Once we completed the bid process and decided on which departments would receive the iPads, the order went in. I had in mind a basic idea of a training programme for staff, but choosing what to do at the beginning of the process was still up for debate. I had information gathered as part of the bid process which outlined who was comfortable and experienced using tablets (as some had experience with Android tablets rather than iOS), and staff had also done some research themselves before submitting the bid. I knew that ultimately there would be a more formal training programme in place, but the first thing I wanted to do was play.
The iPads were delivered on the Monday before May half term. I wasn’t meeting staff to hand out the devices until the Wednesday, but being as anti-iOS as I was, I took mine early to get to grips with it for a couple of days. Those two days showed me that the best thing I could do was give staff the week of half term to play with them and figure out what they could and couldn’t do, as well as potentially allow them to identify specific training requirements.
As we had purchased the iPads using the curriculum development budget, rather than individual department budgets, we were not entirely sure of the best way to purchase apps. This was also made difficult by the fact that the school does not have a credit card. When setting up the tablets, staff were issued with a generic email address that I had created in order to address the concern of ownership of apps. If staff set them up using their own details, then the apps purchased would belong to their accounts and not the school. We deliberately set them up with the generic email addresses to take care of this issue, but also because the devices are being shared within departments and having personal details on there wasn’t an ideal scenario.
One other issue concerning the purchase of apps was the consideration we gave to the Volume Purchasing Programme. I had enrolled in the programme and had it verified by Apple, as we knew that we wished to purchase multiple copies of Pages, Keynote, Splashtop and Explain Everything. Again, the issue was a lack of school credit card. There was always an option for using a personal card and being reimbursed by school, but this process does not have a quick turnaround and can leave you out of pocket for a month or so. In the end the headteacher gave me his credit card details(!) so that I could purchase the apps. I successfully purchased Pages and Keynote, but was unable to purchase Splashtop and Explain Everything as his bank blocked the card, thinking it was fraudulent purchases. Thankfully, he’s since forgiven me for that! We were eventually able to purchase the remaining apps.
We also, in order to get the ball rolling, issued staff with a £10 iTunes gift card. I explained at the time that these could be used for subject-specific app purchases as we were going to purchase the others for them. Staff could then, if they used up the £10, purchase another card and claim that back out of their subject budget. This again negated the need for iPads to be set up with each person’s credit card.
One method that schools can use to manage app distribution is the use of Apple Configurator. However, this requires a Mac of some kind (e.g. Macbook) to run, which we don’t have. We did look at purchasing one, but decided at this point in time that it was an unnecessary expense. Moving forward, we are considering purchasing a class set of iPads that can be a bookable device, so will revisit it at a later date.
At the end of this stage of the process, staff had their devices, a generic email address with which to set up the device, and a £10 iTunes gift card to purchase subject-specific apps. We also had plans to bulk purchase four apps for all staff to use. Most staff took the opportunity to set up and play with their iPads for the next fortnight, and some struggled to even get them set up. The next step was our first official training session – the subject of my next post on the topic.