We spend a lot of our time banging on about the benefits of 1:1 schemes – improved engagement, more independent learning, an increased ability to cater to students’ individual needs – but today we’d like to take a minute to look at some of the pitfalls.
In the wake of a couple of tricky questions from teachers and Richard Vaughn’s worrying TES piece about the failure of some large-scale stateside rollouts, we thought now would be a good time to recap our top tips for rolling out a successful 1:1 scheme, and offer a quick reminder of why it’s important to have an IT partner you can trust (even if it’s not us). Planning carefully and in conjunction with someone who knows the technology you’re using inside out is the easiest way to sidestep these (avoidable) problems and ensure your rollout goes smoothly.
1. Know your infrastructure. Taking on a raft of new devices can put a huge strain on older networks, and at the very least you should carry out a WiFi survey to ensure you have the capacity to handle as many devices as you plan to buy and enough coverage that they can be used throughout school. If you lack either of these, your students and staff will find themselves struggling to stay connected to the internet (or connect to it at all) and consequently won’t be able to make the most of their devices. If you’ve already rolled out tablets, this will mean you’re wasting your investment, and if you’re running a trial then you won’t get a full picture of what the devices can bring to the classroom, so put this at the top of your to-do list!
2. Find yourself an Apple adviser. While 1:1 tablet trials are dominated by iPad, most schools we speak to are pairing it with a predominantly PC IT estate. Apple devices can integrate seamlessly with PC networks, and there’s no reason the two won’t get along, but we’d recommend having some Apple expertise on hand in case anything should go wrong. This can either be a trained up member of your IT team or a third party – we provide Apple tech support to many schools, either on our own or in partnership with their systems integrator – but making sure your staff have somewhere to go if they have tech trouble will help them make the most of their device, and let you nip any problems in the bud.
3. Communicate clearly with parents. As Vaughn’s TES piece noted, parents can often be concerned about whether their children will be bringing the devices home, how they’ll be used and what – if any – fees they’ll face if their child’s iPad is damaged. Getting parents on board early is a key factor in the success of your scheme, and communicating to them clearly is a big part of that. Examples we’ve seen work well include running a parents’ session on a string of different dates, so as many parents as possible have the chance to come in and discuss the scheme with staff, and asking parents of children who are taking part in a trial to fill out an exit survey, then using those responses to plan the wider rollout (and reassure nervous parents when it happens).
4. Start small. To clarify: if you’re going to launch an iPad rollout, we fully recommend holding a launch event, handing out 200 iPad in one day and generally making as much of a fuss as possible. But before that, in the name of all that’s holy, carry out a small-scale trial. This will allow you to identify any problems with your network, holes in your web filter and gaps in your staff’s training without impacting upon the entire school’s performance at once. You and your IT provider can then take steps to shore up any gaps or try more appropriate solutions before the main rollout.
5. Give your staff the chance to get up to speed. In many of our most successful rollouts, teachers have been given their iPad before students, for example at the start of a holiday, so that they can get to grips with the device before they have to teach on it. This serves three important functions: first, it gives them the chance to familiarise themselves with iPad, so they can lead a class with confidence and answer students’ questions about using it; second, it gives them time to find and share apps and features that suit their teaching style, so they can make fuller use of iPad in their classroom; and finally, it means that if you do have a problem with your infrastructure or an ineffectual web filter, it’s your teachers who find out about it first, not your students.
6. Train hard. Our Apple Distinguished Educators can deliver subject-specific Apple Professional Development training, which can really help to personalise the trial for teachers and make it relevant to their day to day work. We can also cover the basics of using Mac and iOS, and even lead a vision and planning session to help you decide what you want from your deployment. But all of this ultimately means you’ll have a more confident, informed faculty who are able to field questions from governors, parents and students, and who are better able to create lessons that make the most of your investment. (See how this helped Sidney Stringer Academy, who were so keen they ran six APD sessions in a single day.)
7. Know your options. But by far the most important reason not to go it alone is this: if something goes wrong – your network falls over, your software fails you, your restrictions prove impossible to enforce – any decent IT company worth their salt will be able to offer you an alternative. It’s pretty much impossible to run a school and monitor the IT market to the extent that your average Jigsaw24 consultant does, and our knowledge of, say, obscure Finnish touchscreen solutions may end up being just the thing you need to avoid an embarrassing public failure. No need to thank us…
For more information about iPad in the classroom or to get started with your own trial, call 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and FAQs, follow @Jigsaw24Edu on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.