There has been much made of advances in technology over the years and how improvements in technology will transform education. As good and helpful as technology is, few, if any, of these claims have come to fruition. Generally speaking PCs and laptops, along with the concurrent explosion of the internet, have been useful in the processes of teaching and learning but they have essentially been tools that have facilitated traditional practices.
In recent years, however, there has been a growing focus on mobile devices. This new technology and the resources that are available to it has the potential to be transformative in the processes of teaching and learning. Mobile devices, especially tablets, are more than a tool and have the potential to transform pedagogy and the processes of teaching and learning in the secondary years like none other. The ability to personalise the device and the portability of it makes it an incredibly powerful tool. Further, with iPads in particular, the software or 'Apps' available and the ability for teachers to make and publish their own content that is specific and immediately accessible to students is transfixing.
The ability for students to engage with 'live' content and interact with each other and the staff allows deep learning to take place and cannot be ignored. None of this can be achieved as simply and effectively as with iPads.
Apart from outstanding Apps and teacher produced content, there is an increasing trend towards textbooks being provided as either pdf or as an interactive iPad book. The benefits of electronic textbooks and in some cases workbooks is self evident. With the move towards the National Curriculum many of the textbooks will come as both eBooks and hardcopy.
While the hardware component of the iPad has been of interest for quite some time, the ability to configure the tablet with school content and manage the significant extra demands on the network has had its technological difficulties. As such the School has not pursued a move towards this technology until these matters were resolved.
Of late a number of developments have occurred that have made the management of iPads across a large number of students possible. Volume purchasing of Apps and software to centrally configure and administer the devices have now been 'released' by Apple and have made the integration of iPads into everyday teaching and learning possible.
There are two elements to the costing of this programme. First, is the cost of the iPad lease and associated costs and secondly, there is the cost of the infrastructure and administration.
In effect the School will be leasing each device for a three year period. The Student Activity Levy will rise by $330 per annum per student (Year 7 and 8 in 2013 and all other secondary students in 2014) to cover the cost of the annual lease payment, a cover, an extended warranty and a suite of Apps. After the three year period the ownership of the device will be transferred to the family and a new three year lease for a new device will be commenced.
There are considerable additional costs associated with providing the additional Wi-Fi bandwidth, the administration software and management of that number of devices. The ICT budget has been constructed to absorb these costs without further cost to individual families.
This approach provides for the most effective and efficient administration, lease agreements and purchase agreements with savings to be made because of bulk purchases.
The School would not be able to administer devices as effectively if the model was a BYOD (bring your own device) programme.
Macarthur has made a conscious decision to avoid BYOD programmes because of a number of administrative and management problems other schools have experienced. Because the School does not technically own any device under a BYOD programme, administration, management and service of the devices is fraught with complications.
While it is recognised that some families will already have access to an iPad for their children, the system the School wishes to roll out requires the School's ICT staff to be able to fully administer the device. This allows the School to have some control over the internet and the iPad's configuration, which would not be appropriate if the device was not leased directly by the School. The cost of the device, Apps and extended warranty has been kept to a minimum and spread over a three year period.
For students in Year 7 and upwards the device will 'sync' and update with both the School configured management system as well as a student's individual iTunes account if they have one. An iTunes account will not be necessary but can be established if the family wishes to do so. As iPads are designed to be personal devices, and hence the great benefit, students will be able to load their own Apps and 'sync' them across other compatible devices. Those Apps the School considers essential will be pre loaded and will not be able to be deleted until the end of the three year lease when ownership is transferred.
Each year in February, Year 7 will recieve an iPads. This usualy takes place in camp week and is accompanied by by an iPad orriantation session run by the IT Support staff.
Year 10 will receive thier new iPad during the first week of Summer Term.