Six steps for a healthy start to iPad deployment in schools

Nambour Christian College will be deploying over 1000 iPads in 2013. It will be an exciting year and enable innovative teaching practice and dynamic learning opportunities. To ensure adequate preparation has been performed strategic steps have been taken. Our various implementations have future proofed the digital learning strategy and provided necessary footings to strengthen the foundations of our project.

STEP ONE: The Teachers
Digital technologies and equipment is at 'end of life' and requires ongoing maintenance and repair. Complete refreshment has been necessary and to determine what digital technologies should be employed teachers have been consulted. Using Microsoft One Note teachers were able to share their ideas about teaching and learning and identify the various resources and equipment that enhance educational practice. Staff worked in small teams, year levels and departments during the collaborative exercise. The intention of teacher involvement is to enable curriculum to guide technology decisions as opposed to traditional methods do technology determining praxis.

STEP TWO: The Families
The parent community was involved in a similar exercise. Surveys were distributed to families to create a picture of the home computer environment. The information provided insight into the number of computers within homes and whether any of the computers were able to be brought to school for use by their child (BYOD). The questionnaire also provided valuable insight into whether WiFi was used within the home environment and whether families preferred Windows or Apple platforms. The results of the survey inform decisions to ensure that they support parental needs.

STEP THREE: School Trends
Various schools were visited: private, independent and state. Conducting field research provided insight into what other schools were doing and how technology was being used to enrich learning. Approximately twelve schools were consulted and the qualitative and quantitative data provided rigour to our studies and investigations. From the research we were able to evaluate performance and identify concepts that would be applicable within our own institution.

STEP FOUR: Unpacking Data
Approaching teachers, parents and other schools provided triangulation. Having three sources provides solid facts that enable responsible decision making. Information was evaluated, discussed, deconstructed and analysed to form a strategy that suited educational context and our economic, social and learning culture. Many days, weeks and months must be set aside to allow deliberation as concepts and ideas are constructed, deconstructed and redesigned to formulate suitable models. Rather than selecting a device and making it 'fit', we have been guided by teaching and learning needs and paired it with a device that will support teaching and learning needs.

STEP FIVE: Budgeting, Infrastructure and Ordering
To empower users of technology adequate infrastructure must be provided. Detailed plans and assessment of room designs must be made. The mapping exercise must be detailed and include all the fine detail. The total cost of hardware must then be calculated and appropriate means of covering costs designed. A portion of costs can be covered through levies and varies fees or absorbed in other ways. Once everything has been decided the equipment, resources and devices are ordered. The Finance Department must become heavily involved to allocate funds and furthermore approval must be provided with each purchase to ensure expenditure does not exceed allocated funds.

STEP SIX: Preparation and Documentation
Presentations to teachers and parents are an important part of the entire process. While there may be various individuals that are opposed to the digital learning strategy that is being employed, comfort can be taken in the fact that thorough ground work has been conducted to support the vast majority of teaching and learning needs. Parent Information evenings and staff meetings create momentum and therefore are an important component of the process. Documentation must be published to support students, teachers and parents and should include everything from policies, terms and conditions of use as well as video tutorials, guides and manuals and step by step instructions. As the good old saying goes, "Fail to plan and you plan to fail". Information and supportive documentation needs to be everywhere. Email, Blogs and Portals are all appropriate means of educating the school community. Paper documentation should never ever be used because it defeats the entire philosophy behind digital pedagogy and undermines project purpose.

In conclusion, every school should take strategic steps in developing digital pedagogy. Strategic project design is important and it is imperative that technology does not drive teaching because teaching and learning should drive technological initiatives. Failure to put the horse before the cart will only see educational regression and prevent a learning community from reaching its potential.
Proposed iPad Case: The Gumdrop


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