So far we’ve tethered the two ten inch tablets to the accounts of the two assessors who’ll be using them but have dithered somewhat over how to link accounts to the seven inch device which we want to lend out. Tablets seem clearly designed to be used as 1:1 devices and almost all the apps we use ned to be tethered to user accounts. For now we’ve tied the Marketplace to a generic student account so we can get the apps installed and will probably just go through the hoops of altering accounts if needed. What we had hoped to do was lend them out to students for blocks of time of say a month to gather workplace evidence then try the same with different students but this looks as though it’s going to involve a lot of reconfiguring. We’ll see. I can see this being a major challenge for small providers where funding to provide literally 1:1 devices is fairly unlikely.
It’s almost essential for devices in an educational context to be shareable without excessive time spent configuring. I can see why so many of the schools doing it have gone the route of supporting learners to get their own devices rather than buying in school sets as the following two examples show.
While they do cost financially, iPads are proving to save the district money in a number of ways. Of course, paper costs have been substantially reduced. Hooker documents some of the savings in a recent blog post (http://eaneswifi.blogspot.com/2011/10/swiss-army-knife-of-education.html), noting savings on document cameras, video cameras, still cameras, and newer mobile laptop carts. Even apps themselves are much less expensive than software we might have purchased for the same function. They are also saving teacher time—valuable this year when our budgets have been reduced, and teachers are tasked with more responsibilities. Having a common device, and being able to access email, grades, student documents and create lessons all portably, has really improved the workflow for teachers across the campus.
One of the questions the district faced initially was regarding personalization. While the iPad can work somewhat effectively as part of a “cart” setup, the most powerful use of the tool is as a personal device. So as a district, we chose to allow both students and teachers to make the devices their own and rolled out a limited set of consistent agreed-upon apps across campus. (We are using Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for additional apps that various departments or campuses need or want for their curriculum.) While this might pose a dilemma for some districts, it has created a tremendous sense of ownership as students and staff customize it for their own learning needs and classroom use.
Student ownership. We had the choice early on to either externalize ownership to the students or keep the ownership of the machines on the books of the school. In our case – and after much study – we decided to externalize the cost and have families purchase their laptops through the school. We provide financing options to our families. As a private school we have this opportunity. I realize that in many public schools the machines must be school-owned. In visiting with other schools who have school-owned 1:1 programs, the breakage rates seem to be higher. In general our breakage rates have come in below expected numbers for the students. Yet, interestingly, the staff break their machines at a rate four times that of students. If our students want to put stickers and other stuff all over the machine, they can have at it.
A similar problem in a corporate envrionment with smartphones is being researched by VMWare at the moment and their solution of running various virtual machines on the same device might turn out to be the slickest solution. Eseopcially since Android itself appears to have no immediate plans to support multiuser.