The potential for using iPads in the classroom is becoming clear, although there is likely to be further developments in the understanding of how they can be best used. Schools in America have embraced them quicker than in the UK but British
school are starting to catch up!
However, there is a practical organisational side to using iPads that is often overlooked until after they’ve been purchased. Where should we store them? How do we manage synching? How do we keep them safe? How can we make sure they are protected but also easily accessible for their next use?
Teachers are busy…..very busy, and require a storage and take out/ in strategy that is both student friendly but also easily policed.
The best solution appears to be the use of storage carts or cabinets. Often people think that they need carts even if the devices aren’t moved. There are a variety of mobile carts on the market and easily sourced online. Cabinets can definitely be less expensive, more compact and more secure. However, you need to work out where to put them in the classroom and what impact this has on movement around the room. Ofsted are incessantly requiring a learning environment which can be adapted and allow for transitions from individual work to group work etc. Teachers also need to bear into account how long it takes to get them out and get them working, before then stowing them away at the end of the activity. Perhaps it is better to place two cabinets or carts in different places so students do not all rush to one part of the room to take their iPads. Classroom management can be significantly impacted by how you store your iPads so time should be taken to work this out in advance.
If iPads or other devices are stored at school, they will need to be re-charged when they are not being used. Again, teachers will look for a solution that does not take their time away from acting teaching. ‘Charge carts’ or cabinets can use the Apple-provided AC adapters or can be equipped with charging hubs. Very few schools have outlets at the desks but again, various solutions are easily sourced online. However, teachers should be warned if they are buying large number of iPads to ensure they budget for a facility to charge the units.
Safety & Security
First and foremost, teachers will inevitably lecture to students on rules and expectations and what is expected of them in using iPads. To some extent, security is often an afterthought. Preventing and deterring theft is important, especially with such a small, valuable and materially desirable piece of kit. The security value of carts and cabinets is only as good as their lock and building material. Clearly, budgets before buying should also include suitable security measures, even if this is just a quality padlock. There is then also the storage of keys to consider, and who should be trusted to keep, store and deploy the keys. Most schools provide keys to teaching staff and keep copies in a central place.
If the budget being used is a ‘joint budget’ and iPads are to be used between departments, the mobile cart option is clearly the best to use! It appears to be most common for iPads to remain in certain rooms but obviously they may need to be shared and therefore easily transferable.
The first question to answer is to go for wireless or wired through USB? This is a significant question to consider! For the best management control and software compliance, centralised syncing makes sense (as opposed to doing it in each classroom). However, it is evident that some teacher’s do not mind frequently syncing devices.
Centralised syncing appears to make the most sense also because a shared syncing capability can reduce the cost of a school’s deployment. Configurator software is available from Apple. Wireless syncing can be managed with third party software but can put demands on a school’s infrastructure and IT support staff expertise. Many schools appear to assume that you have to have a cart with sync and charge for every group of iPads. There are alternatives, especially if iPads are configured once or twice or three times a year and not every day. It is our belief that synching will probably be done a few times a year, administered by specialized IT support staff.
So what now?
If you are planning to go for it and implement iPad-use into your classroom take your time! Price up the devices themselves but think about security, storage and the practicalities of their daily use. Speak to your IT support network about syncing and how regularly you think this will be required.
Good luck and enjoy using iPads – your students will!