The iPad Program has revolutionised our school in many ways and a number of by-products have been generated as a result of their adoption.
Firstly we were forced to evolve our connectivity. Clearly our old wireless network, stitched together with a mixture of different branded wireless access points, wasn’t going to be reliable or fast enough for the onslaught of so many data hungry devices. Initially we trialled a Cisco access point (we chose a device which could become a part of a managed network) and over the course of about a year we progressively built a managed CISCO wireless network.Today we have 10 access points which work together seamlessly so that no matter where we are in the school buildings, and in some areas of the playground, the wireless network is available all the time. There has been a shift in our thinking. In the past we would have felt satisfied with our destination. Today we are more aggressively aware and ready to change as innovation occurs.
We needed a better internet connection. A single ADSL line servicing our network was ineffective and we added two more lines. This we thought would be adequate. And it was for download, but suddenly upload was a growing necessity. This was a challenge for a small primary school with limited resources. In the end we managed to bring in a fibre optic connection which increased our upload capacity (10 up) as much as we can afford at the moment. The fibre does provide the possibility for us to massively increase capacity if we need to (and can afford to) in the future.
One of the other major by-products has been a shift amongst our students and teachers to “The Cloud” in a variety of ways. The DNA of iPads was a challenge to us when we started out. We were very “earth bound” by this I mean locally based. Everything was saved to our servers and that was where the data stayed to a large extent. The iPads are all about the mobility of data and this opens possibilities to share, flip, blend etc. Mobility of data between school, home or anywhere is a real shift for us and an exciting one for us to start to leverage. The sooner we can get away from those “earth bound” restrictions the better. Great too to escape the clumsy school server network and associated costs and failures. We haven’t quite escaped yet, but hope that we will one day soon. The iPad has certainly moved us substantially towards The Cloud through a host of options such as Dropbox, iCloud, Edmodo, Google Apps for Education, YouTube, Evernote etc.
Our attitude as educators and as students has changed. The niggling issues around ease of access, reliability, time, capacity and capability are greatly improved. As a result technology is enabled and possibilities are opened in classrooms. This has added another real dimension to our Professional Development. Teachers are more eager to learn, share and exchange ideas as they recognise the technology tool as an asset to their teaching rather than often seeing it as a liability. Suddenly too we are rethinking traditional learning spaces as we realise the need for flexibility.
The result of all of this has been a substantial shift in the way we are thinking about technology. It is becoming more of what it should be a simple and integral part of the school environment. Our iPad Program has opened our minds about the possibilities available and got us thinking actively about innovation to improve student outcomes and that’s so much more than just a great souvenir from our journey.