Tablet Update

Of late, tablets in their multiple forms have taken the IT world by storm, whether it’s due to their practicality, functionality or versatility. Over the past 12 months, we’ve noticed a massive increase in the use of iPads, especially in schools which can provide a completely different and very unique learning experience.

Tablets or Not?

Before purchasing any kind of tablet, it is important to consider and firstly ask the question, “How can we use them in our curriculum?”

Buying a class’ worth of iPads can be a very expensive exercise, so it would be beneficial to clearly define which areas of the curriculum they will be used in, as well as having a good idea of the types of Apps you’re most likely to use (plus whether they’re free or purchased).

The majority of schools tend to use iPads as a quick alternative to computers for searching and browsing the web, as well as using web based applications and content.

It is also self-evident that the majority of children have accessed this type of technology on a regular basis at home, so adoption of such technology within the curriculum is very easy.

Android vs. iPad

Android iPad
(+) Generally cheaper (+) Vast and varied range of Apps
(+) Runs flash (+) Educational sites are now optimised for iPads so don’t need to run flash
(-) Limited in terms of centralised management (+) 100’s of features can be turned on or off
(-) Control of no more than 4 or 5 features (-) More expensive

A year ago, an Android model would have been recommended, on the basis that it is cheaper and does a similar job to an iPad. However, the development of  iPad’s means this device is often preferred, due to the ease of use and functionality. As stated above, the range of Apps in the Apple Store is vast and much more varied, making it much easier to find what you’re looking for.

Management

A tablet computer is a single computing device and as such, can present a headache when large numbers need to be managed. The most time consuming approach is to individually add Apps and update them as and when required. This can take a lot of time and accuracy can be very difficult to achieve. In terms of automated management there are 2 main options:

Mac Sync;

A Mac Book or Mac Pro is connected to your pool of iPads (via a sync cable) and using software such as Device Manager you can replicate a master iPad with all the Apps you need across multiple iPads, also applying App updates, etc.

Meraki;

This is a free of charge service from OmniCom for all Complete School Support customers. Apps are loaded onto a cloud management portal and these are then distributed to tablets wirelessly. We set up Meraki, your tablets and whichever Apps you need completely free of charge. This has taken a number of months to deploy but is now working well across a number of our CSS schools. In addition to App deployment we also define a primary config (varying by Key Stage) to lock down pupil iPads (i.e. restrict content to ‘U’ certificate, block Messaging, block iTunes, etc.).

 

Storage

Storage is of vital importance as any type of tablet is a fairly delicate piece of computer equipment and repairs although possible, are rarely worthwhile. The main types of storage available are: –

Storage Trolley

Very similar to a laptop trolley but built for tablets. Typically maximum capacity of 32 and minimum of 10. They can be very heavy however, and obviously can’t be transported up/down stairs

PortaCabby

A good compromise to the above heavyweight trolley. Looks like a large cool box with a pull out handle on the front and 2 wheels on the back. Typical capacity of 16.

Static Unit

Quite a neat and cheaper solution than the above but will need to be stored in a specified location. Typical capacity of 10 although they are stackable.

 

  • All of the above will come as sync or non-sync variants with sync typically adding £300 to £400 to the unit cost.

 

Connectivity

As you will be typically buying WiFi only tablets it is vital you have a good WiFi network with good throughput as well as good coverage as you may well be asking the network to handle double or treble the number of devices (currently handled) after tablet deployment. If in doubt, we can perform a new WiFi survey to confirm coverage and throughput before you take the plunge into the world of iPads.

 

Buy or Lease

It is usually recommended that if the expected lifespan of a product (i.e. in terms of technology and in terms of build quality) is substantially longer than the 3 years lease term then buy, otherwise lease. In terms of tablets, the rate of development is still fast and they take quite a hammering in use in a Primary School therefore we always recommend leasing. Buy a version which will be powerful enough to last 3 years but no more and this will help reduce costs. Until recently we still predominantly supplied iPad 2s, although they have been superseded a number of times since their launch, now the entry level is the retina model.