Tim Scratcherd (the School House Partnership) and I were recently asked to write a report for the Oxford Education School Improvement Series on the use of Tablets and Apps. The purpose of this report is to provide practical support and guidance for school leadership teams who are considering the purchase of tablet devices. The report is aimed at school leaders and teacher in England but the ideas within the report are transferable to other parts of the world.
With permission from Oxford I’ll be duplicating some of the report on olliebray.com over the next week. You can download the full report or order a paper copy over at the new Oxford School Improvement Tablet and App Help Centre.
Part Five - Tablets and Apps: How to ensure impact on teaching and learning – Policy Considerations
However you decide to integrate tablet technology into your school you will have a number of policy considerations to take into account to ensure consistent whole school practice.
Your school should already have a policy on acceptable and responsible ICT use. However, with the introduction of tablets it is very likely that you will need to update or adapt your policy. You need to be clear about what is and what is not acceptable on a school’s network, along with any sanctions that you will use if the rules are broken.
As well as formal procedures it is also useful to work directly with children so that they can create their own rules around tablet and ICT use. Teachers who have worked with children to co-create ICT rules have found that they are more likely to be adhered to in the long term.
The important thing to remember is that there is absolutely no right or wrong way to write such a policy. Your policy needs to reflect your school, who you wish to communicate with and what you feel comfortable doing. Responsible use policies should be dynamic and regularly reviewed.
As well as including your proposed use of tablets in your schools’ ICT policy, you should also make sure that this is covered in your Learning and Teaching policy.
Equality of access
Equality of access is important in any school but it is particularly important if you choose this is covered a 1:1 learning deployment. Equality becomes even more important if you choose to develop a model where pupils are expected to bring in their own device (BYOD). Although this is not yet common in state primary schools, it is a growing trend.
In this situation you need to make sure that you have put systems in place to ensure pupils and families who do not have their own device can be provided with one or are provided with some capital funding make a purchase. It is important that you have clear guidance to ensure that children are not deprived of their digital entitlement, and that the model you are proposing for your school is financially sustainable in the long term.
Network access policy
Most primary schools have some sort of network and network support service, whether it is an external company or an expert in school (ICT Service Manager, ICT Co-ordinator). The role is often not full time.
You will need to speak to your network support service to make sure that the type of tablet devices you decide to purchase have the correct security certificates to be able to connect to your school network – this will often depend on how your school network is built as well as the type of device that you choose to adopt.
Check if your school has Wi-Fi or traditional Ethernet ports (this may limit the types of device you can actually buy and will certainly limit their portability).
Finally, if you are considering a large tablet deployment (such as a 1:1 deployment) you need to be realistic as to how this will impact on your bandwidth usage within your school. This will particularly be the case if you plan to use a lot of browser based cloud applications.
Put simply, you could have the best tablets in the world but if you don’t have the network and infrastructure to support them they will be limited in their functionality.
Teacher and school leader professional development
Appropriate professional development is often overlooked during many tablet projects, but it is the most important aspect of any large technology deployment. By creating a policy related to this professional development you will formalise the need for training within your staff team.
Professional development should include both technical and pedagogical training. Schools should also consider a blend of face-to-face (expert and/or peer led) and online learning which is cost effective, and can occur at the learner’s choice of time and place. Staff should be given as many opportunities as possible to share ideas and learn from each other’s practice. It is also important that staff understand the decisions that you have had to make in order to choose your technology solution. In particular, emphasis should be placed on why you think tablet technology will improve teaching and learning (e.g. culturally relevant, fast boot up time, availability of apps, highly accessible, etc.).
In my next post I’ll point you in the direction of some tablet and apps case studies? – you can download the full “Tablets and Apps: How to ensure impact on teaching and learning” report now for free over on the Oxford School Improvement Site.