Friday, 5 August 2011

iPads v. Own Devices

Much has been written lately on the topic of iPads in Primary schools as opposed to the use of own devices. In this post I intend to set out my experiences related to this conversation and the arguements which, from my perspective, inform the debate based on my school's circumstances. In the end however, I am not going to suggest which route is the "best." I'll simply outline what we did and leave your decisions to you.

Earlier this year my class was given the opportunity to carry out a pilot programme to begin instituting the use of mobile devices to allow the children to experience the benefits of a flat classroom. In other words, for them to experience learning outside the classroom which was not just a euphemism for doing work "chained" to a desk outside the school (ie bedroom, library, etc.).

Among the issues we dealt with in our preparations, was the issue of which devices we should have the children using. While cost was a factor in deciding which devices to use, it was not the most significant.

We had several options open to us. The first was to lease a class set of netbooks, which was quickly discounted due to our dissatisfaction with our current units. The second was to use own devices. The third, was to purchase and lease to parents a class set of iPad2s.

Our classroom demographics were the following: Fifteen children aged eleven. A slightly male bias in gender existed in the class. About 80% were EAL with good or very good levels of reading, writing and comprehension in English. All were experienced Constructivist Inquiry learners. The soci-economic status of the class was Upper Middle Class or greater with the vast majority of parents being graduates with professional degrees. The class were relatively versed in incorporating various forms of technology, from IWBs to various internet tools such as Google Docs and Dropbox as well as video and audio editing software, to personalise their learning. All but 2 had some form of mobile devices. Two had Apple products, the rest had Nokia smartphones, Blackberries and personal netbooks.

Our decion making revolved around several issues. So, I'll examine the issues in our circumstances for each of the two remaining options. We looked at iPad2 as a serious possibility. First, some children (20%) already owned Apple products and could help those for whom the operating environment was unfamiliar. Second, the support was such that if there was a serious problem we would have confidence the products would be supported. Third, portability and stress tolerance was important and we felt that the iPads, based on our research with other schools, could stand up to drama of a Primary school day. Fourth, screen size was important. We already had experience of netbooks whose screens were far too small in an effort to make them portable. Thus, iPads did provide a larger area to read on. Fifth, the large number of applications was seen as an added feature.

On the other hand, having the children bring in their own devices, also had its benefits. First, the devices were already in the children's pockets and school bags, thus the parental concern of "will it be used outside school?" was already answered. Second, these were devices the parents and children had already invested time in to investigate, learn and add apps which personalised the device. Third, the devices had no learning curve for basic functionality. Fourth, the concern over small screens was discussed, but since the children were not spending a significant number of hours staring at the screens this was less of a concern. Moreover, most devices had a relatively simple text enlargement method. The children were asked if they felt the screens were difficult to look at or navigate and they all said 'no, otherwise we would not have bought ----." It is important to keep in my we ran quite a pragmatic and agnostic programme. The children could bring in any device they felt comfortable using. As a result we saw some swapping one device for another from home until they had one they felt satisfied their needs.

In the end we went with own devices. Surprisingly, we had few connectivity issues after the "get networked" day, where all the kids brought in their devices, the IT rep was there and within 30 minutes all the devices were online except two. Those two shared other devices with students.

The devices proved to be very little hassle at my end because the owners were quite reliable in terms of knowing how to use them. Moreover, in all cases, there was another learner in the class who had the same device and could lend support if needed. Hence we could get right to the learning engagement at hand.

The results from the children were that it was very successful. I had no discipline problems, work got done (on time!) and the enthusiasm was strong and maintained throughout the month. Overall the project was deemed a success. 

Have you had similar pilot projects? How did they turn out? What issues did you need to deal with? Did you go for own devices or tablets? I'd be very interested in your ideas and comments - thanks!


Wedding Discos said...

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Information Technology Jaipur said...

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liam_libby said...

This is great articles for those starting out or finding their new thinks.
I like this articles.
What is Assistive Technology? Assistive Technology is any item, piece of equipment, product or system, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified or customized that helps make life easier for a person who has a disability.

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