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Last Thursday I had the pleasure of visiting Beaconhills College, in Pakenham, approx 65kms south-east of Melbourne.
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What made this visit special was the fact that Beaconhills College were that week undergoing perhaps one of the largest 1:1 iPad rollouts in the world. Approximately 1,800 iPads were being given to all students throughout the course of the week and i had the chance to witness some very excited kids receive their iPads!

Whenever schools decide to go down the 1:1 path it is always an exciting venture wether the machines involved are netbooks, MacBooks, laptops of another description, iPads or tablet device, and so on… I was keen however to see just how Beaconhills went about their rollout, as it was on such a large scale. The main partner involved in assisting them through this process was Xcite Logic, a firm of ICT experts who assist schools with ICT integration, both in network and technical support, as well as professional learning for staff and leadership.

I had the pleasure of meeting Anita L’Enfant, Xcite’s National Learning and Curriculum Manager. It was great to sit down with Anita and discuss her thoughts on 1:1 integration as well as the iPad being utilised as a device to assist teaching and learning. We also spoke about, and it was great to hear it come from someone like Anita who obviously has a vast and detailed knowledge of teaching and learning, that when schools integrate technology, such as iPads, it is not about the technology, but about the learning and teaching that takes place. As i have previously mentioned, and was also one of the key findings in the DEECD iPads for Learning trial, effective teaching and strong curriculum make all the difference in driving student learning outcomes. The technology is only there to assist as a tool. Obviously however, the better the technology, the greater the tool, the greater outcomes that can possibly occur.

Working in a college that will soon in the next 3 – 5 years become as large as Beaconhills College, yet have all of it’s students on one campus, it was great to see how an iPad Rollout of this size was coordinated and ran.

The rollout involved parents and students picking up their iPads and having to attend an information session which was directed to parents about the setting up of a new iPad. Parents were also taken through some of the more necessary information that perhaps they needed to know about, such as setting restrictions and passcode locks!

The main points that were covered and discussed were the following:

– A Limited iPad demonstration which explained the home screen, finding apps (the swipe and the search function), what the settings allow one to do, how to connect to wi-fi networks and taking screen shots and saving an image.

– How to look after the iPad and explain the most common damages that we see to these devices such as dropping it, screen damage (a good screen protector will assist this), liquid damage, charging issues – turning it off completely when not in use for an extended amount of time and keeping the device in an iPad case.

– Safety and security – keeping usernames and passwords secure for all iPad related details such as wi-fi networks, passcode locks, etc…, ensuring that the notion of school appropriate content is adhered to by making sure they understand that the use of the device is being monitored through school system (in the case Casper Suite) and that inappropriate content will be wiped when in the school’s network. Parents were also reminded that the device is to be used as a tool for learning and failure to comply with the college’s User Agreement will result in the loss of the device (both at home and school). Also that NO photos can be taken without the permission of the person being photographed nor can these be placed online!

The college asked the students who attended to have them create a “First day” video about how they feel about having an iPad, what they look forward to doing with it and how they think it will help assist their learning. A nice little task for the holidays!

All of what i had witnessed definitely got me thinking as I had planned to run very similar sessions for parents of our students this year for next years 1:1 iPad programs, however, as it does, time has certainly gotten away from us and this has not been able to happen. So… I am currently obtaining information that will assist parents and answer questions that they may have regarding the iPad and settings that can be put in place. As usual i will certainly keep you all posted!

It was an absolutely intriguing day and i am thankful to Xcite Logic and Beaconhills College for allowing me to attend a small part of the rollout process and to see such a large rollout in action!