In the Summer term of 2012-13, our school was in need of some serious spending on IT infrastructure. We had just gotten started with the process of moving away from County to our own ISP, but our desktops and in particular teacher laptops were quickly becoming not fit for purpose, if they weren’t already. Instead of outright purchasing new laptops, I met with the headteacher and head of ICT to have a chat about perhaps trialling some tablets.
Being a staunch Android fan, I was disappointed when I was out-voted and the decision made to go with iPads. My arguments about flexibility and price were ignored in favour of what they both were already familiar with. I’m still not particularly happy with this decision – most especially because it was to become my job to train staff to use the iPads and I’d never owned an iOS device myself!
We decided to offer the iPads to subject leaders who wished to use them within their departments via a bid system. We had a limited budget to work from, planning initially on purchasing 10 x 32GB iPad retinas. We wanted subject leaders to bid for the iPads using a Google Form that I created and shared with them, having presented the idea at a subject leaders’ meeting. The purpose for this was two-fold: first, we wanted subject leaders to clearly think about how having an iPad would improve both teaching and learning (i.e. improve things from a planning and delivery aspect and also improve student outcomes); secondly we wanted to make it clear that these were not going to be a toy for staff to play with in their free time. By putting in a bid, subject leaders (or their nominated department staff) would also take part in the training sessions that would be on-going until at least Christmas 2013.
There is a real mix of technology skills in our staff. We have some who, like me, jump onboard new technology as soon as, or very soon after, it launches and who actively seek ways to embed technology into lessons. We have staff who are still scared of doing anything other than using their interactive whiteboards as a fancy version of an overhead projector and who wouldn’t use it at all, given a choice. We have lots of staff who fall somewhere in the middle.
One of the points that I emphasised during the subject leaders’ meeting was that it didn’t matter how much you knew about iPads or how familiar you were with using them – at this point we hadn’t purchased them and I still hadn’t used one myself! The point about putting in a bid was that they could spend a little time doing some research about appropriate apps and talk to those who had them and used them regularly. The head of ICT and myself were already of the opinion that those who did this were more likely to be successful than those who simply rattled off a quick and thoughtless bid. I then sent out the Google Form for staff to submit their bid:
Using a Google Form meant that the results were automatically fed into a spreadsheet. The results were pretty much as expected, ranging from the ‘I know everything about them and just want you to give it to me’ response to those that clearly wanted an iPad but didn’t know much about them. A couple of the bids came with several pages of notes sent via email as well – we had some very keen staff! It was easy to discount some of the bids, those that hadn’t taken any time to do any research in particular. I had shared a spreadsheet full of apps and sites that’d I’d started to put together after the first few bids came in, and when I recommended that some staff resubmit their bids after they’d done some research, one came back saying that the apps they knew of where the ones that I’d suggested – not at all what we were looking for!
In the end we stretched the budget and purchased 11 iPads, as it was too difficult to split a couple of the bids. I notified the staff who’d put bids in to let them know if they’d been successful or not, and formed the EdTech group for those who were successful. I’ll be blogging about how the rest of the process is going shortly.