George Cole kicks off a new series, for BETT 2013, on the mobile technology revolution and schools
In some schools, pupils sharing computers is a thing of the past. These schools have taken a bold step and adopted a policy of 1:1 computing. As the name suggests, 1:1 computing means students have their own personal devices, and it’s a growing trend in education, notes Valerie Thompson, chief executive of the e-Learning Foundation.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm in schools for 1:1 computing,” she says. “Two years ago, few people were looking at it, but we know of more than 100 schools that are doing large-scale implementations and purchasing hundreds of computers.”
There are benefits and pitfalls in opting for 1:1 computing, and schools need to consider many issues, says Dave Whyley, headteacher consultant for learning technologies for the city of Wolverhampton. “It’s a massive leap conceptually to go from an ICT suite to 1:1 computing," he explains. "Schools need to ask some fundamental questions before making the leap.
"Like 'Why do you want go down this road?' 'Will the devices go home with the students?' 'What about staff training (teachers will need to use the device before the students)?' 'How will you get pupil work on and off the devices?' 'How will the device integrate with other technologies, and how sustainable is the model you are adopting?' Ideally, you should have a three-year plan.”
Diana Bannister, development director for learning technologies at the University of Wolverhampton has conducted extensive research on 1:1 computing, including work in eight EU countries. She has identified 15 areas that schools need to consider before adopting 1:1 computing, including sustainability and the role of the commercial supplier.
The e-Learning Foundation has identified six major funding models
When every child has his or her own device, schools can start making savings on things such as IT suites, infrastructure and network management, says Valerie Thompson. There are various funding models for 1:1 computing and schools need to decide which one fits best. The e-Learning Foundation has identified six major funding models for 1:1 computing in schools, including parents making a contribution to the cost of the device, and using pupil premium funding to purchase devices or the school owning a pool of devices that are loaned to students. Some schools are also considering a bring-your-own-device strategy (more on this shortly).
As well as deciding what funding model to use, schools need to decide whether they plan to go for a whole-school implementation, with every student and teacher having their own device; or equipping a year group or a class group. There are now various devices on offer including tablets, laptops and mini-notebooks. “There’s a rush for tablets, and while I think they have a place in teaching and learning, I’m concerned that some schools are buying these devices without thinking about the long-term consequences,” says Hannah Jones, founder and director of Connecting Learning. She adds that there is a wide and growing range of devices out there: “Try and see them in action before you make a decision to purchase 30 tablets.”
“The Apple iPad is undoubtedly the device of choice for most schools,” notes Valerie Thompson. “You can see why: there’s a vast array of Apple distinguished educators [1,500 worldwide, 40-60 in the UK]; more than 60,000 educational apps; and you’ve got the whole marketing power of Apple.”
Discounts for IPads are hard to find, even for schools ordering hundreds of units, and iTunes, designed to handle music and videos for individual consumers is not ideal for managing multiple users. However, Apple launched its Volume Purchase Programme (VPP) in the UK in September, which allows schools to purchase apps in bulk at discount prices (up to 50 per cent).  Apple has also launched the Apple Configurator, a tool for configuring multiple devices with the same settings and apps.
Essa Academy in Bolton is currently rolling out iPads to all of its 900 pupils (the 140 staff already use them). Abdul Chohan, Essa Academy director says that his school chose the iPad because, “I wanted a complete ecosystem and we get that with Apple. If I want to display content on a large screen, for example, the iPad works seamlessly with Apple TV.”
Also significant in the decision to move students over from their iPods was the role of a software program called iBooks Author. This allows teachers using MacBook laptops to produce glossy, impressive curriculum materials that can be transferred wirelessly to students' iPads via Apple's own content service for education, iTunesU (it allows for instant updating of material too). This is a powerful support for Essa's policy of personalising the curriculum for all its students, a key factor in its success.
Apple is not the only option – savings are available elsewhere
Apple, however, is not the only option. And significant savings are available elsewhere. Avantis, a company based in Cardiff, markets the Android-based LearnPad tablet whose starting price of £199 makes it just over half the cost of a standard iPad (see "iPad rival with better price and flexibility – LearnPad2"). Nik Tuson, managing director of Avantis, says that tablets are ideal devices for 1:1 computing, being both light and portable. “Going for a class set of tablets has a number of benefits,” he says. “It’s more manageable and more affordable than a whole-school option.”
One issue with using a class set of devices is that different students will use different content and apps. Avantis offers a management solution which uses QR codes. Teachers can create a unique profile for each student and convert the profile to a QR code. When the student picks up a LearnPad, he or she logs on to the device by pointing its camera at the QR code. Their files, folders and documents are then automatically sent wirelessly from the school network to the device.
Nik Tuson says schools also need to think about factors such as security and how the tablets are kept charged. Avantis has produced a guide to choosing a tablet for education.
Cramlington Learning Village in Northumberland is rolling out 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tabs (Android tablets) to its year groups. Assistant head Phil Spoors says he’s a fan of Apple, but adds: “Apple is difficult for some schools, because the devices don’t offer a lot of flexibility for education, like support for Flash.”
Cramlington is confident that its 1:1 scheme, paid for largely by parental contribution, is both equitable and sustainable (it's also supported by the e-Learning Foundation). The tablets work well with the school's Frog learning platform and the instant media feedback facilities have led to an explosion of reflective communication in a school culture where reflection is a key priority.
