The school that swapped its laptops for iPads… and wants to switch back. (PC Pro)


Posted on September 11th, 2012 by Nicole Kobie

The school that swapped its laptops for iPads… and wants to switch back

iPad 2

There have been several well-publicised stories of schools bringing iPads into the classroom. However, a PC Pro reader has got in touch with a cautionary tale from the other side of the fence.

The reader, who asked not to be identified, is an ICT co-ordinator at a secondary school. He tells how his “image-conscious” headmaster was seduced by a scheme that allowed all the school’s staff to replace their laptop computers with an iPad 2.

Our source says staff were initially thrilled at the prospect. “Most staff are IT illiterate and jumped at the chance of exchanging their laptop for an iPad,” he writes.

Now, however: “the staff room is full of regret.”


What’s gone wrong? The biggest obstacle is that staff still cling to old documents and resources created in software such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and of course there aren’t fully-fledged versions of the Office apps available for the iPad as yet. “Some staff are needing to produce documents and resources by remoting in [to a PC] on an iPad,” our source reveals. “Trying to operate Microsoft Word using a remote app that dumps you out of the connection is a nightmare.”

One of the biggest problems is the storage, since you can’t connect USB memory sticks to it

Staff are also having problems transferring work to their devices. “One of the biggest problems is the storage, since you can’t connect USB memory sticks to it,” our teacher writes, adding that staff are now experimenting with Dropbox to get documents on their tablets, which raises inevitable questions about data security.

The school, somewhat bizarrely, also supplied teachers with Apple TVs to allow them to project their iPad display in the classroom, which seems more than a little extravagant. A simple £25 Apple VGA connector would surely have been a far cheaper and more efficient means of achieving that goal. Especially as the staff are struggling to get the Apple TV to output a full-size image. (Clarification: as several people have pointed out in comments below, the advantage of using Apple TV is that it allows the teacher to beam the iPad picture wirelessly, rather than being tethered to a projector/display, which perhaps makes the decision to deploy them  not quite as bizarre as we first suggested.)

“I tried to use mine for assembly on Friday, but the picture on the Apple TV is smaller than it should be,” our teacher claims. “To add insult to injury, it didn’t recognise my ‘non-standard’ font and so I ended up borrowing an old laptop to deliver the assembly.”

The iPad experiment hasn’t been a total disaster. The staff prefer the tablets for note-taking in meetings, and they use an app called Emerge to access the school’s pupil database. “This is handy for looking up student data quickly,” our teacher explains. “It’s not all that good at adding information, but very powerful when it comes to cornering the buggers and contacting their parents!” Although you have to wonder if the school has enforced passcodes on the teacher’s iPads to prevent that sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.

The school’s iPad experiment sounds like a classic case of the chap with the chequebook making the decision before evaluating whether the hardware meets the needs of his staff. “The iPads should have been rolled out alongside laptops, not instead of them,” our source claims.

With schools now given complete autonomy to spend their IT budget as they see fit, you have to wonder if headteachers across the country are making similarly bad decisions based on little more than gut instinct, appearances and the latest fad.

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3 thoughts on “The school that swapped its laptops for iPads… and wants to switch back. (PC Pro)

  1. Sounds like more of a PD problem then an iPad problem. Learning any new device is difficult – especially learning to be productive on the fly. There are several good apps that would have solved the Word and Powerpoint problem (Quickoffice HD Pro is my favorite). Using Apple file share with an itunes loaded PC would solve the storage problem.

  2. I think it is a PD problem partly….I also suspect a lack of consulation and also the need to be “trendy” was at work here…… is also as the article infers, the IPAD does not fulfill the requirements of staff and delivery of Education in their context

    Apple have done a fantastic job in marketing this device in Education..I feel they jumped on the bandwagon here and were caught out..these devices were only ever intended for the consumer market…not enterprise (and schools need to be in the enterprise space)….and Apple have been reluctant to respond to this need….they have some pretty poor ideas on management of these devices…my view is that it needs to disentangle from the itunes model to some extent…and look at proper Enterprise management toolsets….

    While the IPAD can be used to engage students very well, that is all it can do in limited contexts….you cannot create decent content in an efficient way…I feel they actually may stifle creativity….

    With the products suggested in the previous comment..yes it does work..I have this on my IPAD..the problem is that you lose half the screen with a keyboard…then if use the bluetooth keyboard, I may as well be using a laptop…..

  3. btw..Nicole…fanastic article….

    I actually think that if MS get the Windows 8 tablet right…then the IPAD discussion will be mute for a lot of schools……

    I am also not bashing the IPAD..the Android tablet has exactly the same deficiencies…except they usually come with a USB port…which is nice to have….

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