We were keenly aware that if we got the introduction of tablets to the school wrong at the start, we would struggle to get acceptance of remedial action. Several sections of the school were very nervous about out 1:1 tablet trial and others felt that this was the wrong time to be trying this. If any other school were contemplating introducing large numbers of tablet devices our advice would be don’t rush into it, as pre planning is vital. Thinking things through and creating a detailed plan is time well spent. Some of the key things we had to take into account were:
While having good Wi-Fi reception may seem obvious getting a strong signal in all parts of a school may be expensive particularly in older buildings. Also having several hundred users connecting to the network for much of the day will require a large & robust data pipe. Our school is over 100 years old and it took us several attempts to get coverage.
Network security is of paramount importance to any authority’s IT department and consultation with them is vital particularly if pupils are to be allowed to take devices home. Part of the reason we have used Apple iPads is that they were felt to be less prone to viruses and malware than Android and Windows machines.
Acceptable use Policy
We realised and accepted very early in the planning process that there was only so much we could do technically to lock iPads down to stop pupils from abusing them. While doing everything we could technically to stop abuses (there is much more we can do now as better management tools have been released) we put heavy emphasis on an Acceptable use Policy. The sanction of removal of a pupil’s iPad if the policy were broken proved to be a powerful tool. We will go into the policy in some depth elsewhere in the site.
We were very keen to keep our parents informed and on side with the project as we knew from discussions that several parents had reservations about their children carrying iPads about. In the run up to issuing the devices, at a special parents night, we sent out letters and discussed the trial with the Parent Council
Internet at home
Bellshill is an area of very high depravation and we were concerned our pupils would not get the benefit of iPads at home due to lack of Internet access. However in a Survey we found 95% had access to Wi-Fi at home.
During the planning phase of the project we watched another Council be mauled by the press (no cash to clean but cash for iPads!). We therefore contacted the Authority’s Press Office and discussed the trial so that they were aware of what we were doing and we in turn had an agreed stance should the press contact us.
Impact on pupils who did not get an iPad
One of our concerns before the trial started was that pupils may be targeted and robbed in the community when it became known that they carried iPads. This has proved groundless. However as we only issued iPads to one-year group there was initially some jealousy from pupils and siblings but this has faded with time.