Earlier this year I reflected on the results of a survey I gave our Year 7 and 8 students at the end of 2013. These students use iPads in their learning throughout the day. The iPad program being a continuation of the Sydney Catholic Education Office’s leasing program designed to supplement the now defunct DER program for Year 9 students and beyond.
Surprisingly, very few CEO schools have embraced the iPad as a device for learning. I think the stats are 4% of devices in CEO secondary schools are iPads. I think there are a few reasons for this.
One is that it was simply too hard to try out another device and it was easier to stick with what was already in place. Going from a white MacBook to a MacPro was a simple option yet one that was very costly for parents. I wonder if the same decision would have been made if schools had to wear the cost.
Another is the lack of planning that went into implementing the iPad. I know of one school that ran an ‘iPad trial’ issuing the device to a class of students without any guidance or instruction. Students also had to use their own money to install apps. Obviously this was doomed to failure. The old saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ was certainly in action here.
Finally, the worry that if you implement an iPad program then you need to provide iPads to staff was very significant for many leadership teams. I think this is the biggest issue and one that causes many schools to stick with the laptop model of choice. I believe that if you really want to get the most out of the iPad then staff need to get their heads around what it can do. I think it is essential that an iPad is available to staff if there is an iPad program starting up in a school. I emphasise ‘starting up’ because once you have got your head around what the iPad can do then you can do any testing or experimenting with your iPhone if iPads are scarce.
This was one of the questions I asked staff in the survey last year and this was their response.
I think given only half of those who responded thought it was essential is quite interesting. Obviously in an ideal world having full-time access to an iPad is great and allows you to really think differently about how your classroom might operate. The device does require a different head space but once you get your head around the fact it is not a laptop and not try to make it do what a laptop does then you are on your way.
I had an interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday who was expressing his frustration around his Year 8 class. The students obviously use iPads and his frustration arose from the fact they could not format their Google docs the way he preferred. He also felt the devices were limited because it was hard for the students to fill in the worksheets he had shared with them. It was all about his inability to change what he was doing. He was working in the same way he has worked for the last 20 years.
Here is your worksheet, now complete it (in silence) while I sit at my desk!!!
This is a similar story reflected in many classrooms around the country. Thankfully in our College things are changing, albeit slowly at times. It was encouraging to see that when I asked staff about how they were using the iPads the activities were becoming more varied. Here is the response to that question.
There are still many very basic activities being trotted out in some Stage 4 classes. I still fail to comprehend how anyone can get students to copy information from the board in this day and age. In the previous staff survey there was a very limited list and it was very much around word processing using Pages, internet research or using Comic Life or iMovie to create a presentation. Definitely progress but much more to do!