Implementing iPads in schools: our views on best practice

September 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

Many schools are introducing iPads, or other tablets, into the classroom. They’re popular with parents (and especially prospective parents). There’s undoubtedly a media buzz around what is still considered new technology. The potential benefits are becoming more and more apparent, both educationally and arguably financially, with ESSA Academy reporting an annual saving of £65K on photocopying budget following their introduction. The US is leading the way, with 4.5 million iPads sold into education institutions so far, and Los Angeles recently penning a deal with Apple to provide iPads for every one of 600,000+ students within the next year. But if they’re not introduced effectively, it can be a huge waste of money.

We have worked with a number of schools in the last year who have introduced, or are at the point of introducing, iPads. So in the spirit of sharing best practice, here’s a summary of what we believe works and doesn’t work:

  • Appoint the right person to oversee the introduction to iPads: someone who will embrace the opportunity and become ambassadors for the technology. The success of their use at Cedar’s School of Excellence, Greenock can be largely put down to the commitment of Fraser Speirs, Head of IT, in his commitment to their implementation. Without the right person, you may find them gathering dust.
  • Pilot with a few iPads, perhaps a one-third class set or a half set. A one-to-one program is a nice ideal, but perhaps bring-your-own-device will be more realistic by the time you are at that stage.
  • Are you sure you want iPads? The Kindle Fire is a reasonably-priced alternative, with the Amazon App Store working hard to develop educational content. Little fingers can work equally-well on an iPad Mini, too.
  •  Think about how to use them across the curriculum. There are many good subject-specific apps, but equally focus on non-subject specific and be creative in their use. The iPad is a Swiss-army knife of tools waiting to be unlocked. The camera can be used to snap artwork at various stages in the creative process. Experiments can be videoed. And these can be imported into a document in an instant. Combine with Apple TV: teachers or students can display their work, annotate it, work through step-by-step, and display to the rest of the class. Communicate: apps like Socrative allow teachers to quiz their students; it automatically collates their responses. Research the Internet – use a safe internet browser such as Browser for Kids to monitor content.
  • Of the good subject-specific apps, view these as supplementing and enhancing your teaching practice, and don’t slip into replacing your teaching with an app. Avoid apps which replicate worksheets – an expensive and inferior solution in many cases. Seek out subject-specific apps that can offer something beyond your usual teaching, be it a vast amount of content,  (Life and Death in Pompeii, for example), high levels of interactivity (try Solar Walk), or real-time monitoring of each individuals’ progress (like our very own DoodleMaths for Schools).
  • And apps are not just for students, either: great teacher planning apps – such as iDoceo – can enhance record-keeping, too.
  • Practicalities: you’ll need school-wide wi-fi, internet security, iPad cases and a secure stowage unit. Number each device. Each device should have its own Apple ID. And tablets are designed for personal use – sharing an iPad between two for an activity just doesn’t work.
  • Finally, don’t see iPads as entirely replacing PCs. They still have their role in the classroom. But for integrating technology directly into everyday lessons, the tablet is going to play a huge role.

I’m interested in any comments on this one!

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