The iPad Journey – 12 Months Later

6972691660_dca9054686_zA tiny bit over 12 months ago, we invested in 11 32GB iPad Retinas. At that point in time we had (and still have) limited wifi around the school, ageing hardware everywhere, and a majority of staff not comfortable with stretching their use of technology in their lessons. Subject leaders were asked to bid for an iPad, including information such as what they already knew they could do with one and what sort of training would be required.

I had intentions of holding regular training sessions for all staff who were successful in their bids, but due to circumstances outside my control, this was not possible. There were two group training sessions initially, followed by one-to-one sessions that were booked ahead of time and ad hoc moments in corridors and in the course of normal business.

I enrolled us in the Volume Purchasing Programme, enabling us to purchase Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Splashtop and Explain Everything. With no school credit card, we were temporarily stumped as to how to pay for them (each iPad was given out with a £10 iTunes card, but with instructions to use it for subject-specific apps as we would purchase general use apps cheaper through VPP). The headteacher gave me his credit card number(!) to use, which was perfect until I managed to get it blocked. He’s since forgiven me.

With proxies on our wifi an issue preventing us from using Apple TV, we purchased licences for Reflector in order to mirror the devices onto our screens. I worked with the Design and Technology department to design and build stands for the iPads, in order to assist us in using Stage Interactive and the camera to show student’s work on the screens. I wrote about that as part of #Blappsnapp.

Back in March, I held an evaluation session for all staff with iPads. By this time four departments had purchased iPads from their own budgets, and they were invited to the session. Overall, staff were happy with the iPads. There were varying degrees of use, from those who had wholly accepted them as a tool to improve learning to those who were still learning slowly. To summarise:

The positives:

  • Increased engagement in lessons
  • Used in conjunction with BYOD for students in several subject areas, especially Art
  • Access to newer and cheaper texts (e.g. books shared with students via the Kindle app in English)
  • Improved workflow
  • Better modelling of work for students
  • Easier peer assessment through sharing of student work for all of the class to see

The limitations:

  • One device per classroom (only considered an inhibiting issue in Geography and PE)
  • Behaviour management issues (only reported in PE)
  • Security of devices (one iPad was stolen, which took several weeks to be noticed and several more to be reported – thankfully we had insurance and this was replaced)
  • Lack of wifi around the school

We now have plans in place to replace infrastructure across the school over the next twelve months. We changed ISPs in December, which removed the proxies and allowed us greater access on the devices, including the use of Apple TV. By next April, we will have replaced the wifi across the school, removing the dead spots and giving greater management. All computers are being replaced, along with our servers, this Summer. We are upgrading to Windows 8 and rolling Chrome out across the network, which will improve workflow as we also use Google Apps.

We have altered the way funding is provided for departments, and subject leaders were invited to put in capitation bids for the Curriculum Development budget. The intention behind this was to allow departments to bid for equipment outside of the ordinary stationery order, and most importantly to allow smaller departments to potentially purchase more expensive equipment, such as iPads, as their department budget does not normally extend to this. The Maths department will have have an iPad per staff member, another one is being purchased for the Urdu teacher, and the English department have put in a bid for a class set of Kindles (or Android tablet, whichever we deem most cost effective after a little more research).

I have ordered a Macbook to enable me to run Apple Configurator. A mobile device management (MDM) solution has become necessary, now that the number of devices is expanding. Besides being able to roll out apps with ease, I will also be able to manage passwords. This proved problematic recently when a member of staff on maternity leave could not remember her Apple ID password, leaving us unable to reset the device for another department to trial. Several phone calls to Apple (after they were unable to reset the password as promised) had me tearing my hair out. You’d think that this is a relatively common problem, but they were simply unable to be of assistance for quite some time. In the end, the solution is very simple!

I am continuing with a training plan, and developing a plan for next year. Time remains an issue, and I am looking into alternatives such as a regular ‘Techie Brekkie‘.

Flipped learning is something we’ll be dipping our toes into. Access for students at home is a considerable issue, but I believe with appropriate planning it won’t be a barrier for long.

Thankfully, staff appear to have taken on board that the emphasis is on pedagogy, not technology. We haven’t so much shoe-horned the iPads into lessons, as opposed to altered existing pedagogy to suit newer technology.

We have a long way to go before using mobile technology in lessons across the school is the norm rather than something exciting and new, but we are certainly on the right track.

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