A Scottish independent Christian school has opted to educate its pupils by ditching paper and pens and instead issuing the children with iPads.
Students at the Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock, Scotland will learn using Apple’s tablet PC, at a cost of about £14.50 per user per month.
Head of computing and IT co-ordinator Fraser Speirs said the move began as an exercise that the private school carried out in January 2010.
“Up until then we had used iMacs in the computing lab, then we moved to laptops, which could be used in other classes outside of IT," he said.
“These laptops were booked constantly and the students couldn’t get enough of them for the things they wanted to do.”
So Speirs decided that the iPod Touch could be a solution to this demand from classes as it is relatively cheap and gives children access to the web.
“However, there were a few problems with it: it didn’t have a word processor that was suitable, you couldn’t put a keyboard on it and we couldn’t connect it to a projector.”
About a month after that exercise, Apple launched the iPad.
“It resolved all the problems we were having with the iPod Touch and many more besides,” said Speirs. “We realised this was the ideal thing we were looking for.”
Speirs explained that the major challenge in rolling out iPads was adherence to Apple’s terms and conditions. The terms of Apple’s App Store meant that the school could only have five desktop computers synchronising with each App store account. But it could have a reasonable number of iPads synchronising with each desktop computer.
“So we developed a system whereby each form group would have a desktop computer and that form's iPads would synch to that one computer.
"This allowed us to buy an app from the desktops and move it onto the iPads. Those intricacies were the most difficult thing we encountered,” he added.
Speirs revealed that owing to the popularity of the iPad, the school was not able to obtain much of a discount and had to pay close to retail price. It is currently on a rolling three-year lease.
“When you look at the amount we spend on education, £14.50 per month per pupil regardless of how many classes we take, it is quite affordable really,” said Speirs.
He said that the results have already been quite dramatic. Student engagement has vastly improved, but working out how it affects attainment will take some time.
“Even though we’re not teaching new subjects – we’re teaching the same material – but we’re teaching it in a new way.
“It strikes me that it just makes sense to the kids. They deal with information electronically and so we’re doing things in a way that suits them. We find kids are engaged for so much longer than they were with just pencil and paper – it’s remarkable,” he added.