Distributing iPads - What is the Best Way to Share Your Technology?
By Nick Acton
Do you have iPads? Are you thinking about purchasing a set? How many? Where are they going? Are they for teachers? Are they for learners? Are they for both?
The distribution decisions for your set of devices can be more impactful than you might think. Where the iPads go and what you do with them in the early days of an iPad journey is a tricky business. In our experience, most schools opt for a class set that roams around the school. This is an organisational decision that seems to be clinging on from the days of laptop trollies. I have nothing against this approach. However, I do think it is worth exploring the other possibilities.
Let’s look at the different ways a set of 30 iPads could be rejigged around Primary School classrooms for example. It doesn’t matter if you have the technology already or if you are just on the cusp of acquiring some, if you are in a primary school, I strongly suggest that you try some of these different scenarios out.
iPads for Teachers
In my opinion this is the perfect place to start. Why not begin your journey by handing out a select number of iPads to the teachers? This way, the staff can get to know the devices from a teaching point of view. Distributing the iPads in this way not only gives the teaching cohort a head start, it also means that they can explore apps specifically for teaching. This can enable them to develop their technological pedagogy, which is a different side of the iPad coin. Narrowing and concentrating the device use can result in some really innovative teaching techniques. Asking a classroom teacher to hand out thirty iPads in any lesson can be daunting. If nothing else, this approach takes away some of the pressure.
5 iPads in each Classroom
Placing a small number of devices in every year group is a more manageable way of embedding the iPads into day-to-day teaching. Ultimately, the technology becomes another learning tool available to the children. The class can turn to the iPad as another source of information. It’s not uncommon to have five table groups in each class. In this scenario, each table group could look after an iPad and use it as a learning resource. Likewise, all five can be pulled together for small group tasks. During carousel activities, one of the options could be iPad focused. Following this model means that the teacher can also gain access to an iPad for teaching at any point. It’s win-win. Of course, approaching the distribution in this way means that you cannot do whole-class activities.
15 iPads in two Classrooms
Rather than officially gifting the iPads to two classes as sets of 15, why not have this as an option available within the construct of ‘5 iPads in each Class’? In other words, enabling the teachers to ‘borrow’ two sets from other classes for specific lessons might be a good way to go. Providing one iPad between two means that every child some hands-on time. For many classes, working in pairs is natural. Some children even prefer to work as a small team. A classroom teacher can begin to really delve into the ins and outs of learning with iPad. In this sense, technology can become an integral part of the lesson. Programming lessons can be achieved. The iPads can be used as a means of presenting whole class information. And ultimately, 15 iPads is (in my opinion) still very manageable.
30 iPads in a Classroom
Again, the iPads don’t necessarily have to be constantly grouped together as a set of thirty. There is no reason why the same ‘borrowing’ system can apply. Any teacher could ask to borrow all of the iPads for specific lessons. Amassing all thirty iPads will bring a myriad of possibilities. Every child can use one as a personal learning device. Each pupil can create their own content in a lesson. The teacher can use apps to collect assessment data on the whole class and individuals alike. Enabling 1:1 in the classroom essentially opens up every child’s learning freedom. They have the ability to work at their own level and use the devices how ever they see fit. This scenario lends itself to more creative and flexible tasks. Technologically driven lessons are extremely engaging and can be very enriching but it’s not always right for every single subject.
Of course, many schools have more than 30 iPads. Some are even lucky enough to have enough devices for every child in the school. However, if you can’t reach those technological heights, I think that taking a flexible and/or spread out approach to distributing your iPads can have some brilliantly positive effects. Firstly, providing your class with 1:1 devices every so often can help to keep the excitement levels at an all time high. It’s no secret that children can be extremely fickle. Whilst the positives of a 1:1 project far outweigh the negatives, it’s true that the iPads can become like second nature to a class that are exposed to them all the time. Placing 5 iPads in every classroom provides everyone with more access to technology. A teacher can use one whenever they want to. Individual children can pull out an iPad if they need to. Grouping together 15 iPads is twice as accessible as ‘borrowing’ the full 30. That is another argument against rigid class sets. If you have years 1 to 6 and five lessons in a day, 15 iPads can be used 12 times. Providing a ‘booking system’ for 30 iPads in a class set halves that accessibility straight away.
When all is said and done, truly impactful iPad utilisation can only really be achieved when the devices are being used as often as possible. The more they are planned into lessons, the more comfortable everyone is with them. They can become a learning tool that is as natural as the whiteboards or a calculator. That is why I think it’s worth thinking about your distribution and what effect it might have. Start at the core of all iPad use. Start with the teachers. Get everyone up to speed and then unleash them on the children. Access is key. If you are finding that your ‘Class Set’ is not being booked out as much as you would like, maybe it’s time to mix it up.
Nick Acton is an Apple Curriculum Specialist at JTRS as well as being a part-time Computing and Music teacher. Through the creation of bespoke training, Nick specialises in empowering educators so they can embed Apple technologies into their day-to-day classroom practice.