Smart phones and tablet computers are becoming increasingly powerful, and with their improved capabilities they are becoming increasingly popular too, with a huge number of applications and devices being built specifically for them. They are also becoming more affordable and very fashionable; I would bet that most children who can afford one already have one. But what are children doing with them? These devices aren't toys - it isn't like having a bag of marbles or a yoyo - these devices are powerful learning and creativity tools that are incredibly useful for sourcing information and recording it. It would be a waste if they are only being used for playing games, watching videos, listening to music and going on Facebook. So, should we be teaching children to use them properly? Using an iPad, they could be taught how to write a piece of music, create a piece of art, take an artistic photo, create a movie or shoot a pop video or podcast. For more formal learning, they could write a poem, read a book, watch a documentary or play a game that would help their spelling, maths, or problem solving skills. All these activities would typically be quite expensive for the school and the student, requiring equipment, books or a computer.
There are, of course, barriers preventing schools from instantly introducing lessons using this technology; the cost (all the students need the same technology), the security, and the question of whether schools and their management teams, governors, teachers and parents are ready for it. It is also unfortunate that the general public will undoubtedly be brought into the debate by the sensationalistic media with headlines such as "School dishes out iPads for kids in middle of recession!".
So this article will look to bat away the excuses and look at the facts and figures of introducing handheld technology into schools.
Can we afford to ignore technology?
The biggest question is bound to be "how can a school afford to give all its students an iPad with the Government cuts and the rest of us feeling the pinch?". This question is easy to answer - the school can't.
However, the school doesn't need to. With iStudent, each student can be supplied with an iPad for less than £20 a month, which is accessible to most families and by setting up a donation scheme the parents that can afford more than £20 a month can help subsidise those that can't. For the school, it's a win/win situation as they don't have to buy or maintain their own computers (saving huge costs) and their students get the latest and best technology. Students or parents do have to invest money, but they will directly reap the benefits and many would be buying an iPad or similar device themselves anyway - and at a much greater cost. They will also save money on books and pens, etc (the environmental benefits of this would presumably get a big tick too).
With the financial barrier removed the question of affordability moves to how long can schools afford not to introduce handheld devices? How long can they teach children that their handheld devices are a hindrance that should be switched off or left at home, whilst professionals around the world are using them as an essential part of their daily work? How long can schools be giving their students the skills and tools they need to succeed in life without teaching mobile technology? These are strong questions and society may not be ready to accept that all children need an iPad in school just yet. But, at some point soon, the time will come when students and parents will be drawn towards schools that have embraced this technology and are teaching children how they can use these fantastic portable devices to learn and create whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. Imagine a child moaning about Facebook because it's boring, unproductive and time consuming and they have too many others things to do on their mobile device.
The next major obstacle for schools is deployment. As an individual, buying an iPad and connecting to the internet, downloading apps and avoiding dodgy sites couldn't be easier - in fact the reason Apple products have been so successful is this ease-of-use. For a school though, the thought of 900 boxed iPads arriving on the back of a truck one day to be configured, added to a secure network, locked down, distributed and accounted for on a daily basis is a major drawback. However, deploying iPads or iPod touches to every student in the class, year group or school, couldn't be easier. Regardless of the numbers, through the iStudent scheme all the units are tested and configured to connect securely into the schools IT systems. All the school needs to do is decide how secure they want the units to be and what software they want to be available, the rest is all taken care of.
By using latest software alongside Apple's Mobile Device Management (MDM) module for iOS, school IT administrators will be able to easily deliver the four major precepts of iOS MDM: Inventory, Configuration, Security Management and App Distribution. In other words, all the units can be managed quite easily from a central hub and the units can be set to synchronise during a set period or overnight whilst charging.
Safe and Secure
The two remaining serious objections have to be safety and security and what happens if a machine is lost or stolen has to be top of this list - again, with the iStudent scheme, this is taken care of. Amazingly, lost or stolen machines are replaced free of charge without any questions asked. There will of course be a password to protect the content from falling into the wrong hands, but you can also remote wipe any lost units and disable the unit's network connectivity for additional protection from hackers.
In terms of on-site security and managing content, the school can control almost any feature and software application when the unit is present on the network. So when the student walks into range of the network, the unit logs on and can disable hardware, such as the camera, or certain programs, such as Facebook. This means the school can let their students use them unsupervised, safe in the knowledge that they are not being misused or leading to distraction.
There are also mobile carts that can be used to charge, transport and secure the iPad or iPod touches. At the end of the day or the lesson, the students simply pop them into the cart, allowing the school account of them. IT administrators can configure the devices whilst they charging, ensuring that all devices are ready for student use the following morning/lesson.
What's the catch?
So far, the school has had to do nothing. They don't pay, they don't set them up, and they don't look after them. What do they do? Just teach.
There is no catch here and there is no need for public outcry. Nobody is being given a silver-spoon, no-one is being reckless in times of "financial austerity". This is simply a good idea, a good use of resources, and a fantastic way to improve our children's learning across the whole of society.
A lot of schools are looking at the implementation of iPod touches and iPads and with every day this list grows. If you don't already have a school nearby you can talk to then it probably won't be long before there is. A simple search in Google for "ipad in school uk" will give quite a few reports of schools around the country installing iPads which are well worth reading.
Apple themselves are creating an increasing list on their website, http://www.apple.com/uk/education/resources/profiles.html, so you can check that out, but very few schools are actually going through Apple directly.
If you are interested in finding out more about the DV Square iStudent plan then call 01708 771986, email firstname.lastname@example.org or read the article http://www.mveducation.com/news/DV%20Education%20introduces%20a%20Square%20deal%20on%20Apple%20Com/133144.