I was involved with the technical support side of the deployment. With advice from our principal I came up with a set of instructions for the teachers to follow to set up the iPads and add some restrictions. I tested them on someone completely new to iPads and realised I needed to add a picture of the iPad to show where the buttons are, after all their position changes depending on how you pick it up. I also added images of the Settings and App Store icons so they could easily be found.
On Tuesday we had an iPad party for all of our teachers. Our principal, a very enthusiastic iPad user, talked about why we were using iPads (engaging for our children, clear links to learning, flexible, portable, personalised and fun).
Each teacher (and me in the library) was given four iPads, an Apple TV and a $50 iTunes gift card.
We asked the teachers to bring their laptops to the iPad party so that they could verify their Apple IDs. They set up all four iPads before loading any apps. This was so they could download apps to one iPad and have them automatically download to the other three iPads (do this by going to Settings, Store, and swiping apps on). There is a bit of a lag when this happens but it was successful. It avoided the necessity of having to sync to iTunes, making the set up simpler.
I know there is a lot of discussion about schools syncing multiple devices to one Apple ID. We took comfort in this email posted by a NZ educator who confirmed the situation with an iTunes employee.
Challenges with the Set Up
There were a few hiccups – existing Apple IDs with forgotten passwords and incorrectly redeemed iTunes gift cards were the main problems. It is disappointing that if you redeem the gift cards incorrectly it doesn't give an error message, instead it tries to get payment information from you when you want to purchase an app. The key is to watch for a message advising the amount of money you have just added to your account, then you know you have done the process properly.
We held drop in sessions for the following two afternoons and will have one more this Wednesday. Teachers were encouraged to take the iPads home to have a play and a substantial number of them were using the iPads the following day. There was a positive buzz in the staffroom as teachers swapped notes. This weekend some of the teacher aides have taken iPads home to have a look too.
We have created a frequently-asked questions Google doc where teachers can share iPad tips and have their questions answered. Currently this has information on updating apps and software, app selection sites and keyboard tips.
Each teacher is responsible for charging and looking after their iPads. There is no centralised computer that they need to sync with.
Benefits of School-Wide Deployment
In my opinion the choice to deploy across the whole school at once was a good one. Obviously we had the finances to be able to do so but what it has meant is that there are lots of ideas and discussions happening and everyone can join in. The teachers are learning and supporting each other. The allocation of individual iTunes gift cards means teachers have control over the apps on their iPads. A list of suggested apps was given but the remainder of money is up to the teachers to spend.
I went to an iPad conference recently and watched as two teachers struggled to download a suggested app because they didn’t have the appropriate password. This was very frustrating and demoralising for them and I’m glad we have avoided that.
Back in early May we advised parents via newsletter that iPads would be coming to the classroom. Another newsletter put out on Thursday talked about the iPad party and the introduction of iPads into classrooms. It also mentioned a deal that has been arranged with Noel Leeming for families who wish to use the same technology at home. The apps that were selected were put on the school website for parents to see. An expo that is planned for later this year was also described as a way to see the iPads in action.
I’ve been busy setting up the Apple TVs and showing teachers how to use AirPlay (fortunately all the TVs bar one have HDMI slots). The teachers are really happy that they can mirror their iPad to their TV without having to set up any cables like they do for their PCs. This will be a great way for them to share book apps and also to explain to their class how to use particular apps.
We had a wireless upgrade before the iPads were introduced. The biggest problem is that the Wi-Fi network that was set up requires you to log back in every time the iPads go to sleep. We have passed this on to our I.T. guru and hope to get it fixed soon. We also want him to find out why the videos we record do not play on Apple TV.
Some issues we have managed to fix for ourselves:
- AirPlay button is missing – this happens when the Wi-Fi isn’t connected
- Some apps are greyed out so you can’t purchase them – this is because of the restrictions we set up. The apps must have some content that is not suitable for children.
Overall I would say that it has been an excellent first week with the iPads. I will keep you informed as we move forward.