12 Things to Remember When Preparing for iPads in the Classroom

By Jordan Abraham

The manifestation of tablets like iPads in the classrooms is ever-present, and bound only to grow with time.  Apple CEO Tim Cook even told investors, "The adoption of the iPad in education is something I've never seen in any technology.”

Using iPads and other tablets as learning tools can provide so many ways to enhance education and augment new learning opportunities.  

So, it is very easy to see why so many schools are implementing solutions like BYOD and 1:1 to incorporate them into the learning environment.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just hauling them all in and passing them out. There is so much to consider when integrating these fantastic little gadgets into the classroom.

Make sure your school has done all the necessary planning and preparation for iPad implementation success.

Below is a useful list of 12 things to consider before implementing iPads in the classroom.

1. Set out a clear, consistent mobile device policy for faculty, staff and students.

Everyone needs to know what is expected and the acceptable use guidelines before they have the privilege of using iPads in the classroom. Using programs such as digital citizenship will help prevent iPads or other tablets from not only being misused but from also becoming a distraction.

2. Test and try out different apps/methods before you put them in the hands of students.

Think about the apps you might have your students use and have your teachers try them out first to make sure they're effective. Make sure your educators are informed and prepared to use and assist students with using iPads in the classroom.

Adopting new technology can be a big adjustment, so it's important that you take the time to train your teachers and staff so they can not only use them effectively be also be confident that the technology is a positive solution.

3. Make sure your current wireless network is ready to properly support iPads.


You will need a more robust network with a strong, reliable connection to support all those mobile devices.

If your wireless network isn’t adequately prepared to support all these devices you are wasting your time. Anytime you implement new technology you have to ask yourself (before you say yes or make a purchase), "Can my current wireless network support my requirements?"

Suggested Reading: How Schools Can Support Increasing Numbers of Connected Devices: 4 Actionable WLAN Design Tips

4. Okay I know they say there is an app for everything.

Well it seems like there just about is these days. That doesn’t mean there’s an app for every lesson. Yes there are tons of really cool, engaging educational apps out there, but no, the apps aren’t meant to teach the lesson. Make sure your educators know the iPads are a learning tool to enhance education, not replace the teacher.

5. Start with your educators first.

Give the iPads to your teacher over winter break or over the summer so they have time to play around with them and learn how to use them. You want to definitely make sure your teachers are comfortable using them, before you pass them out to your students. So make sure you establish clear lines of communication between your IT team and your faculty, so no one feels left out or stuck should questions arise.

6. Remember it’s okay to start slow.

Give your students some time with the devices to get familiar with them just like you did with your teachers. Start off slow with just one or two apps then go from there. Don’t overwhelm them. Yes, most of today’s students are pretty tech-savvy, but keep in mind some aren’t and may need some extra guidance. So take it slow.

7. Think about how you will allow teachers and students to display their work to share with the class.

The method most schools are choosing right now is using the Apple TV with a HDTV or projector. It’s pretty cool because it lets you stream movies and TV shows available on iTunes as well as display what's on your iPad's screen.

Any iPad can actually be mirrored to the HDTV or projector, so the teacher can choose to select any students work on the iPad for display at any time. This will keep students on their toes and on task.

8. Periodically ask for feedback.

In order for your school to get the most benefit out of having iPads in the classroom, you need to get feedback and make changes accordingly. Ask the students, teacher, parents, and staff how everything is going, what improvements, struggles, and success they have experienced with the iPad and work with them to make positive changes or improvements.

9. Is your school optimized for Mobile Devices?

Have you considered if your network is optimized specifically for mobile devices? iPads and other tablets are great, but if your wireless network hasn't been properly configured, all you're going to end up with is frustrated users and dusty tablets. 

Check out this recent blog post, "How to Optimize your Wireless Network Design for Mobile Devices" by SecurEdge Senior Network Engineer Michael McNamee, where he breaks it down for you.

10. Where will students & staff be using the iPads or tablets?

It's critical to understand where these new devices are going to be used. Why?

Because your school's WLAN design and the performance of those devices depends on it. Creating a reliable wifi network requires a lot of features and components today, and context is one of the biggest.

Suggested Reading: Who & What is Accessing My School's Wireless Network? The Importance of Role-Based Access Control in K-12

Knowing where your devices will be used is part of the context you need to properly plan for both coverage and capacity (how many devices and what types).

Will they be used in the classrooms only, maybe the auditorium or library? Maybe you plan on letting everyone take them anywhere they want on campus?

Here's a great video that details why a capacity design is so important today.

11. BYOD or 1:1 Strategy?

Do you plan to implement a 1:1 strategy and provide the tablets to your students or will they be bringing them from home? Maybe, you're planning on a combination of both, which is common in K-12 institutions.

If you do plan to allow BYOD, have you thought about how you plan on securing and supporting devices you don't own? There are 5 must have components for BYOD.

  1. Network Access
  2. Network Security
  3. Network Access control
  4. Network Management
  5. MDM

Download our BYOD Resource Kit to learn exactly what your school needs for a successful BYOD program.

12. Knowing your options for budgeting updates to your schools wireless network to support the use of iPads.

Providing tablets or iPads to your students is the bee’s knees. However, with the cost of the iPads or other tablets themselves and the cost of upgrading your school's wireless network, things can get pretty expensive.

If you don’t think you can afford everything all at once, consider rolling out your iPads in phases. Who needs them the most? 

You can also find funding sources through programs like E-Rate and other government programs.

Did you know you can also finance your wireless network updates? Wi-Fi as a service is relatively new, and it allows you to get the network you need for a more manageable monthly price.

This also aligns with wireless becoming viewed as a utility like water or electricity, it's just something you have to have.

With the shelf life of most wifi networks being between 3-4 years, financing becomes an interesting option, as it will keep your network up to date without having to shell out huge sums of money (that you typically don't have) every few years.

Final Thoughts

Deploying any new type of mobile device, such as iPads at your school is a big deal. It takes the right kind of planning and the right expertise to be successful. 

Using iPads in the classroom or other tablets and mobile devices can offer some incredible educational benefits if done correctly. Students today want to use more technology in school, it's your job to make sure it's safe, and that it actually works.

At SecurEdge, we deliver affordable, robust, and secure wireless platforms – it’s all we do. If you have any questions about deploying iPads or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here.

*Editor's note: This blog post was originally posted March 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for thoroughness and accuracy.
 
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