Implementing tablet devices in your school or classroom can be a daunting task, with a host of issues to consider and many things that can go wrong.
However, with the right planning, considerations and support, the benefits can far outweigh the upheaval. Here are 10 key pieces of advice.
Set your vision
For your device scheme to be a success, set clear guidelines and have a well-structured approach. It is good practice to have an overall learning vision for your device implementation. This should align with your school’s overall objectives, and detail how devices can help students to achieve their goals, and improve teaching and learning.
Devices can be an amazing and engaging way to deliver teaching and learning, and can significantly improve opportunities in the classroom, but you must make sure your objectives for the scheme are dictated by the curriculum – not the devices.
Share your vision with the team
Without your team on board, you will not gain the support and trust you need to ensure a positive impact on teaching and learning.
You should be prepared for negative comments and feedback on your decision to introduce devices – not all teachers will think it is a brilliant idea. An all-staff meeting will make it easier to talk to everyone and stop hearsay and gossiping about the initiative. Reassure sceptics, listen to their questions and worries and try to address them early on.
You can provide drop-in sessions for any staff who do not want to speak up during a question and answer session.
As you roll-out the scheme, consider introducing a device buddy scheme to allow those who are confident with the new technology to assist those who are less so.
Allow time to see improvement and do not get put-off by teething problems. Some benefits will be clear straight away, but, as with many things in the world of technology, it may take time to reap the full rewards.
Make sure you know how you will measure the success of implementation and set an overarching goal that aligns with your learning vision. You will then find it easier to set goals separately within each department. Set up discussion meetings with your heads of departments to agree success measures – no two departments will be able to measure success in the same way due to teaching methods and curriculum requirements.
Speak to your peers
Do not be afraid to ask peers for advice. Whatever the problem you encounter, the chances are a school of a similar size, with similar strengths and challenges, has already solved it. Try and speak to more than one school to understand the different ways you can implement devices.
If there is no support network in your local area, why not set one up? You will not be the only school thinking about implementing devices or the only one trying to find out more information.
Forums like Edugeek can be a great help too, so do not be afraid to ask questions. No matter how basic you may think it is, someone will be able to answer you and offer the support you need.
Get buy-in from key stakeholders
Stakeholders of all varieties need to be informed. It is a personal choice when and how they are included, but the more support you can gain from governors and the PTA for example, the easier it will be to implement devices.
Keeping stakeholders informed can be tricky during the planning stages, and providing dates for roll-out that have not been set in stone may cause confusion. Do not release any information until you have your plan, and teachers are all ready and raring to go.
Sharing responsibilities with some stakeholders can help to ease the burden of controlling a roll-out scheme of this size and scale. You could consider including a governor or a member of the PTA on your roll-out team to keep key stakeholders involved.
Set your budget
Prioritise the budget at the start. Understand all the costs before you commit, and not just of the device itself. Think about all areas of the project, from where you will store your devices right through to additional training. Other items you need to consider are:
You should not panic too much about buying apps, as many of the best ones are free or are offered with a notable discount to schools buying in bulk.
Carry out an infrastructure survey
You should carry out an internal IT infrastructure survey. Without the correct infrastructure, your device roll-out will simply not work. You should consider:
Is your wi-fi network strong enough to host up to 1,200 devices?
Does your wi-fi distribute a good signal across the entire school?
How will everyone print wirelessly?
Do you have the right IT team and in-house skills to manage your devices?
The most effective way of carrying out an internal infrastructure review is to do a survey, looking at what you already have in place. Get your technical team involved – they will understand in great detail what you have in place, and should know the capability of your existing networks and wi-fi infrastructure.
Students are hopefully going to be buzzing with excitement as soon as word gets around about the arrival of your new devices. Be clear and honest with them from the start. Before your devices arrive, set up “Device Doctors” in different areas of the school to allow students to drop by and ask questions. You could also create a mechanism for students to ask questions anonymously: children may be digital natives but some will still be embarrassed if they have to ask questions publicly.
Get parents involved
You need to get parents on board. I recommend you invite them to an evening dedicated to the roll-out scheme. Before the session, make sure you have created parent handbooks. It is a good idea after the main evening to hold additional twilight sessions for parents to help them get to grips with the new devices. Not all parents have access to mobile devices at home, so let them know you are on hand to help.
Include a named person within your handbook so they know who to contact with any questions, and consider creating a forum on your website to allow parents to help each other with any issues.
Out with the old
Once you are happy that you have planned for every eventuality (you would not want to get caught short on a staff training day for example) you may want to consider reducing the number of desktops you operate. If you have contracts with suppliers you may just be able to return them or arrange for their collection. Alternatively, you could make sure desktop PCs go to good use by donating them to schools in less developed countries.
Further informationEdugeek: www.edugeek.net
Hylton Cornish is head of education and community services at Frog.