We have loved using the iPads at Becontree Primary School and are very sad now that they have had to go back. When we first received the iPads the children were very excited to use them and they have been similarly excited during the last term when we have been using them. They have been extremely sensible when using them and they have had no problems in sharing them and taking turns.
On the positive side they are very easy to use and move from one room to another as they are so light and easily portable. Due to this nature two classes can use them in one afternoon as the children can sensibly take them from one class to another. As the iPads are not as large and bulky as a computer they aid discussion when used in a group, as children can easily use the iPad as a discussion point and talk over the top of it.
There are thousands of apps available that can be easily incorporated into many lessons across all curriculum areas. These are often fun and engaging and encourage all children to take part. The iPads are very user friendly. All that is needed to operate an iPad is the child’s finger and all children, even those that have special educational needs or who have English as an additional language, can use them easily.
Most importantly, the children really enjoyed using them and all felt that the iPads had helped them in their learning. They were certainly engaged in lessons where the iPads were used.
Although there are many positive aspects to using the iPads there are also drawbacks to them. When we first tried to use the iPads, we quickly realised that they were not all the same. The initial set up took a long time, making sure that they were all updated to IOS 5 (hopefully not an issue with newly purchased iPads) and then ensuring that they all had the same apps on them and on the same screens (making it easier for children to find apps demonstrated by the teacher). However, once this was completed, it made life a lot easier and the iPads were much easier to use.
There are also updates which are needed from time to time for the apps. They do not take long to update but obviously each iPad needs the update and internet connection is needed for this. If like our school you have a portable wireless router this needs to be available to download the updates and obviously for some apps (such as Google Earth) too.
Charging the iPads is also necessary. They do have a long battery life but they need to be continuously checked to ensure they do not run flat in the middle of a lesson. Charging them is easy but there needs to be enough available plug sockets. Work cannot be printed from the iPads directly (without an air-print printer) and to sometimes, to save the work a picture needs to be taken and then imported into a folder. It is not that difficult to do once you understand how to do this but it is something else that takes time with numerous iPads. A Dropbox account is a definite asset to centrally save work and there is a Dropbox app for the iPad.
The main disadvantage to the iPads is that they are very expensive and due to this we only had six to use. This can be difficult to organise when using them with a class of thirty children, but given the choice we would love to keep them. In fact, having used them with EAL children, the EAL department has invested the last of their budget on a school iPad and wireless router. I hope we will be able to invest in more in the future.