This year my school has launched a BYO iPad program for students in all year levels. (Woohoo!) This means students bring their own iPad to school each day and take it home at the end of the day. The iPads have specific requiements, including a list of apps set by the school. We are fortunate to have a strong Digital Learning Program in place in the school and the iPad program has been well received by families, with something like 80% participation.
Parents had the option to lease an iPad or buy one and most have chosen to buy their own. As there are still a number of students in each class who don’t have their own iPad, there are a small number of school iPads available to use in each class.
Here are some of the benefits and issues I have encountered from a classroom teacher point of view.
Some of the benefits:
- Obviously, each student having an iPad is awesome! It allows integration of technology with so much more access for students, and they seem to be taking more ownership over their use of technology more readily.
- Something really exciting to see is the way students are trying out new things at home using what they have learnt at school. This is might be an app they have learnt to use, but applied in a different context. Or they might try repeating a task they did at school but use technology to do it a different way.
- To participate in the program, students had to sign an acceptable use agreement, and they are really stepping up and taking an amazing level of responsibility over their iPads. They are sensible, careful and organised.
- Staff members know the value of the program. In any situation, there are always different levels of understanding for teachers. Now that all staff members are expected to readily take part, I feel that the conversations are opening up on digital learning, and some of the resistance has disappeared and been replaced with enthusiasm.
Some of the issues:
- Many of the parents understandably had questions and concerns regarding liability for cost in the event that their child’s iPad was damaged by another student. The program agreement document stated that the school would not be liable, and parents are being encouraged to insure their devices. Obviously, this is
- The above issue makes group tasks difficult. I have told students in my class that when they are working with a partner or group, the owner of the iPad is the only person allowed to touch the iPad. It is a practical way to deal with the issue, but it goes against other values that we encourage with students, such as sharing and taking turns. This is a difficult balance and requires a lot of unpacking with the students.
- Some students don’t have their own iPads. It is difficult to manage which of these students, if any, gets to use the spare class iPads and when. On one hand, their parents have chosen (for whichever reason) not to provide an iPad, so they are not entitled to use one when the rest of the students are, and on the other hand, I want them to have the same exposure as the other students.
- Not all students have downloaded all the required apps, despite a clear list and ample time to get them. This is difficult to manage until you can follow them all up with parents.
- Having to get 500ish iPads individually connected to the school network is a slow process, so it can be a while before the kids have internet access.
It has been a rocky road to start this journey. There have been many difficult and stressful situations but ultimately it is the beginning of a great move towards creating a 21st Century school environment that is technology rich, with teachers and students that are digitally literate, global citizens who connect and share with the world.