Why are we doing this?

During the 2011-12 school year, we implemented a pilot program on a seventh grade team, which showed tremendous success and promise. With approval from the school committee, we moved forward with the pilot with all students in the seventh grade using iPads for the 2012-13 school year. Under the direction of the Superintendent and School Committee with the Mendon-Upton Regional School District Strategic Plan, the program has expanded to grades 5-12. The response from the pilot program and from others like it in area school districts has been overwhelmingly positive.

What are the advantages of us using iPads as opposed to other devices?

There are a number of reasons why we decided to move forward with iPads. Simply put, they are:

  1. Apple’s focus is on education. Apple’s iOS is by far the most used and developed for operating system for tablets. In addition to the apps that Apple has produced and marketed (including iTunes U, iBooks, the iWork suite, and the iLife suite) thousands of developers, publishers, and other users have produced apps of excellent educational value.
  2. iPads are easy to use and manage. In general, the interface of the iPad is extremely user friendly. With very little explanation, a user will be able to navigate the iPad, change settings, and install apps. Additionally, there will be situations where the schools will want to restrict a student to have access to some of the features of the iPad. This can easily and conveniently be done with Mobile Device Management (MDM) where uniform restrictions can be implemented on hundreds of devices at a time. Additionally, through this MDM, new apps, books, and documents can be pushed out to students for their use as they become available.
  3. iPads are more cost efficient and portable than laptops.

We have been working with iPads for the past several years, and during that time the iPad has consistently demonstrated ease of use, flexibility, and creative potential.  Although iPads were initially used as “consumption” devices–that is they were used to view or listen to media, check email and social media–the evolution and expansion of what can be done an iPad continues to grow and improve. Tablets, in general, and iPads, specifically, have the following characteristics that make them ideal for use both at school and at home:

  • Less expensive than a laptop
  • Long battery life
  • Small desk footprint
  • Convenient for the use of online textbooks and e-books
  • Light and portable
  • Instant readiness
  • Engaging
  • Sense of ownership of a personal device that can be customized, personalized, and managed

By using the iPads, we gain the following, critical benefits over other types of tablets:

  • Large selection of apps that support digital content creation available for iPad
  • Ease of use, frequent updates, long term support, stability, and consistency of the iOS platform
  • Security from malware – Apple carefully vets apps available in the App Store
  • Automatic, reliable, and free device backup to iCloud

 

I have heard about other systems doing something called “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD). Why aren’t we doing something like this?

BYOD includes two independent and important concepts; 1) the student’s family pays for and owns the student’s personal learning device, and 2) the program is independent of the type, make, and model of the device resulting in a mix of devices in the classroom. The district supports the first part of this, in that the model we are developing is dependent on the family paying for the use of and ability to bring home the iPad. Although the second part of this concept can work, it is our philosophy that having a uniform, school and district-wide platform that can be fully utilized in the classroom and at home offers a better value and a better return.