entire business model on a personal consumer approach, but what has been enormously successful for them as a global corporation has proven perniciously problematic for public agencies who are spending taxpayer dollars.  The key problem is that the Apple iTunes store charges state sales tax (4%) on every transaction, and as a public entity, we should not use public funds to pay taxes which re-direct those funds to other public purposes.  This has been a pickle of a problem, however, after many weeks of consultation and consideration, we are finally ready to issue the following instructions for iPad content purchases.

Teacher iPads-  This is the first year that our district has offered schools the option of using purchasing cards (p-cards) for teacher instructional supply fund transactions.  The p-card works essentially the same as a debit card, but the user is not allowed to use the p-card to pay sales tax.  After much deliberation, we have received permission from the state to allow purchases involving sales tax to the Apple iTunes store only.  It is very important for all to understand that this exception is being approved by the state for this specific problem only because the state officials recognize the dilemma which more and more schools are facing across the state in dealing with the iTunes store.  Some schools agreed to pilot the p-cards this year, and others decided to hold off until next year to watch and learn.  The directions that follow differentiate for both situations-
             Schools that did issue p-cards this year:  Technology coaches will provide training to teachers to set up a separate iTunes account for each teacher using their individual p-cards as the fund source for the account.  Purchases made from this account will be charged directly to the teacher’s instructional supply fund account at the local school level.  Teachers will need to provide receipts to school bookkeepers and follow any other verification protocols required by school administration.  It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, that the purchases made using the teacher p-card account must be educational in nature.  Teachers can continue to maintain a personal iTunes account to make purchases of a personal nature, and technology coaches will include the management of these two different types of accounts on the same iPad in their training. 
             Schools that did not issue p-cards this year:  If the principal wants to do so, a single p-card can be created in the name of the principal, and technology coaches can provide the same training as described above but based on the single p-card number to be used by all teachers in the same school (each teacher has a separate iTunes account, but they use the same p-card as the payment type).  The authorization and verification process for this system will be necessarily more complex than the one described above because multiple adults will be using the same purchasing account, and it will be up to the school bookkeeper to assign each purchase to the appropriate individual’s instructional supply fund account.  In the same manner described above, teachers can maintain both a personal iTunes account along with the school’s p-card iTunes account on the same device. 

Student iPads (high schools only)-  Student devices should all have an application called AirWatch installed on them which allows the district to manage content on the district-owned devices.  Applications and media content can be purchased in mass quantities and distributed to individual devices, but this process requires manpower to actually assign and manage content on each individual student device.  An additional aide position is being created which will be shared between the two high schools and based in the media centers to coordinate efforts related to student content purchases and manage iPad repairs across the district.  Each high school will be tasked with creating a committee to develop a budget and approve student application and media content purchases.  We anticipate that this process will supplement, and might eventually even replace, our traditional textbook purchasing process; in the current timeframe however, these will remain separate but parallel processes.  More details on this process will be developed soon as the high school committees get geared up and the new aide is hired and trained. 

Nook application and media content purchases appear to be going smoothly using procedures already established by the district’s finance and local school bookkeeping offices.  District funding to support these purchases is being processed soon and will be made available to principals by the first of November.

Thank you all again for your patience.  The processes described above are not perfect, and I’m sure we will face some more experiential speed bumps along the way.  But there is no other place that I would rather be than here in Hoover City Schools at this point in our history.   Students are winning, and that is a good thing. 

Ron Dodson, Ph.D.
Assistant Superintendent of Instruction
Hoover City Schools

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