Google and iPad: Friends for education?

Last week I had the privilege of attending the South African Google Summit for Education.  It was a magical and inspiring, yet frustrating two days.

My biggest frustration stems from a stark realisation that most South African children are being left behind, without access to the many wonders that Edtech continues to develop and highlight.  However, that is a whole other post, one which I will hopefully do justice to in the future.

My other main frustration stemmed from the often incompatible nature of different ecosystems, namely Google and Apple, within an education context.

As many of you will know, I work as an iPad facilitator, and truly believe that Apple’s hardware line is exceptional for teaching and learning.  On the other hand, I also love numerous Google Apps, including Gmail, calendar, forms…

As I was planning my presentation titled ‘Google Apps on the iPad’, I struggled to come up with opportunities that were both creative and educational.  However, when I decided to integrate my favourite Google and iPad apps, the magic started happening.

Below is my presentation, excluding sound and film clips.  If you would like access to the full keynote, please email me at talslome@gmail.com

6 steps towards a successful iPad school rollout

I have spent much time discussing and reviewing iPad rollout programs in schools over the past half year, and while I am by no means an expert, I have noticed different approaches; some have been more successful than others.

I have put together a list of some steps which I believe increase the chances of a smooth, successful, educational and sustainable iPad rollout.

Research, research, research

The importance of researching prior to committing to any program, let alone a technology rollout cannot be overstated.  One of the key indicators of success in the schools I have encountered has been their dedication to researching prior to implementing.  By research, I am referring to:

– Reading research papers and other literature about iPads in the classroom

– Consulting with/visiting schools that have existing iPad programs

– Testing the iPad prior to committing

– Investigate tech setup/upgrade (Wifi etc) that might be required by speaking with different providers/tech consultants

‘Plumbing’ 

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to keynote speaker Abdul Chohan from ESSA Academy present.  He kept stressing the importance of both reliability and simplicity of resources for teachers to successfully use these. In particular he noted the importance of having the ‘plumbing’ in place prior to embarking on device purchasing.

This is an extremely important step – unless time, effort and finances are invested in upgrading your tech setup, an iPad program is unlikely to succeed.  Teachers, students and parents alike will become frustrated with the lack of connectivity and will not be inspired to use the iPads in a meaningful classroom setting.

When budgeting for an iPad program, it is extremely important to factor in any costs to upgrade connectivity and any other technology infrastructure that has been identified.

Parent involvement

While many parents are excited at the prospect of their children learning new skills, many are similarly apprehensive of an iPad rollout – they are often unfamiliar with the benefits of edtech, and are used to ‘old styles’ of teaching.  To overcome their apprehension, it is a great idea to be open and honest from the beginning as to the school’s plan.

One option is to host an open forum for parents prior to purchasing any iPads, where they are encouraged to raise any concerns, ask any question and so on.  Such an approach is likely to alleviate fears and gain parent support for an eventual rollout.

Teacher training

Like parents, teachers are often nervous about and unsure of their role in the iPad classroom.  It is important for teachers to understand and be made to feel that they will not become redundant once the iPads are introduced; rather, they will be able to better support individual student needs, as they step back and observe which students require additional support.

Once the iPad rollout has begun, it is beneficial for teachers to receive extensive training on the device.  Suggestions include: how to use certain apps; which apps are suitable for developing different skills; workflow, lesson planning and assessment suggestions and so on.   This training can be carried out in a number of ways – Bronwyn Desjardins, ICT Integration and Resource Centre Coordinator at St Sthithians Girls Prep finds it beneficial to sit with teachers 1 on 1 each week: ‘I don’t dictate what we will discuss in the sessions; it is the teacher’s time and space to receive support in whichever area they need.  I find that in such a personal setting, teachers feel non threatened and are openminded.’

Another option which some schools have implemented is to have an ‘iPad Champions’ group.  This group is made up of teachers that have expressed a keen interest in being involved in an iPad pilot at their school; they meet regularly, sharing successes and challenges.

Pilot Program

Rather than purchasing iPads (or asking parents to do so) for each student, it is a good idea to run a pilot program.  Much thought should be given to which grade level/class should be involved in the pilot, taking into consideration questions such as:

What is the long term plan?

Which students/grade/s is best suited for the rollout?

Who will be responsible for the pilot?

How are you going to track the success of the pilot?

How will Apple IDs, app purchases etc be managed?

Student preparation

Once the pilot has been established, it is a good idea to prepare students for the rollout.  If you have a technology teacher/specialist, it is worthwhile them teaching the students how to use certain apps, safety/security issues etc.  This will take the pressure off apprehensive teachers, as well as empower students for when they begin using the iPads.

Final words

Hopefully these suggestions are helpful.  Although there is obviously no guarantee that any educational program will succeed, thinking about these issues and setting in place certain procedures should help in achieving a meaningful and sustainable iPad program.