All around the developed world at the moment, educators and parents are wrestling with the fact that they need to make a decision shortly about what tech to provide their children with, or require their students possess. The computing landscape has changed dramatically in the last two and a half years with the success of the iPad, and its rapid ubiquitousness in business and home life has left many of us parents and teachers feeling a requirement to train our youth using the iPad.
What follows below is simply the plan if attack my children's school is taking, presented so you can see anecdotally how one group of concerned parents and teachers are approaching the task.
As a parent, I have my own personal suggestions I will voice briefly.
I purchased my two high school aged children iPad 3's this year. I saw the benefit to them and personally believe the tablet form factor more than suffices for their needs. They do most of their homework in Pages, but often use Keynote to prepare presentations. They are 14 and 16 years old, female, and are not the least bit interested in tech or Apple per se, but they use their iPads a heck of a lot, and enjoy them as communication devices, entertainment devices, and creation devices.
The lack of electronic text books at the moment is disappointing. I feel the iPad is the only thing a student should need to carry to school and back each day, and the era of the overweight,spinal problem inducing schoolbag should be relegated to history.
While other operating systems and thus devices have their merits, there simply is not the developer network or the commitment to education on any other platform other than Apple's.
The biggest fear I feel teachers and parent have, is picking the "wrong" technology to train their kids on, to back the wrong horse, as it were. This, I believe, is symptomatic of a greater problem in how we approach educating our children. I don't believe it is our job to predict the future and teach rote skills that a child can use later in life. Instead, when a child is allowed to enjoy education and learns to learn, and loves to learn, he or she is insulated from any change that may come in the future and will be adequately equipped to embrace certain change without fear.
I recall being taught how to operate certain Windows applications in high school. All this instilled in most of the students around me was an inability to operate any type of computer that was not a windows machine, and a lack of understanding as to how technology really worked. The world was certainly not a richer place due to the education departments approach, although it may well have produced enough skilled peons to do the jobs large multinationals were crying out to be filled.
One other thing I will say is this. Teachers are a funny breed. I'm married to one who's actually different to most of them, but there is something peculiar about teachers I could never quite articulate. When I was 19, I started selling cars. I learned within a few months that if someone walked into the car yard with a clipboard, they were a school teacher and you should avoid them at all costs. This was proven to me time and time again over my years in sales. Relatives of the school teachers would laugh when I would guess their careers. My point is, for some reason school teachers like to feel like they have done their homework (hmmm) and want to make a SAFE decision.
Apple offer safety to teachers in abundance. iPad equals no viruses, no malware, great resale value, easy to acquire parts, great customer support and brand recognition.
So here it is FYI
Information Communication Technology Plan 2013
According to the Chinese proverb, we do indeed live in “interesting times”. Whether this is a curse or a blessing can be shaped by the quality and thoughtfulness of the plans we make.
In working out a way forward for the challenges of new technology we have considered the following:
Serviceability & support
We do need to acknowledge that there is no perfect way forward and that no matter what decision we make, there may be those who might disagree. Please be assured that the model we have designed attempts to solve a myriad of competing and complex problems and that, while not perfect, it will set Strathalbyn Christian College up to provide an excellent user-friendly service.
Inevitably there is a cost associated with a decision and for some this may appear unfair or unreasonable. We have worked hard to make this the most affordable possible for there really were only two possible responses; Either do nothing and therefore ignore the reality that our kids must master and use well the technology deluge with which they are faced. The other is to find a way forward that can be managed well. Ultimately, student school bags will become lighter as traditional textbooks become redundant and classrooms are freed up for mainstream lessons and this will ultimately defray some of the apparent cost.
If you only have children in the Primary then there is no additional cost as the College will finance the cost of devices and infrastructure through the recurrent budget. Students in a number of Primary years will have access to classroom iPads for some specific tasks.
For those with Secondary students the plan is as follows:
Year 7 students should obtain an iPad, preferably through our supplier as they provide added warranty and service that is not available when purchased privately and the lease arrangements are favourable
Year 8 students will continue to use their iPads from the 2012 iPad trial
Years 9, 10, 11 and 12 have the option of choosing either the iPad or a MacBook, as specified below.
By building in this flexibility we believe we are creating the best opportunity for every secondary student to access information technology safely and efficiently.
Students will be supported with a help desk where any problems they have can be quickly sorted, thereby ensuring maximum usefulness. Because the technology goes with them they will rarely need to go to a different room to use computers.
For senior students it is a matter of choice. Some will prefer the compact nature of the iPad while others will prefer the full functionality of a laptop. The MacBook Air has proven itself to be a lightweight and sturdy device, which is easy to maintain and to protect from viruses. It has no moving parts, hard drives or optical drive, making it quick to boot up and allowing a very long battery life. Another option is the MacBook Pro should you wish to have those extra features without the lighter weight. Keep in mind that while the clock speed appears slower, the solid-state memory of the Air is much faster than a spinning hard drive.
We appreciate that this is a financial imposition and would ask that you keep the following in mind:
We will keep our fee increase at a minimum for 2013 and below the National average of 6% (2012) which reflects the current Education Price Index
We also hope that parents will appreciate that our fees are comparably lower than many independent schools and that we offer very good service and facilities for the fee that we charge
Families who are not able to afford the program will continue to be supported
Children from families who do not wish to buy the technology will have shared access to a limited pool of loan devices which must be returned to the Library each day
There are large infrastructure costs associated with the plan such as the installation of wireless broadband, the support desk, technical assistance, staff training and an information management system to facilitate more online learning possibilities
Below I have included the links to the Winthrop portals where you can view the various options and the closing dates for each offer.
The following is from a recent newsletter sent to the parents.
iPads & laptops in 2013
The December 10 deadline to order your child’s iPad or Apple laptop is rapidly approaching and it is important that those parents with students in the Secondary school read the information that has been provided, visit the Winthrop online portal (summarised on this page) and choose the option that best suits them.
So please act now. The deadline is the latest possible date for the supplier to order and guarantee stock arrives in time for the start of the new school year.
Computers in 2013 - FAQ’s
Q: Can my child use a different (non-Apple) computer?
A: Yes but it won’t be given technical support or internet connectivity, thereby greatly reducing its functionality.
Q: What if my child already has an iPad?
A: That is fine but to use it at the college it will need to be imaged by the IT staff to access college services.
Q: Do we have to be involved in the ICT program?
A: We can not force anyone
but families must understand that teachers will be working on the assumption that students will be equipped to access work on the Content Management System (Moodle) and will not be able to provide alternatives for those who do not have the necessary equipment.
Q: Is it cheaper to lease or to buy a device outright?
A: do the sums and you will always find that a lease involves finance and therefore will costs more in the long run. It does have the convenience of spreading the cost over time.
Q: What about the iPad Mini?
A: This is a cheap and workabale solution for those who need to keep costs as affordable as possible, provided they are comfortable with the smaller screen and lower resolution.
Q: Isn’t this unfair for large families or those who are struggling financially?
A: Strath has a proud tradition of walking with any family who is in difficulty or on a low income and we always encourage families in such circumstances to talk to us so that we can support them.