Like any story, our technology implementation story is a rich and vibrant one. The selections below provide an overview of our activities and the philosophy that guided our decision and led to a successful implementation of a one-to-one technology programme.
B. Implementation Timeline
After a 3-year relationship with Apple, including product acquisition and educator training, Parklands College initiated an Apple 1:1 MacBook learning programme in July 2009. Implementation began on 14 July 2010 when we introduced Apple MacBooks into timetabled lessons.
Rollout into the classrooms began from July, 2010 in Grades 4, 7, 8 and 9. MacBooks rolled up into Grades 5 and 10 in 2011, Grades 6 and 11 in 2012 and Grade 12 in 2013.
In the Autumn of 2011, iPads were introduced to our teachers and the rollout of the remarkable iPad to classrooms commenced at the beginning of the 2012 school year in Grades 1-4. In April 2013, our entire Preparatory school achieved a 100% 1:1 status with each learner using his or her own Apple device as an individual learning platform. In 2015 our entire school achieved compete 1:1 status with 1370 Macbooks and iPads in total.
Detailed Implementation of Apple Devices for Teaching and Learning at Parklands College
C. Why Apple?
Richard Knaggs, the Technology Director, describes the decision to go Apple:
“Six years ago, I was a PC man. As far as I was concerned any technology would work in education and I also thought Apple was too expensive. We only had two Apple products in our organisation and they were used for desktop publishing. I had been struggling to create a movie for our staff play using a Windows product for over a week and after constant application crashes decided to switch to an Apple. I knew nothing about the iMovie application, but in two hours I managed to produce an outstanding movie. I had an epiphany. I realised how intuitive, simple, reliable and well integrated the Apple product and its software was.
Our previous experiences with other technologies resulted in a high software failure rate, an intensive technical training requirement for our educators, as well as support requirements that exceeded our capabilities. Classroom disruption became the norm, which resulted in growing discontent and decrease in confidence in the technology within our learning community.
Apple has become a tool that has increased our educators’ and learners’ confidence in the classroom because it allows them to focus on the lesson at hand, rather than the technicalities of the applications being used. Apple technologies minimise classroom disruptions. It fosters learning through technology in a modern, creative environment, with music, animations, and movies… the things young people are interested in. Yes, an Apple seems to cost more, but when we did our homework, and compared devices with similar specs, we discovered that Apple’s reliability and integrated software meant lower operating costs over time. It also meant that teachers began to use the devices for teaching and learning in a very short time.
It is very important to put the correct technologies into place in a country like ours. Of course training is one of the “Critical Success Factors,” but if the technology is not reliable and intuitive then we are expecting our teachers to become more than teachers. We are expecting them to be the technical support and the software specialists as well, as if teaching is not a difficult enough job.
Apple’s products have allowed our teachers to continue being teachers and inspired our learners to demonstrate their understanding in innovative, authentic tasks that will prepare them for their futures.”
Apple products were selected for many reasons. Notwithstanding the technical components in terms of reliability, durability and design, the College has chosen the Apple MacBook and iPad for the following reasons:
- Apple is the market leader in education around the world. It is emerging as the foremost supplier for schools and colleges in the UK and Europe according to a report from Gartner Research, a leading information technology research and advisory company. Apple has invested substantially in the training of educators, providing platforms for the sharing of educational content and research papers.
- The Apple Mac has flexibility i.e. it has the ability to run Windows and the Mac operating system.
- Microsoft Office for Mac can be installed on the Mac in order to ensure learners are prepared for the South African Microsoft-friendly business environment.
- Only Apple offers the iLife software suite with its educational, creative and curriculum relevant applications.
- Apple has fewer systems failures and fewer disruptions and viruses, therefore downtime is kept to a minimum which increases teacher/learner productivity.
- The total cost of ownership of each Apple device when you take into account support, downtime, additional software and replacement is lower than that found on other branded devices.
- Apple is not merely a tool but is rather a partnership incorporating training, curriculum support and ongoing educator communication, thereby ensuring that the College remains a forerunner in education.
- Apple has a comprehensive understanding of how teachers teach and learners learn. It supports and collaborates with schools in ways that others do not as evidenced by their relationship and training initiatives with the College and other educational institutions in the past.
D. Learning from International Best Practice
Throughout the implementation stage (formally called the project stage) of our One2One programme, we paid attention to seven key principles garnered from our explorations at overseas campuses, our conversations with vendors and international experts, by listening to our own well-informed educators and from our experiences. These principles have led to a very successful Apple 1:1 ecosystem:
- Get the infrastructure right.
