iPadAir-Press-2The iPad’s brilliance is in its simplicity, but planning and rolling out iPads in schools can be anything but simple. 

This is the first article in a series looking at how to plan, manage, and roll out of iPads in your school.

We’ll look at all aspects of managing iPads in schools including teacher training, managing iPads with MDM, Apple Configurator, and Apple’s range of iPad management programs. 

It’s amazing to think that the iPad was only released in 2010.  It took decades for colour TV to become standard, and for radio to become widely available, but in just four years tablets have caused a seismic shift in the consumer market taking a huge chunk out of desktop and laptop sales.

Changes in consumer purchasing has resulted increasing expectations of teachers and students. Schools are now expected to update faster and support the latest technology to keep up with consumer trends and this surge in demand for mobile technology has put greater burden on those responsible for managing classroom technology.

Whether you’re a small primary school with 50 students, or a large university with thousands of learners managing technology is all about scalability.

Evaluate the alternatives

ipad-androidiOS is only one of several successful mobile eco-systems. In fact, iPad accounts for only 36% of mobile operating systems, and iOS’s market share is predicted to continue to shrink.

Many schools default to iPad, but it’s possible that iPad may not be the best solution for your school. Make sure to look at and properly evaluate the alternatives, because there are alternatives!

Look at Android and Google Play for Education, and check out Windows 8 tablets. Some questions you will want to ask are:

  • Are the apps or services you want to use with your students available on other platforms?
  • How well does the platform integrate with our current IT infrastructure?
  • How easy is it to manage devices?

Teacher Training

bing-students

By far the most important aspect of any iPad roll out is teacher training. You wouldn’t buy a car without learning to drive, and the same is true of iPads.

iPads may be simple to use, but properly embedding them into your curriculum takes an entirely new skill-set. You want your teachers to be using iPads for more than just email or showing the occasional video. A good rule of thumb is that 60% of your budget should be spent on hardware and 40% on teacher training.

Break the Reality Distortion Field

Steve Jobs was famous for being able to influence those around his with his magnetic personality, but this “reality distortion” also flowed freely through Apple’s marketing. This is great if you want to sell products, but not so useful when making decisions on which technology is the best fit for your school.

Passion is important, but don’t let that get in the way of pragmatism. Make sure that through each step of the planning process decisions are being made based on objective information.

Remember, under all the sexy marketing and clever design, the iPad is just a computer. It has a screen, RAM, a processor, storage, and needs power. As such you still need to treat it as a piece of technology.

You need to know if the software you need is available, how your teachers and students will store their work, whether you can manage the device to prevent abusive and filter the Internet to meet schools policies. Do you need to update your school ICT and data protection policies to meet changes in use? Do your teachers know how to handle sensitive information or that they shouldn’t be storing certain documents in the cloud?

iPad and “one-to-one” are great buzz words, and any school would love to announce to their parents that “we’re going 1:1 with iPads”, but make sure the decision is based on improving the education of your students. I’ve seen several schools invest heavily in iPad hardware without taking into consideration any other factors. In the end the devices just ended up sitting in a cupboard never being used.

All stake-holders — teachers, technicians, parents, and students — need to understand that iPads are not just another device to use on your network. It entails setting up an entirely new layer of management, support, networking, user accounts, and teaching practices of those already in place.

Beneath the sexy exterior there are still practical considerations to be taken into account.

Collaboration between Teachers and Technicians is Essential

Teacher iPad

Another important aspect to consider when planning your iPad roll out is strong collaboration between teachers and technical support.

In the worst situations I’ve seen technicians deliberately give misinformation to senior management because a particular technology didn’t fit with their view of how a network should be run. From the opposite side I’ve known teachers who are so dismissive of the importance of technical roles that they publicly denigrate or ignore advice to the detriment of the school’s IT system and data. Neither of these situations is healthy.

A collaborative relationship between IT Support and teachers is essential to future development of technology in your school and ultimately student achievement.

Encourage ICT leaders in your school to be forthright and vocal about their view of ICT, and encourage sensible debate.

To improve collaboration in your school consider the following:

  • Have regular meetings which include both technical and teaching staff.

  • Include ICT leaders and technical staff in all ICT related decisions.

  • Communicate the curriculum to your technical staff to allow them to better understand and prepare for the tools you need.

  • Communicate issues such as data protection to your teachers.

  • Set up a strategy group consisting of ICT Leaders, Senior Management, and Administrators and meet at least once per term to give direction.

  • Acknowledge those that have a greater technical knowledge

  • Don’t pretend to be technical when you are not but do be involved in the process.

The best schools have great relationships between teachers and support staff. Without collaboration between the two goals cannot be set, and the two a veer off on separate journeys.

What tips can you give to schools starting out on the road to using iPads? Share your ideas in the comments.

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About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

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