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 placed on it when extra devices are introduced. Consider upgrading your Wi-Fi system and speed before investing in tablets. 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 of a tablet, instead look at WiFi models. The Broadband Helpdesk for schools can be contacted on 1800 33 44 66. This service assists schools in getting their broadband connection but does not cover Wi-Fi for schools.
2. Tablet vs Chromebooks There are numerous different devices available from different brands for example Apple, Samsung, Sony, Acer and many more. Personally, I think that Apple's iPads are sturdy, reliable, offer a great choice of apps and work very well in primary schools. Apple offer education pricing when iPads are being purchased for educational purposes, so be sure to mention this when you are getting a quote. Android tablets are no longer recommended for use in schools as they cannot be managed on a mobile device management system (MDM, see below). For this reason, Chromebooks are the best alternative to iPads. iPads can be used from infants to 6th Class while Chromebooks can be used by the junior classes but are best suited to 3rd-6th Class. I don't recommending mixing tablet brands e.g. android tablets mixed with iPads as some functions e.g. scanning QR codes have different steps to use them and this can make it more complicated for students and teachers to get used to them.
It is 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 and once you are sure that your Wi-Fi can handle the devices. iPads are more expensive than other brands initially but in my opinion, they really cannot be beaten in terms of functionality and longevity. Most Apple devices come with a one year warranty. Some suppliers of tablets in Ireland are CompuB, Wriggle and iConnect (see Purchasing Frameworks below). These suppliers are preferable to local suppliers and high street electricial shops as they are experienced in setting up the devices for use in schools, offer technical support and usually offer educational pricing. Some suppliers offer leasing programmes. Approach these with caution as you may end up spending a lot of money and not own anything at the end of the lease. The PDST Technology in Education website offers some guidance on different devices.
Chromebooks don't usually have a Caps Lock button, instead they have a Search button in the same place. The price of Chromebooks can vary greatly and this is usually due to the spec of the camera, whether the device has dual cameras or not (have a look where the web cam would usually be and also down on the keyboard you might find one), the durability of the keyboard and whether or not a stylus is included. Some Chromebooks will work with third party styli which you can get cheaply online. If purchasing Chromebooks you can contact email@example.com for further information on the purchasing frameworks. I would not recommend buying Chromebooks unless you have excellent WiFi and Google Workspace accounts. Chromebooks are not really suitable for use as a teacher device as they have very little storage on them which can be problematic for programmes like Bua na Cainte etc.
3. Storing and charging your devices securely Various types of trollies 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.
Protective covers are essential to ensure that your device are safe. 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.
4. Multiple Device Managers (MDMs) If you use tablets at your school, best practice is to manage them using a multiple device manager. It is not advised to use the same Apple ID or Google login for multiple tablets as legally each app that is used must be paid for per device. Some apps can be purchased through a VPP (Volume Purchase Programme) which gives you a discount when buying paid apps. You need to enrol on Apple School Manager to avail of discounted apps.
MDMs allow you to deploy apps from any device which means you can update tablets from home or from your classroom without actually having to physically install them on one device at a time.
If you are not already using an MDM with existing tablets or you are purchasing new devices, you should enroll your devices on an MDM for a range of reasons: •Install apps on your devices remotely •Turn off access to features such as the App Store, FaceTime, iCloud etc for students •MDMs allow you to see the location of all devices that are online •Block certain websites from being accessed on the devices •Locate missing devices •Add school logo to devices and lock this so students can't change it
Examples of MDMs are: Mosyle (free or paid plans): https://manager.mosyle.com/ Jamf School (paid): https://jamfschool.com/ Meraki (paid): https://meraki.cisco.com/solutions/mobile-device-management
In many schools, a teacher will manage the MDM on behalf of the school. In other cases, schools pay a supplier like Wriggle to manage the MDM. This costs approx. 20 euro per year. Whichever method you decide to use, make sure you are happy with how quickly apps can be added. If you already have tablets, you may like to contact the supplier to ask for their assistance in enrolling the devices on an MDM. Devices should be set to update software and apps automatically, as soon as updates become available.
5. Teacher Training Free teacher training is available from a number of sources. Teacher CPD is essential to ensure that devices are used appropriately and effectively in the classroom to support the curriculum.
Free CPD providers include:
PDST: Apply for support from the Digital Technologies advisors. PDST also run summer courses based on embedding technology in the curriculum.
Microsoft: Teachers can bring their students to the DreamSpace for workshops.
TeacherCPD.ie: Free term time online courses for teachers to up-skill.
6. Apps and Subscriptions 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. Trial a free version of an app before purchasing multiple copies. The easiest way to put apps on your devices is by using an MDM (see above). Many schools also opt to use mainly tablet friendly websites as opposed to loading lots of different apps onto their devices. Visit the menu at the top of the screen for suggestions for apps.
7. AUP When new devices are introduced to the classroom, your school AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) should reflect this to ensure that students and teachers use the devices appropriately. Remember also that it is important to ensure that you get parental consent for taking photos of students and for storing students work on an online platform. You can create an AUP on Webwise.ie.
8. Funding Funding has been made available to schools for digital technologies over the past few years under the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020. Circular 0060/2021 was released in Dec 2021 in relation to funding to address the digital divide in terms of educational disadvantage and is payable to eligible schools in the Republic of Ireland. This grant has already been paid to eligible schools. It is intended to fund devices, apps, website subscriptions and other digital resources which can help to address learners at risk of educational disadvantage in DEIS and non-DEIS schools. This circular also says that schools are expected to have a Digital Learning Plan. More information on Digital Learning Planning can be found on DLplanning.ie.
9. Purchasing Frameworks It is vital that schools follow the necessary purchasing frameworks when spending their funds. The PDST Technology in Education website has guidance on this including draft emails that you can copy and edit before sending to potential suppliers. You can also consult www.spu.ie.
10. Classroom Management Apple Classroom is a fantastic free tool which allows the teacher to view what students are looking at on linked devices, allows you to lock student screens, open websites on student devices and more. I highly recommend setting this up if you have iPads at your school.
There are a number of ways to share what you see on your device with your interactive whiteboard. A free option is the Let's View app which works very well. Many interactive flatscreens will have mirroring software built into the boards. There are other wireless means by which you can connect your devices also such as Reflector Teacher (approx €20 per teacher laptop) which you download onto your computer and it allows you to mirror Apple or Android devices onto your interactive whiteboard. Apple TV will also allow you to wirelessly mirror an iPad onto your laptop/interactive whiteboard. Various connectors are available to complete this function. You would need to check whether your whiteboard takes a VGA or HDMI input. For iPads, you can use a lightning to VGA adaptor (€55) or a lightning to HDMI adaptor (€55).