D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Are You a School Thinking of Using iPads/Tablets?

Sunday, June 15, 2014 3:30 PM

My daughter’s junior high school is wrapping up its first year with an iPad program. In this program, every junior high student in the division gets an iPad Mini. To collect feedback on the program they put out a survey asking parents what they thought. Included was a field for comments and I want to share what I wrote so schools, or parents with kids attending schools, who are thinking of adopting an iPad or other tablet/BYOD program can learn to avoid some of the pitfalls we experienced in our first year.

Class is in session, let’s begin…

As someone in the IT industry there were a number of concerns I’d like to raise about the iPad program. Let me first say that I think integrating technology into the school curriculum is fantastic and I applaud the School Division for attempting this. As will always happen with new programs, there will be things to adjust. My feedback is intended to raise issues I believe need to be looked at closer.

Teacher Awareness and Training

It became obvious throughout the year that teachers were not trained in utilizing iPads effectively/properly in the classroom or given the opportunity/time to create ways to integrate the technology with the existing curriculum. The extent of iPad use by my child was Math vs. Zombies, creating videos and presentations for classes, email (we’ll get to that in a second), and using a fitness app which required them to lie about their age to access the content. The perception formed is that teachers were given these devices without adequate guidance or time to integrate the devices/applications into the curriculum delivery plan. I would suggest that teachers be given direction and time to determine how to best integrate applications and usage scenarios into the day-to-day teaching.

Security and Device Management

Security was not thought through for this program and my fear is that many parents who are not as technically savvy left their children open to various vulnerabilities. There is no reason that parents should have been left to oversee the management and security of a school-provided device.

The tablets should have been maintained centrally through the division, as other organizations do. Parents who did not want their children to have email accounts, let alone Apple IDs, were forced to create them anyway – regardless of whether they were used or not. That the school required students to know their Apple ID resulted in students being given the ability to load and install applications on their iPads. My daughter’s friends had Instagram, Facebook, and other social media applications installed and accounts created; some of these restrict users to being 18 or older. This is important – the iPad program allowed students access to social networks their parents may not have known about and that the school was not policing! Furthermore because internet usage was only controlled through the school’s network, parents may have been unaware of their children’s internet activities either through home or free wi-fi access points. If the iPads were not easily configurable to be centrally managed by the division, then perhaps these were the wrong device to be selected for this initiative.

When we were told the students would be using iCloud, the assumption (wrongly) that I made was it was going to be cloud-based storage for uploading class assignments and *not* an email address that students would use for contact with teachers and students. This was an email account that parents were not given access to. The school division provided a communication channel that parents had absolutely no insight or control of and I believe in many cases without our awareness or permission. If I had known an iCloud account equated to an email account, I would have had a much different discussion with my daughter and possibly with the school. Parents must be told how their children will be interacting online when mandated by the school.

Guidance on Online Behaviour – Students and Parents

To my knowledge there was little (if any) instruction or discussion about online behaviour. In a time when we’re heightened to bullying, the school division enabled every child to potentially be an online bully, to be victimized by online predators, or to simply make mistakes that will stay with these kids for their lives (i.e. posting pictures/videos). Sessions on the internet – how to be safe, how you should interact with others online, how to protect oneself, how to identify devious behaviour (phishing, email/social media scams, etc.) – should have been part of the program.

Additionally there must be more resources and support for parents who are left with managing many aspects of the iPads outside of the school. Not everyone is tech savvy or has access to people who can help. As someone in technology (as I’m sure other parents are), I’d have no problem volunteering to help with workshops or information sessions to help parents fully understand their role in this initiative. I’d encourage you to reach out to parents as resources in this way.

In Summary

Thrilled that we’re encouraging students to take advantage of technology.

Technology for its own sake does not solve problems, it only introduces them.

We need to protect our children better. More security, education, and oversight is required.

We need teachers to have a plan on how to integrate the iPads/applications into the curriculum.

We need parents to be more involved in the program.

If you have any other questions or would like to discuss further, please let me know.

Thanks,

D’Arcy Lussier




Feedback

# re: Are You a School Thinking of Using iPads/Tablets?

It is a real shame that the school didn't make proper use of the tablets. Seems like there should be some applications out there which could be well integrated into the curriculum.

It is amazing how far we've come in a few years. I remember in grade 10 giving the first powerpoint presentation anybody had ever seen. We had to move computers and run cables across the floor to a projector which had only ever been used for projecting TV. The powerpoint itself was zipped and spanned across 3 disks. I had 3 sets of disks because floppy disks were crap. Man am I ever old. 6/16/2014 10:06 PM | simon

Post a comment