Sure everybody loves the iPad and now the mini, even if they don’t know it yet. Just put your hands on one for a week and your life is magically transformed. The apps are great, the device knows where you are at all times, the amount of information at your fingertips is amazing and it entertains you.
That being said, there is still no place for iPad in your school’s education program. That is, unless you get over these hurdles prior to implementation first.
Recently I sat down with a South Bay Superintendent over some coffee to catch up on the years that had flown by between us. We covered all the bases – who’s moved up the career ladder, wives and kids, and the like. Then he said something that shocked me. His school district implemented the iPad and he had no idea how much trouble it was going to be.
So, I asked him – what were the struggles and why were you having them? Below, I share his struggles and some of the common hurdles you will face implementing an iPad’s in your schools.
Charging the iPad Cost Money?
Sure the iPad cost money to charge. But, do you really know how much? The experts say about $1.36 a year. The problem is that is based on one full charge every other day. Okay, so let’s put it in the real usage terms. Students will use this for 6 hours a day and interact with it watching videos, answering questions and completing homework. That results in 2 charges every day. That’s 4 times the cost or $5.44 a year. Okay, there’s still a savings in textbooks.
There’s No Real Savings in Textbooks
Textbooks cost big money, but they last long too – on average about 7 years and cost around $700. Just because you implement the iPad doesn’t mean that you don’t need textbooks anymore. You do. And publishers know this.
Traditionally, districts purchase textbooks and pay for them the cost in year one. Then they budget 7 years from now to buy a new batch. With the iPad, publishers are selling textbooks on a yearly basis and only charging around $70. Breaking that out saves you about $30 a year on the book. But this savings is eaten up by the cost of the iPad and the cost to charge it daily, sometimes twice a day.
The best part about a yearly plan, is that the textbooks can be updated annually. Pluto is no longer a planet, no problem. Only one grade has to digest the news.
Teachers Don’t Like New Technology
One of the big problems is adoption. Just like anything, some people are early adopters, some fall in place once they see the benefits and other’s just flat out refuse to try new things. This spells trouble for the continuity of the education program when you are trying to get everyone on the same program. Just think about buy some textbooks electronically and then some the old fashioned way. Budget problems, storage problems, administration problems, on and on…
Training for Teachers
Let’s face it the kids will learn how to use the iPad in a matter of minutes. It’s intuitive to them, not to mention their parents probably have some form of it at home already. Plus, kids don’t have the fear of trying something new or the realization that they could mess something up by touching the wrong button.
Teachers on the other hand have to learn a new system, create new curriculum and answer all the questions from students about – how do you do this? and what about that? To have a successful implementation you will need to have a training program for teachers on how to use the features, setup the device and use the device. Not just the basics, but how to build curriculum using the device.
Kids Break A Lot of iPads
Most people will tell you to budget around 1% of the devices for damage, but the real number may be more like 5% to 7%. Here’s were the costs starts to add up. Screen replacement runs about $125, not to mention that you have 2 days of down time during the repair. What that means is that either the district needs to purchase insurance, hire a repair man direct or pass that cost to the parents. Now, thanks to the ACLU, charging fees to families and students may be against the law.
If you really want to protect the iPad, then purchase the Otter Box Defender Series, but that adds between $25 to $50 per iPad and it still doesn’t guarantee it won’t break.
iPads Are Valuable to Criminals
Just like Apple’s laptops, iPads are a hot item among criminals. The problem comes in when you don’t prepare to store the devices properly. I have recommended for years to use a real burglary rated safe. It will last 30 years and will deter even the more serious criminals. But districts continue to purchase flimsy, roll-away carts that are easily opened with a large screwdriver.
iPads aren’t made to work like PC’s and that’s a good thing, until it comes to file transfer and sharing. This can cause huge problems for your IT team. Giving the appropriate amount of resources to the IT team and proper training will help stave off some of these issues.
One of the big challenges is controlling the apps that go on to the iPad. Some districts choose to allow student downloading of apps because it is easier to maintain. But then a student decides to download a questionable app and it appears on everyone’s screen in the school’s network. The better play is to have your IT department control app delivery, but that then means app updating too. Be prepared to budget labor hours for managing apps.
WiFi’s Low Signal
Now you have the app, teachers are on board and they want to share a Kahn Academy video. You need WiFi and a lot of bandwidth. Hotspots and repeaters cost money and so does maintaining providing power to the locations where you place them. Make sure you budget for these costs too.
The Initial Cost
Let’s not forget that iPad’s cost big money. If you have 500 students, that’s 500 devices just to get started. Sure you will get a discount, but we are still talking about a lot of money. Couple that with iPad protective covers, screen protectors and additional charging cords and you have spent enough to build an entire school in a 3rd world country.
For most schools the jury is still out, but it shouldn’t be. Every school should be using the latest technology that helps educate students. The iPad solves a lot of problems education is facing today:
- outdated textbooks
- back-breaking backpacks
- storage issues
- lost homework
- engaging education
- preparing kids for the real world
If you properly budget for the issues above, spend time educating your staff and have a plan to roll out the device, you shouldn’t have any major troubles.