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Report: Administrators – not IT staff – lead app adoption

Survey says principals are leading the charge

Principals, superintendents, and district CIOs are increasingly becoming the decision-makers for purchasing school apps, according to a new survey.

The 2013 National Survey on Mobile Technology for K-12 Education from IESD, Inc. and STEM Market Impact drew responses from more than 450 district technology and media leaders. Fifty-one percent of respondents said principals were likely to lead the charge to buy apps, compared to just 39 percent in 2012. More respondents also said superintendents were key leaders in the decision to buy apps, at 26 percent this year vs. 10 percent in 2012.

“We think administrators are paying more attention to the benefits of tablets and mobile technology in the classroom,” say Daylene Long, co-founder of STEM Market Impact, and Ellen Bialo, CEO and president of IESD, in an email to DA. “The technology allows for personalized student instruction and increased student engagement. We think that this explains the shift in the data that we have seen over the past year.”

Forty-five percent of respondents named CIOs as app decision-makers, compared to 35 percent last year. But only 38 percent named district instructional technologists as playing central roles, compared to 48 percent last year.

“The increasing role of principals and superintendents in this decision speaks to the critical importance of educational leadership in every capacity, including effective use of education technology,” says Brian Lewis, CEO of ISTE, which offers a “seal of alignment” for apps that match their standards.

Administrators also play a key role in creating a district-level plan for education technology, Lewis adds. “We’ve seen too many cases where technology or software was purchased without having done that planning.”

To learn best practices, district leaders should reach out to others who have implemented apps and mobile technology, Lewis says.

Adopting mobile technology

Nearly 60 percent of the survey respondents reported their district had adopted mobile technology in at least 25 percent of schools. An additional 16 percent reported that their districts were very likely to adopt this technology in the next one or two years.

Shared classroom carts with devices were the most common way districts integrated mobile technology into classrooms. Few districts reported implementing 1-to-1, though most wanted the programs if more financial resources became available.

“Administrators should make sure there is funding, faculty training, and a strong infrastructure for mobile technology,” says Robbie Melton, associate vice chancellor of mobilization emerging technology at the Tennessee Board of Regents. “Their role is also to make sure that apps are aligned to the curriculum. The teacher’s responsibility is to identify the appropriate apps to match their subject and students’ learning styles.”

Melton is a self-proclaimed “appologist,” and reviews educational apps to find those that are best for classroom use. PreK-12 teachers can log onto the open-sourced site,, and search for apps by device, grade, and subject area.

The best apps for education are those that teachers can modify to meet students’ individual needs, and that allow for easy communication and creativity, Melton says. Educational apps also should include assessments to determine what students are learning.

The most common types of mobile technology in schools identified in the survey were iPads, followed by Google Chromebooks. BYOD models, which varied widely, were also popular.

Administrators should be open to BYOD policies and not limit students to one device, Melton says. “Our research shows that over 90 percent of students have a mobile device, or can get to one, and they are becoming less expensive,” Melton says. “We all have these tools, but we’re not using them to their full potential for education.”