Buying iPads for the classroom

‘Why would we want more iPads? We barely use the ones we already have.’

It is something that I hear from a lot of schools whenever the topic of iPads comes up in conversation. And yet, we have more iPads in the hands of children, especially Primary schools in the Tees Valley than pretty much anywhere else in the world.

So what are the benefits and how do you ensure that your iPads are used; and importantly, used effectively?

How do you teach a class of children?

Simple question, big answer. There are however some common elements, let’s take one, the flow of information.

Through iPads, teachers are able to support the flow of information around a classroom like never before. Check out the queue at the photocopier on a Monday morning as teachers prepare resources so that children can work through a text. Contrast that with the queue at a school where they use Showbie on iPads. The text has been photographed by the teacher the day before when they were planning and is already accessible by every child via their iPad. Furthermore they can show the students video, images, books…whatever an iPad can show, and all through a couple of clicks. This means that the teachers are more prepared and the children can work more independently through a series of tasks, the teacher’s role is to support that process as needed. Many schools then take this further and the children hand in work via the same process in reverse. A senior leader in school could sit in their office and look at evidence of learning from any child in the schools at the click of a mouse. Whether in a 1:1 context or even just one iPad per classroom, this is becoming normal practice in a growing number of schools. It’s great to engage the parents too.

Many schools tell us that not only do children become more independent in their way of working  but they are also more engaged because of the quality of the learning materials that the iPads can access and the creative possibilities they have to respond to tasks. This results in greater motivation and a higher standard of work.

Of course, cost is always a factor in decisions about procuring technology and there are hidden costs which schools are often unaware of that make a big difference.

Let’s take the example above. The teacher shares a text that the children access on their iPad and then write about in their books. The cost of the iPad is the most obvious (most schools buy iPad minis) but the cost of the wifi, and crucially the size of the school broadband, is actually going to be the deciding factor over whether it actually works or not. Many primary schools are still using broadband of 10Mb (often shared with other schools – called a ‘contended’ line) and then wondering why 30 children can’t download the picture of a text instantly.

In such a short article it is difficult to demonstrate all of the considerations and decisions that a school needs to work through to ensure a successful roll out of kit. We have supported over 50 schools, primary, secondary and special through their journey of using handheld devices and we are happy to work with more. Our advice comes free.

We know from pretty much every bit of research on the subject that effective classroom use relies on effective training. Apple and the resellers recognise this and Apple Education Training is a subsidised offer to schools when multiples of 25 devices or more are purchased. Andrew from Inspire2Learn is one of the few Apple Approved Trainers in the NE who can access this subsidy which means that schools get their training at no cost to them. Please talk to us if you either have iPads and don’t feel that you are getting the most from them or are thinking about buying more some/more iPads and want the purchase to have a measurable impact. Ask your reseller about the training subsidy and they are asking for money or don’t know anything about it please talk to us first. We could save you a lot of money.

Oh and one last thing! iPads? Why not Microsoft devices or Android? They are often cheaper. We are actually totally agnostic about devices. In the past we have used MS extensively and we have Android devices in our centre. But we aren’t really bothered about what the device is, we have been developing handheld learning classroom practice for over 10 years now and we simply use the technology that best fits how we want the children to learn. That has been iPads for the past few years. We know they work in the way that we want them to and when it comes to IT if it works, you go with it!

Andrew is the manager of Inspire2Learn an education centre in the Tees Valley funded by the schools, outreach work, courses and pots of funding to ensure that children and teachers in the North East get the best possible information, training and experiences available in the UK. We work with schools all across the NE and occasionally beyond. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator, an Apple Authorised Trainer and regularly speaks at conferences and events both nationally and internationally. He also ensures that training is delivered little and often, as teachers need it rather than on one off days. This has more impact. As a result he still teaches a couple of days a week supporting schools in their classrooms. He also wears blue shoes.