Subsidising iPads for change

‘Even if you’re a techo, you still think twice about whether you’re going to do it on technology or not.’  (Helen Jones)  To help teachers strategically approach BYOD for themselves and to guide the students, Wellington College have chosen to subsidise iPad purchases for staff.

What did they do?
Wellington College provided a subsidy for teachers who wanted to purchase an iPad so that the teachers could learn the abilities and limitations of BYOD through using the devices and gain the confidence to advise students how to use their devices strategically.

As a result of attendance at a BYOD conference at Orewa College, Helen Jones, ICT Services Manager, decided to empower the staff at Wellington College by easing access to iPads.  This action was designed to familiarise the staff with the way in which students might use their own devices in the classroom, showing them how to ‘take a photo of something; video something; pull something from the web.’

Although 2013 was a trial year for BYOD, only about 350 devices were on the wireless and less than 50 percent of staff were accessing the wireless.  Many staff were still approaching individual student access to technology in a traditional manner, for example, confiscating cell phones when used.

Helen presented a proposal to the Board of Trustees which involved subsidising the purchase of iPads.  Staff would purchase the iPad, and the school would subsidise 49 percent of the cost.  The equipment is ordered online at Cyclone and delivered to Wellington College, where Helen adds specific applications used by the school.  These applications are managed by an app called Meraki which allows the school to control the apps that are available on the device, but allows the staff to personalise the apps they have on their device too.

The scheme includes the iPad, a case, a projector connector and a stylus, but some staff have chosen to purchase their own wireless keyboards as well.  However, most subjects and apps do not require one, and the  purpose of the scheme is to allow staff to have the experience of using apps that are enabling students to make and take notes, rather than to write extensive essays.  ‘You don’t tend to put a lot of information in with these [devices].  It’s more about information collection,’ Helen says.  ‘It’s more about writing your homework down, taking a photo of what you had written on the whiteboard, aggregating information into one place, those sorts of things.’

How have students and staff benefited?

  • Significant increase in use of BYOD.  Within six weeks, usage has more than doubled.  From 340 devices online, now over 850 at any given time.
  • Better understanding of the apps that are useful for students.
  • Greater confidence to say when students should be accessing their devices.
  • Better advice about which apps might be appropriate for a task.
  • Increased awareness of the ways that devices can  enable learning.
  • Encouragement of productive and strategic use of devices in classrooms.
  • Standard practice of school is to BYOD.

Other schools in the Wellington Loop are now considering similar schemes.

How did being part of the Wellington Loop community help?
Helen says, ‘I could never have taken on this sort of change without the support of the Loop.’

Wellington College looked at the experience of Wellesley School in choosing a device for their students. They also talked to other schools who have looked at school-wide devices.

The Wellington Loop provides internet access and support for the college, and specific professional development was made available from Alex Perry, Wellington Loop PD facilitator.

‘We would never have been able to do this without our fibre connection.  We wouldn’t even have been able to put in wireless and know that it could handle potentially 1600 students and 155 staff.’

Future focus?
By lowering the barriers of cost and selection of device as well as PD support by bringing in experts to demonstrate application of possible apps, the scheme has enabled staff that would not have usually been early adopters to engage with technology.

Financially, the school is committed to supporting the students to access technology, but this scheme allowed more teachers to become au fait with the technology the students might be using, in order to give them strategic suggestions about ways to approach the collection and access of information as well as ways to collaborate using technology.

Although the scheme has changed the way staff think about devices in the classroom, Helen admits there are staff that may never get on board.  ‘They may just teach brilliantly without all this stuff.’

‘It’s a tool that’s meant to help us and help our students learn better,’ and this scheme was one way to help teachers help students use those tools effectively.

Want to know more?
Contact Helen Jones, ICT Services Manager at Wellington College, at helen.jones@wc.school.nz for additional information, including the agreement forms used.