iPads in the classroom…then back to laptops

Sean MacEntee CC-BY

PCPro has an interesting article about an unnamed UK school and the problems it encountered switching its teachers from laptops to iPads.The article raises all sorts of social ethical issues that ITGS students should consider in their work. The Higher Level IT Systems in Organisations topic in particular requires students to make decisions about implementing new technologies, while the 3.1 Hardware topic requires student to select suitable hardware for a given task.

As anyone who has used technology in the classroom knows, reliability and efficiency are critical – huge amounts of time can be wasted trying to get finicky equipment working. Staff at the school in question experienced major compatibility issues trying to access their “legacy” documents in Microsoft Office formats on their iPads, causing huge amounts of lost time and inability to use vital resources (there is no full version of Office for the iPad – a 1.10 Standards and Protocols issue).

Transferring files was also problematic given the iPad’s lack of USB ports (also a Standards issue). To workaround this, many staff tried their own solutions – including using cloud computing systems such as DropBox. While these are perfect solutions for individual users, their use in schools raises questions about data security and privacy – and the decentralised approach to data storage means schools risk losing important documents when staff members leave (this relates a lot to the different maturity levels in CMMI too).

It seems that little thought or planning had gone into these issues before the school purchased the iPads, and the switch from laptops was apparently made all at once (direct changeover) rather than gradually (phased changeover). As the article notes:

The school’s iPad experiment sounds like a classic case of the chap with the chequebook making the decision before evaluating whether the hardware meets the needs of his staff. “The iPads should have been rolled out alongside laptops, not instead of them.”

Hopefully ITGS students will be able to offer a more thorough analysis of the issues involved than the head of the school in this article!

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