The success of any one-to-one program depends on an ubiquitous, reliable wireless network and good Internet access. We invested the resources to lay down a reliable, scalable, manageable, and cost-effective network that would support the larger number of learners and devices. Be very clear about your minimum device specifications including device storage space as this affects the life expectancy of them.
- Get Top-management buy-in.
Our top management team had a clear vision and attended Apple conferences and visited international iPad schools to see the benefits of such implementations. This buy-in ensured project momentum especially during the challenging times of staff and parent buy-in. It also ensured adequate budgetary allocation for devices and professional development.
- Provide devices to teachers early and deliver outstanding professional development.
Our best success lay in the fact that our teachers were comfortable with their devices. We strive to provide new technology to teachers at least six months before their learners will bring them to school. We also included Apple integration into our educators performance appraisals.
The greatest barrier to the use of technology isn’t that teachers don’t know how to use a device. It’s that they have not been exposed to the methods and practices involved in teaching with technology. At Parklands, our teachers are provided ongoing professional development that combines the best technology training with workshops on teaching strategies and learning theories that enhance instruction through technology. This process also allows for the identification of project champions (iTeachers) who ensure that iPad integration into teaching and learning is sustained. iTeachers should not be ICT teachers.
- Learner Support
The learners are always willing to try something new, however, it is important to clearly define device usage boundaries and expectations with an Acceptable Use Policy and code of conduct. A digital citizenship programme must be included to inform them about Netiquette and Internet Safety. To reduce the number of support requests involve learners in Peer to Peer support programmes.
- Involve the parents.
Our parents are our partners in this project and they are an important part of our 1:1 ecosystem. We regularly provide parents with information and tools to help them manage their children’s device, including online tutorials and weekly blog updates. We invite parents to technology Open Days where the learners teach the adults what they are doing with technology in the classroom while clearly setting their usage expectations of the devices.
- Ensure you have good technical support and loan devices.
In order to ensure that our educators and learners felt comfortable with becoming more reliant on their Apple devices we have certified onsite technical support staff to assist with day to day support issues and advice. They were also available at the start of lessons at the beginning of the project to troubleshoot any technical problems so that the educator could focus on the lesson. To ensure continuity of use we also have loan devices available to learners in case of device failure. However, as the project continues the reliance on our support team for classroom support has become less.
- Establish good relationships with experienced suppliers and consultants.
Suppliers and external consultants, both local and international, with extensive experience in the education context played key roles in the success of our project. They showed us how to integrate technology into teaching and learning with education relevant examples that have helped inspire and develop new ideas for lessons. Project based learning training, specifically, has proven to be crucial to the success of the project.
E. Question & Answers
We have also listed some answers to questions we have answered in the past below:
1. Why did your school decide on Apple iPads?
iPads are simple to use, reliable, intuitive, have an excellent battery life, are very reliable and are a top quality product overall. There is also a large community of successful iPad implementations both locally and internationally, much larger than any other device with staggeringly positive results. As far as the cost of the device goes we wouldn’t settle for anything less, frankly, you get what you pay for.
The applications are simple drag and drop and there is a huge selection of top quality, approved Apps on the App store.
We have a long, tried and tested relationship with Apple products. These products have allowed our teachers to be teachers in the classroom and removed the need for them to also be IT support technicians.
The brand also created a buzz of excitement amongst our teachers which assisted hugely with educator buy-in.
2. How robust is your Wireless network?
We have a managed Wireless network. The software we use comes standard with the solution and at the centre of the wireless solution sits a Wireless controller which ensures constant connectivity. Wireless is key to an effective 1:1 implementation strategy that includes connectivity, collaboration and communication. You must get it right the first time.
3. To BYOD or NOT to BYOD?
We believe that you need to standardise. The ability to support and manage a multi-platform environment by both teachers and IT Support becomes a huge task. There are just too many variables. You have to have extremely tech savvy educators and the teaching and learning can be limited (depending on the platform and device) to consumption and low level creative tasks such as word processing and spreadsheeting. This inhibits the transformative and magical teaching and learning experiences that the integration of technology can facilitate.
- Parklands College Apple Lighthouse conference video on YouTube -> http://youtu.be/HWu_oSzCZTk
- Parklands College Apple story here -> http://www.apple.com/za/education/profiles/parklands/
- Parklands College Google story here -> http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/parklands_v2.pdf