Bah. I had my final part of my ‘make better resources’ scheduled for tonight, but the Twitterati have taken a keen interest in iPads for some reason, hence me dragging up old posts. I have since left the job I was in when I wrote the last posts, but I suppose I should conclude the story.
I will be fairly brief.
In the final year of my last job, we rolled out the iPads. Staff training was done on a carousel so that each member of staff over the year went to six different twilight sessions on various teaching and learning topics. I ran the ‘technology’ one, which started out as iPad training. Staff found the training useful, but I had my doubts over whether or not they would be able to use the iPads effectively with only an hour’s training. Rotating the class set around departments every half term was definitely the right thing to do, as they were used regularly for the first term or so. But what happened over a relatively short space of time was disheartening. Both the padding for the custom case (that fitted all the iPads in for charging / syncing) and the cables became damaged through poor care.
No members of staff really took responsibility for them and they were difficult to monitor (I was ‘in charge’ of training for them, although this was a self elected role and not official by any means, but no single member of staff was directly responsible for them. No-one could feasibly check them after each lesson apart from the teacher that used them.
Many members of staff that did use them didn’t really appreciate just how strictly you needed to stick to the rules (leave ten minutes at the end of the lesson to safely collect the iPads, check each one in case it was locked etc) and so inevitably over a month or so, iPads started ‘dropping’ from the pack. By this I mean they were either locked by unknown students – which causes HUGE problems as you have to re-flash the iPad, which can take hours, or more worryingly, they had inappropriate images on them, or students had ‘annotated’ (see: written ‘dick head’ etc) photos of other students left on them from a previous session. This was causing an uneasy safeguarding issue.
Other iPads ‘dropped’ simply because they could no longer connect to the Wi-Fi, or they lost their allocated ‘profile’ (I have no idea how to this day). Fixing these issues was a complete nightmare, as I was the only one willing to even bother, and let me stress again, this was NOT my issue, I took them on unofficially simply because I couldn’t bare the thought of all that money being spent on tech just for it to rot in a cupboard.
On the very few occasions where I felt I could move priorities around to free up an hour to try to address the issues, I had very little support from our IT guys (see the earlier posts. Outsourced IT meant a lack of interest essentially), and worse still, the Apple Configurator seemed to be very buggy and would not load profiles onto iPads half the time. Not only would it not load the profiles, it wouldn’t decide it couldn’t load the profiles until it had sat trying for over an hour. Where was I supposed to find all the time to address these issues time, and time again!? It was looking pretty dire. I had almost had enough when a major IOS update essentially forced iPads to update when I plugged them in, which meant that I ended up with a few iPads with a completely different IOS on them to the others – ones that were working fine so I didn’t dare plug them in to update in case they joined the few that wouldn’t accept a profile anymore.
Then the final straw came. I begrudgingly collected them from a department so that I could deliver the fourth (of six) training session around February, only to discover that one iPad had a smashed screen and no-one had reported it. I later found inappropriate downloaded images on two other iPads. No teacher knew anything about any of it, because they were not being checked after lessons. With zero support, no time to even begin to figure out this mess on my own, and an increasingly worrying potential safeguarding mountain forming, I took the decision to stop using the iPads for classes. Instead we gave most of them to senior leaders and the SEND department, and an iPad each to two departments to use as lone devices.
I don’t want this to discourage schools from looking into using tablets in classrooms, but I think it’s important to know the difficulties you may face. My school jumped head first without any prior planning BECAUSE iPADS!!! You have been warned.