In the rush to get tablets into the hands of our students are we forgetting the principals of good planning that we’ve built up over the last 20 years?
I’m currently involved in the early stages of planning a 1:1 iPad roll out for one of the schools my team support. The project is really exciting to be involved with, but trying to make long-term plans in a market which is still immature and fluctuating is incredibly difficult.
The decisions we make will not only affect every teacher and student but also the school’s budget and the finances of every single family involved in the scheme.
Below are some of my initial thoughts on the project. As we progress I will document the different stages and choices we made during development.
Does every student really need an iPad?
For me, this an easy question to answer. While I would agree that there isn’t enough solid research to conclude that each student having a personal device in the classroom equates to improved student attainment, the general consensus is that personal mobile devices do have a positive influence on learning. Whether this is by improving student – teacher engagement, increasing engagement, or simply making technology more accessible most schools that have a BYOD or 1:1 strategy find that it has had a positive influence in the classroom.
But, contrary to what you may expect, the affect on teaching and learning will not be the primary reason to promote BYOD in schools. In fact maintaining the status quo may be impossible. The question isn’t whether students need mobile technology, it’s how urgent is the demand.
In the very near future every student, from our youngest to our oldest, will have a personal mobile device. The student without a tablet or phone will be the exception not the rule, and schools will be forced to accept BYOD as a normal part of school life. The only area of contention is timescale, and whether this is something we need to push through or can wait for it to develop organically.
1:1 is not a way to shift costs from the school
Part of our 1:1 discussion was how to make the case to parents that having them enter into a lease agreement for their child was necessary. I’m convinced that as a school we can demonstrate a definite benefit to teaching and learning, but there are organisation that are using potential financial saving to look at BYOD leasing schemes.
The idea that in a state system we should require parents to purchase an expensive item in order to benefit their child’s education in not sustainable in the long term. It raises issues such as segregation in an otherwise free education system. We’re essentially saying to parents, “unless you buy this £400 device you child’s education will be negatively affected.”
One supplier contacted me using this sentence in their promotional material:
“BYOD programs generally shift costs to the user, therefore, cutting school costs. 50 percent of schools with BYOD models are requiring teachers to cover all costs, no expense back or stipend.”
To say I was outraged was an understatement. The clear indication is that schools should use BYOD as an excuse to cut ICT spending by dumping costs on to teachers and parents. Costs savings are a genuine reason to promote BYOD, but not the primary reason and certainly not at the expense of teachers.
In the coming years, as tablets and other mobile devices become ubiquitous the argument for school leasing schemes, particularly iPads will weaken. When a parent can walk the local supermarket and pick up a good tablet for £100, the £380 offering of an iPad from the school looks much less attractive.
Tablets will become essential tools in all aspects of our lives. They are the every man’s way of accessing a world of information, but we need more Ford Fiesta and less Rolls Royce in our schools to continue this spread of mobile technology. The future of BYOD and 1:1 is in low cost devices that reflect consumer choice and, more importantly, the choices of students.
School leadership presently finds itself in an awkward position. We have to be seen to be pushing the boundaries of technology while at the same time being mindful that we have a responsibility to plan for the next three, four, or five years of a student’s education.
Schools should concentrate less on providing hardware and more on services which encourage students to purchase devices without putting pressure on parents. Coming from an educational technologist this may sound contradictory, but instead of sprinting headlong into expensive leasing schemes and short term platform decisions we should tread carefully. Allow BYOD to develop organically and let our students lead.
Very few people are prepared to say, “let’s wait a few years,” but maybe this is just what we should be doing.