St. Colman’s College, Claremorris
The iPad Initiative – Our Story So Far
September 2011 to October 2013
ICT in St. Colmans had been well developed since 1985. We have had a dedicated Apple Mac Room since then and a dedicated P.C. room since 2005. Also since 2005 every teacher has had a computer and digital projector in his/her classroom. They have had training and in-service over the years.
The iPad initiative was the brainchild of Pat Keane, Deputy Principal and Daniel Hyland, our then ICT Co-ordinator. They came to me with a proposal to replace textbooks with iPads or other electronic devices and ebooks or “APPS”. They agreed to investigate the proposal further and to consult with interested parties. Initially they contacted Apple, Galmac, Galway and the textbook publishers. Edco was the only publishing company that was well advanced in devising the “Apps” and undertook to have them available for the beginning of the new academic year in August 2011.
Why the iPad?
We came down in favour of the iPad instead of “Netbooks” for the following reasons:
It is very slim and only weighs 700 grams;
The screen is robust and does not succumb to scratches;
It has a very secure system and does not require anti-virus downloads
It has an excellent web interface system
Ipad battery life of 10 hours – versus 5 hours for Netbooks
Apps are screened by the Apple Store
It is intuitive to use and allows the students direct access to their educational content.
Thousands of free and pay for Educational Apps available
Mainstream generic device which can be used by students with learning difficulties.
Not dissimilar from the mobile devices that most students use everyday: iPhones; Androids etc.
Should fit in well with our “Moodle” Virtual Learning Environment which allows teachers and students to interact remotely.
We felt that it would be best to propose introducing the initiative to newly enrolling first year students. We arranged a consultation meeting with their parents. We invited: Eanna O’ Bradaigh of Apple, Patrick Barry of Edco, Tom Callanan of Galmac and a number of other interested parties from the VECs etc. This was a very informative and challenging meeting. Ourselves, Apple and Edco made presentations about the benefits of the initiative. Parents were generally supportive with some exceptions and some very challenging questions.
We outlined the estimated costs of both options and outlined to parents that they would have to pay for the iPad and the ebooks, that we would not be able to assist them financially. We felt that if they owned the iPad themselves students would take better care of them. We also agreed that they should be personalised devices and that students would be allowed to have games, music etc on them.
The total projected price of the iPad, ebooks and protective case would be approximately €700.
It would also be a totally voluntary scheme.
Our local credit union agreed to give favourable terms to parents who sought credit (4.9%). If they borrowed the full amount of the iPad and ebooks this would cost them at most €23 per month. In the first year we believe over twenty students sought funding from the Credit Union. The Credit Union extended this offer in the following years.
Parents agreed that we should continue to investigate and call another meeting later.
Gerry Concannon of CBE, a local business, agreed to provide us with some financial support for families with financial difficulties.
Daryl McAnthony, Chairman of Peterborough United Football Club, provided 7 iPads to students, free, through an online competition.
Because of our backround in ICT and the fact that staff have been utilising ICT in the classroom for years we felt that there would be some support. In addition some of our staff had iPhones and four already had iPads. We outlined our proposals and had Apple, Galmac, Edco and our ICT team make a presentation to them. We also told them that we would be unable to provide them with the iPad, but that we would be asking them to purchase it and use it for school purposes as well. We were eventually able to give them some financial support in this regard. In the end all teachers opted to buy the iPad and agreed to utilise it in the classroom.
We sought and received the support of the Parents’ Association and the Board of Management. Some members of the P.A. wondered could we allow 5th Year students to get the iPad. We explained that the apps for Senior Books would not be available and in any case we were taking a big enough risk in unrolling to project for 1st Years.
However, as all teachers now have iPads and ebooks, then there is no reason why students up the house could not come to class with iPad and ebooks.
We then called another information/consultation meeting with Parents of enrolling first years and held a vote/survey. 54 out of 60 expressed their support. The other six opted for textbooks, mostly, we felt, for very genuine philosophical reasons. There were a number of the others from the group who opted for the iPads who had expressed reservations.
Some of the general reservations were:
Potential for bullying/intimidation
Access to the Internet
Back strain from posture
Paper textbooks were ok
Their sons were happy with textbooks
Interfere with handwriting/preparation for examinations etc
After securing the consent of the vast majority we then had to embark on the logistics:
Parents could purchase the iPad themselves and we would purchase the apps
Parents could pay the school for the iPad and Apps and we could purchase for them from the local reseller.
We provided parents with Paper textbook lists and App lists.
At the end of August 2011, prior to return to school, we brought enrolling students and parents to a seminar, provided them with the iPads and instructed them how to load/install the apps.
In the first two weeks of school the ICT coordinator gave students group and individual support.
We had some glitches in the first two weeks, mostly with the Edco App. Sometimes the app/ebooks disappeared. We eventually solved these problems particularly after Edco updated the app.
In the first year we had had the following problems:
Four iPads had front glass breakage (one of those belonged to a student to whom we had given financial support)
One iPad crashed – replaced under warranty by apple
Students were able to access our wi-fi for a period without permission – some might call this initiative!! However as the internet has a filtering system they could not access any offensive content.
We had difficulty with our wi-fi for the first few weeks, unrelated to the initiative.
Some parents reported that their sons used the iPads to access the internet and to play games.
One student was found to have taken a photograph of a teacher in class.
Now all the students who opted for iPads use the apps for every class. All of the Publishers, including, Folens, Fallons, Mentor etc. have apps and ebooks developed for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate. Our teachers now select their textbook list from all of the publishers.
This year, 2013, we have been contacted by the other publishing companies, particularly “Educate.ie” who are proposing to offer the ebook free with every paper textbook purchased. This is an interesting proposal which might interest parents in particular. Teachers are now reviewing their textbooks for quality and ebooks for quality and ??
Since May of 2011, when we announced the initiative we have been contacted by: the Media; Universities; Schools; Health Service Executive; Special Schools; Adult Education Organisations; Parents of Children with Special Needs; Parents of students in other classes in our school; Parents of Students attending other Secondary Schools and numerous post-graduate research students.
During 11-12 we met three parents in early November for a review meeting. Two of them had been initially opposed to the project. The other had been supportive. They were then all very supportive and had no reservations.
We issued a Questionnaire/Survey to all iPad parents and another to the “Textbook” parents. Overall the feedback is positive and because of this we offered a voluntary option for the 12-13 and 13-14 enrolment.
We continue to consult with our students and parents for their views on improving the initiative.
We offered the option of the iPad/apps or paper textbooks to our 2012/13 and 2013/14 first year cohort. In 2012/13 over 70% of students opted for the iPad option. In the 2013/14 school year over 65% of students opted for the iPad option.
Over 150 students in our three junior classes use iPads and ebook each day in school. The overall cost to parents has fallen: The iPad two is on sale 2013-14) for €399 (€419 including protective case). The full range of ebooks should cost around €225, but this should cover them for three years, excluding workbooks and the odd novel etc.