This is Part 1 of a multi-part article regarding iPad Pilot Programs.
An increasingly popular discussion topic in schools today is the idea of implementing a 1-to-1 program for students and staff using iPads. The main goal of this type of program is to equip each student and teacher with an iPad for use in each of his or her classes.
While this sounds like a no-brainer, this has sizable up-front costs and requires a fair amount of planning (both curricular and technological) before the dream can become a reality. The goal of this article is to introduce iPad options for a 1-to-1 program and discuss some of the steps that are necessary to develop a successful pilot program.
First, lets look at the 2 models available for purchase.
iPad 2 – 16/32/64GB
This is a tremendous choice and our top recommendation. Differences between the iPad 2 and the new iPad are relatively minimal – especially considering how these devices are used in a school setting (i.e. typically you will not be purchasing the 4G capable models). Save your money ($100 a device adds up) by getting the iPad 2.
Also, save money by only purchasing the 16GB model. There is no reason to get anything more for its use in the classroom. Besides, so many things are streaming now that you rarely have to store anything on the iPad itself.
The New iPad – 16/32/64GB
The new iPad is a great device – it really is. And if an enhanced display and slightly faster processor is important to your courses, then perhaps this is the way to go. Ninety-nine percent of the time, however, it isn’t important and therefore you can spend less to get essentially the same thing (iPad 2 vs new iPad).
What I will say is that if you will be handing these devices down for several years, it may make sense to get the ‘best available’ right now, knowing that in just a year the iPad 2 will be 2 generations old…not a deal breaker, but just a thought.
Having trouble making a decision? Buy the iPad 2. Done.
So, you’ve been introduced to the models available and have hopefully made your decision (or had it made for you). Great. Now, lets get into the nitty gritty about what needs to be considered prior to distributing the devices.
- Does your network infrastructure support wireless access from that many devices? Do you have a wireless network?
Wireless networking can be a breeze or your biggest headache. Starting your 1:1 as a pilot is great for this reason alone. This way, you can determine what changes need to be made to facilitate the devices you have and the devices you plan on adding to your system. Keep in mind that at any time you may need to have 30+ devices connected to one access point. If you are going to be developing this network from scratch – go big. Don’t mess around with consumer level products. Use professional level equipment (i.e. Cisco) – doing so will likely make life easier for everyone.
For reference, we have a vast wireless network that could realistically serve all 2500 of our students with a wireless device. I feel that this is still a little uncommon, but will be the norm in the near future.
- Will student textbooks be included on the iPad?
Different schools do it in different ways. Some utilize the iPad as a tool, and others (like ours) combine the functionality of the iPad as a tool with the ability for it to be a student’s textbook. It is not a dream world yet for digital texts. Many still cost the same amount as their physical counterparts, and have a ‘shelf-life’ of anywhere from 1 to 3 years of use before it conveniently deletes itself.
How we did it: we have three classes, two courses piloting iPads. Each course has a different type of text. One is a PDF version (iBooks) and the other is web-based through McGraw-Hill. We hands down prefer the PDF version. Why? It is always available. No matter if the network goes down or if they are in the car on a road trip, they always have access to it.
- What management style will you adopt for the iPads?
This is a tricky question with a multitude of answers. I haven’t talked to two people who have done it the exact same way yet. Honestly, this is a good thing. It likely means that each building is sizing up their resources, understanding their students and staff, and determining what will work and what won’t. Here are a few options:
How we did it: We currently follow the MBWA model for several reasons. We used to be a highly restrictive district with regards to technology. That model changed a few years ago and now we have a little more freedom in the way we can manipulate our devices to do what we need them to do. The decision to not ‘lock down’ the devices came from the idea that they already had access to a bricked machine that they couldn’t customize (the desktop computers in the Labs). Mobile computing is so personal – without the ability to make it their own (within reason, of course), the iPad would just be another ‘school computer.’ We have had great success with this method during our pilot program.
- Will you provide apps for students or will it be entirely up to them to pay for/download the apps?
There are a couple options here:
If you choose management software, you will be able to determine which apps will be included on their devices from the get go. This is commonly referred to as the Master Image, or a common setup that will be used for each iPad. Some of the tools above even support wireless push, which will let you update apps, add apps, and even remove apps wirelessly.
Another option is to have students use their own AppleID to pay for/download apps. This model allows for students to retain the apps after they leave the building, as it will be tied to an account they own. This model also saves the district a little cash as the cost of the apps is pushed onto the students.
A third option is to use your district’s AppleID to get an initial offering onto the iPad. Through the Volume Purchase Program, educational institutions get discounts for buying apps in bulk. This is definitely something to look into, no matter which model you choose. If you want, after downloading the apps, you can set controls to restrict the downloading of any additional apps. If you choose this model, I would DEFINITELY not stay logged in as the district account and give the students the iPad. Not because they could buy apps (you can turn that off in your account), but because any free app the download gets linked to your district account. What a mess!
How we did it: This is the fourth option as well. We did a hybrid between 2 and 3 – signing into our district account to get all the paid-for apps we wanted the students to have on their device, then logging out and letting them login to their own AppleID account. We did not restrict application downloads, so students were able to customize their device with the apps they felt most comfortable using. Every so often, we go back into the classrooms and update the district purchased apps with a randomly generated password that gets changed after the update. Hasn’t failed us yet.
- Will these devices be paperless or will you want them to have print capabilities?
We decided that our devices would not be allowed to print. There are plenty of ways to distribute and share information via apps and websites. Not once have we been asked for the ability to print from the device by any teacher or student. Awesome!
If you do want them to be able to print, however, you will need to use AirPrint enabled printers (easiest option). There is software available to emulate AirPrint on your computer to enable use of non-Airprint network printers. Find out about this software here.