Thinking of getting tablets for your school? Then there are a number of factors to take into account.
1. Wi-fi It is extremely important that your school's existing wi-fi can cope with the demand of extra devices using it. Consider upgrading your wi-fi system and speed before investing in iPads. Unfortunately, using tablets without having the wi-fi in order can be extremely frustrating for both students and teachers. When purchasing devices, you do not need to purchase the 'Cellular' version if the wi-fi connection in the school is sufficient.
2. Tablet brands There are numerous different devices available from different brands for example Apple, Samsung, Sony, Acer and many more. Lots of research should be done before committing to a particular brand. Personally, I think that Apple's 16GB Wifi iPads are the best choice (the iPad Air is currently priced at €392.37, while the newer iPad Air 2 is €488.31 from the Irish Apple Education Store). Apple offers this pricing when iPads are being purchased for educational purposes, so be sure to mention this when you are getting a quote. CompuB also offer competitive pricing for schools and sometimes include staff training as part of the package. It is also worth remembering that it is not necessary to purchase a 'class set' of 30 devices. I would recommend purchasing around 6-15 devices initially which could be used for station teaching or pair work. You can then add more devices if necessary. iPads are more expensive than other brands initially but in my opinion, they really cannot be beaten in terms of functionality and longevity. Some suppliers of tablets in Ireland are Apple, Harvey Norman and Currys. Most Apple devices come with a one year warranty.
3. Storing and charging your devices securely Various types of trolleys and cases are available which can store and charge your devices securely. Again, these can be very expensive initially but it is worth investing in one in order to ensure that you take the best possible care of your devices. Certain trolleys also come with the capability to 'sync' iPads which means that they can be used to ensure that every device has the same apps installed on it.
4. Protective covers/cases for your device Again, this is something that is an investment but which will certainly extend the lifetime of your device. Be sure to check that your devices can fit into the charging trolley or case when the protective cases are on. In my experience, it is worth shopping around in stores as well as on Amazon and eBay in order to get good deals for protective covers as they are often overpriced in Irish stores.
5. Syncing and updating devices The syncing process ensures that each device has the same apps installed on it. Syncing can be tedious and time consuming, however it is important to do this to ensure that each device is ready for your lesson. There are various charging trolleys available which will allow you to mirror settings and apps from a master iPad onto other devices. This can be done in conjunction with a programme called Apple Configurator 2 which is available for MacBooks from the Mac App Store. If you already own an iPad charging trolley then you can purchase a piece of hardware which will allow you to sync up to 16 iPads at a time using the Apple Configurator software. This device is available from CompuB. Devices should be set to update software and apps automatically, as soon as updates become available.
6. App budget When planning to purchase tablets, it is vital to remember that on top of the cost of the devices themselves, the charging trolley and the protective cover, that the cost of apps also needs to be factored in. While there are thousands of apps available for free on the various app stores, many of the more useful apps do come at a cost and this can be anything from €0.79 up to €100 depending on the app. It is worth including the purchasing of apps when budgeting for your devices.
7. Connecting your device to your interactive whiteboard There are a number of ways to share what you see on your device with your interactive whiteboard. Various connectors are available such as a VGA to iPad connector (€29) and this VGA to Samsung adaptor (which should work with most android devices). There are wireless means by which you can connect your devices also such as Reflector which you download onto your computer and it allows you to mirror Apple or Android devices onto your interactive whiteboard.
The PDST has produced a very useful guide about purchasing devices and using tablets in the classroom and you can view this here.