Q&A: the Scottish school that bought all its pupils iPads

iPad

We speak to the IT teacher who decided to buy every pupil in his school an iPad

A Scottish school has bought iPads for each and every one of its students as it looks to bring the web into the classroom.

While many will question the move citing cost, the closed-nature of the Apple platform, and the wisdom of teaching students to type on a touchscreen, IT teacher Fraser Speirs said iPads were the right choice for students at Cedars School of Excellence.

Students at the school use the device to watch YouTube videos of science experiments, read eBooks, access educational apps, and complete their homework, as well as visit pre-approved websites.

We spoke to Speirs to find out why his school plumped for the Apple tablet and how students have reacted to the programme.

Q. Why did you opt for iPads?

A. We had desktops and laptops, but we only had about 25 machines for the whole school, so we were looking at ways to give more people access to the web.

We looked at the iPod touch, but one of the biggest complaints was that it didn’t have a proper word processor and you couldn’t put a hardware keyboard on it.

Then a couple weeks after we had that conversation, the iPad was announced, and it was quite clear to all of us that it took away a lot of the complaints we had about the iPod touch.

Q. But why use a tablet instead of a laptop or netbook?

A. One of the biggest things for us is the long battery life of the iPad. If you can’t run your device on battery all day, you run into the problem of how do you keep it charged up during the school day. That’s a big deal in terms of health and safety, with power supplies being tripping hazards.

With the iPad, we either charge it at the school overnight or the kids charge it at home overnight, and then it just runs all day and it’s never a question.

Another reason we went with the iPad is we have quite good ties with the Glasgow Apple Store. I’m a teacher and I’m also responsible for the entire project. I don’t have a whole lot of time to spend trying to fix computers. With the iPad, we have a couple spares on site, and if one breaks, I can swap it out and take it to the Apple Store and drop my problem on them.

With a Dell netbook or something like that, it’s all done by courier service and making lots of phone calls and tracking it, and so on.

Q. Which students get the iPads?

A. It’s the whole school, but we’re kind of a small school. We’re 106 pupils from ages five to 17, so it’s not as if a whole secondary school was doing it for everybody.

It is a fee-paying school, so it’s coming out of our general budget. It’s not a special subscription programme for the parents or anything. We’re providing it on the same basis as textbooks and tables and chairs.

Q. Can students take the iPad home with them?

A. Some of the kids get to take it home. If their parents agree to it there’s a little contract that we sign with the parents for kids aged 10 and upwards.

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