One of the great features of iPads and iPod Touches is that they are designed specifically to be personal devices. Having direct access to email, calendars and various cloud services such as Dropbox & Evernote enhances productivity and gives users constant connection to their information and services. This is the true power and benefit of these devices. I use my iPad every day and, coupled with my iPhone, I am more connected than ever.
Since the release of iPads, more and more schools are rushing out to by ‘sets’ of iPads for sharing or even lab-style setups. This rush to by devices seems to be driven by a misguided belief that technology drives curriculum change. Whilst this has always been an issue as school leaders try to gain an edge over neighbouring schools, the iPad revolution has made this issue more pronounced. Why else would schools buy communal sets of personal learning devices?
Pedagogy needs to be the force behind the purchase of technology. The technology will then be an enabler of the pedagogy. With this rush of schools to buy iPads, support agencies and consultants are being inundated with requests for support – “We’ve got iPads but we don’t know what to do with them.” “How do we use them to teach?” And my favourite question so far – “Who is going to buy the apps for us?” Was any planning involved prior to spending all of this money?
We are now faced with a glut of new devices in schools without any thought into how they will support pedagogy. Furthermore, too many classrooms are trying to bend the iPad to their will – no change to pedagogy but criticism that the device is not an efficient word processor and that powerpoint slide shows are a bit harder to make.
Schools who have purchased iPads as shared devices are faced with a number of challenges including having communal iTunes accounts, payment for apps, sharing of student work. Fortunately there are some solutions to these issues. You can synch multiple devices to a single iTunes account. The technical (and legal) limit, according to the copyright of the Apps, is 5 devices per account. Although this not currently enforced and schools are using this loophole to synch significantly more than 5 devices to single accounts. Rumour has it that this will not be possible after the release of iOS 5.
Another useful (and free) product is the iPhone Configuration Utility which is available for download from Apple. This lets you push network settings etc. to multiple mobile devices. There are other Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions on the market. Casper Studio is one such solution.
However the reality remains – iPads are personal devices. If schools want shared devices, go back to laptops. Find a model that meets the pedagogical needs of your teachers. Pedagogy must drive technology use.