iPads in the Classroom Part 2

Prior to the implementation of the iPad Pilot Project in 2012 we were unsure whether or not it was essential that staff be issued with an iPad. I felt that it was necessary as staff would be more likely to buy into the project if the incentive of an iPad was dangled in front of them. We also added a $50 iTunes card to download apps of their choice. We tried to avoid a one size fits all approach and give staff the ability to personalise their device.

Staff were already in possession of a Mac Pro and most were only just getting a handle on that device so it was a big step to undertake a new project with a new device. The Catholic Education Office were keen for us to take the project on due to the success the MacBooks had been in the College. The staff were deemed to have a greater level of ’ematurity’ than most other schools and seemed best positioned to make a success of the pilot.

We issued staff with iPads towards the end of 2011. A number of staff were involved in the development of the Catholic Education Office’s mobile learning course which is now available to all staff across the archdiocese. This professional development allowed us to get more staff on board with the device. By the end of the year all staff had the device and around 50% had been through some type of PD. We did not have enough time or funding to release all staff for iPad PD but we hoped that what we had done would filter through over the next year.

As previously mentioned the students were issued with devices at the start of 2012. We were unable to offer any more PD to staff throughout the year due to preparation for the implementation of the National Curriculum. This was a shame as there was a great opportunity to use the iPads to get some real change to what was happening in the classrooms. It was nobody’s fault just an unfortunate clash of initiatives and the National Curriculum was obviously first priority. It does serve to remind us that any initiative needs to be very carefully planned to ensure you maximise the outcomes.

Despite this setback we did see a very smooth implementation of mobile learning into our Stage 4 classes. The students found the device easy to use and most importantly very portable as they immersed themselves in Secondary education. Previous year groups had struggled under the weight of text books and exercise books as they moved to and from school and from class to class. Our iPads were set up with text books loaded on which meant carrying the iPad and the odd workbook was as bad as it got. A big win for the backs of the students!

Staff initially grumbled about the iPads not being able to do some of the basic things as easily as a laptop. This was true in some instances but generally it was a lack of understanding of what you could do with the device that caused the issue. As the year progressed staff began to see what the students could do with the device and the complaints became fewer. Staff started to look at the apps no differently than they would software on a laptop and accepted that printing out work was no longer necessary. Students began sharing work via email and the paperless classroom was on its way. Apps like Comic Life, Pages and iMovie were the foundation of responses then Puppet Pals came along and gave the students a new avenue to create. More recently Videoscribe has proved popular while many still revert to Keynote for its simplicity.

Like any initiative there is always a period of time where things are different and issues arise. If these issues can be dealt with quickly it can help everyone continue to move forward rather than focus on the negatives. You will always get people who focus on the negative in any initiative simply because they do not like change. Coping with change is difficult but it is an essential part of being a teacher in the 21st Century.

By the end of 2012 the iPads had been accepted and embraced. The students had created some outstanding presentations using the device. It had proved a durable device with great battery life. Students could perform the basic functions easily and they were a little easier to manage in our tight classrooms. The iPad Pilot Project was a success and the information gathered proved helpful for many schools deciding whether the iPads were the way to go. Only a few took up the option in 2013 which was interesting. We invested a lot of time in ensuring the device could be implemented successfully in Stage 4. We also realised that going down this road meant we had to rethink our strategic plan around our computer rooms. I think most schools who considered the iPad felt that there was too much preparation to do and staying with the laptops was a simpler option.

We certainly do not regret implementing the iPads and from my point of view they have put the College in a great position as we move towards a BYOD future.

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