If you thought that the tablet world is just Apple and Android, think again. Microsoft might have been slow to enter the mobile space but it has already demonstrated its commitment with its Windows smartphones, and it has just launched its Windows 8 operating system which also has flavours that have spawned new ranges of tablets. Now it has launched a global programme, Shape the Future, to support schools with 1:1 schemes. And in the UK Intel has joined Microsoft in supplying tablets and laptops for 1:1 through RM Education (see "Shape the Future brings savings for UK 1:1 schemes").
Schools that have made big commitments to Microsoft technology will undoubtedly want to check these out, and BETT 2013 will be the perfect place.
Not all schools have opted for tablets. Education technology consultant Steve Moss is working with two schools in Cumberland that are using inexpensive Google Chromebooks for 1:1 computing in class groups. Moss says that a set of 30 Chromebooks and a charging trolley costs around £8,000. “With the Chromebook, you get free apps and each pupil has 25Gb of free storage in the cloud.
“With most tablets, the apps sit on the device and so you’ve got the issue of how to manage them. With the Chromebook, everything is in the cloud, so a student can pick up a device, log-on and then download the apps and content that are relevant to them.” St Thomas CoE Primary in Kendal recently started using a class set of Google Chromebooks. Headteacher Paul Brown says that opting for 1:1 computing, “Removes a lot of the problems you normally have managing IT.”
Many schools are now entering a new world of educational computing where computers are portable, lightweight and personal in every sense of the word. The advent of 1:1 computing opens up many new possibilities, but it also brings many new challenges. Good planning and preparation will enable schools to reap the benefits of this giant leap in educational learning and technology.
Preparing for 1:1 Computing
- Think carefully about what you hope to achieve by adopting a 1:1 computing strategy. Learning should lead the technology.
- Decide what model you plan to use – Whole school? Year Group? Class group?
- Will students take the devices home?
- How will the 1:1 programme be funded and sustained?
- How will you help parents who cannot afford to make a contribution?
- Try to identify where cost savings can be made by opting for 1:1 computing.
- Involve teachers, parents and pupils at an early stage.
- How will you cope with issues such as security and insurance?
- Think about the classroom management issues, such as charging the devices and distributing apps – and wireless networking!
- Keep an open mind about the device you may use. Consider different devices and, where possible, contact or visit schools that are already using them.
- Does your supplier offer support or discounts?
- Think about the total cost of ownership – for example, are the apps free or charged for?
- Staff development is vital.
- How will the devices integrate with your curriculum, pedagogy, existing software and services, and other technology?
- How will you evaluate the impact of 1:1 computing?
George Cole is a freelance journalist who writes about technology and learning. A former teacher, he is also the author of The Last Miles, a book about the jazz musician Miles Davis, and runs The Last Miles website
The the next part of this series George Cole will share case studies of 1:1 computing from Cramlington Learning Village, Essa Academy and St Thomas CoE Primary School.
Part Three will examine the pros and cons of bring-your-own-device.
1:1 Learning Myths at OllieBray.com
Doug Belshaw's "Some Thoughts on iPads and One-to-One Initiatives"
"Welcome to Google's first UK 'server-free school'"
"iPads changing the game for learning at Longfield"
"'Significant and positive impact' of iPads at Longfield" (Naace report)
"An Inside Look at Alaska's AASB Consortium for Digital Learning 1-to-1 Initiative"
AASB Consortium for Digital Learning
Shambles 1:1 links for 1:1 initiatives
Apple 1:1 leasing
iPad Scotland Evaluation by the University of Hull
iPad Scotland Evaluation's recommendations for schools
1. Robust connectivity and school-wide access to Wi-Fi are essential and should ideally be in place before mobile computing devices are deployed.
2. The adoption of mobile computing devices incorporating Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, camera and video recording capability and storage is strongly recommended.
3. Teachers should have access to mobile computing devices on a personal basis, preferably before they are used in a school, to aid familiarity and improve successful adoption.
4. Professional development in the use of mobile computing devices appears to be a largely experiential, collaborative process and formal ‘training’ should only be offered if requested by the teacher.
5. The use of a ‘full personal ownership’ model for implementing mobile computing devices in school, where pupils are able to make use of their device at all times in school and are also able to take it home, is strongly recommended on educational grounds and for strengthening parental engagement.
6. The use of a full personal ownership model in schools will require traditional practice surrounding the school-work / home-work divide to be revisited to take account of the capabilities of this technology for supporting more seamless and integrated patterns of learning.
7. The use of tools such as Configurator© and Volume Licensing is helpful in the management of mobile computing devices and the use of software of this nature is recommended.
8. The use of Apple TVTM or mirroring software such as AirServer to allow pupils and teachers to share the materials on their iPads with a wider audience is recommended as a tool for collaborative working.
9. Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) will need to be revisited to consider the inclusion of mobile devices especially if, as recommended in 5 above, the devices are to be taken off school premises
Apple does not support BETT, preferring to organise its own European event elsewhere in London at the same time. At ExCeL look out for "Apple Solution Experts" like Toucan (F195)
Microsoft - check Microsoft partners
Google UK E240