Saturday, 27 October 2012

Using ipads in teaching and learning - Logistics

As a result of running one teaching workshop with multiple ipads I've encounter a lot of the logistical issues you come across.  Some I foresaw, some I did not.

The easiest way to integrate ipads (or any other tablet device) into formal education is to buy each student a device to manage themselves.  This is a luxury most institutions don't have and would constitute a huge leap of faith.  It's more likely that you start with buying a few and piloting them - as we have done.  However, this involves more managing and more setting up as some of the managing issues fall to the institution rather than the individual.  

Not being a technie I don't have exhaustive knowledge and what's required.  However, I was able to make it work with limited funds and a DIY approach.  I'll outline the issues I faced and how I overcame them below.

1. The wifi - it's pretty good at our place when it works.  There are 2 networks.  However, they have been known to drop out, usually at the same time.  The IT department are working hard to improve this.  As it's uneven across the building I checked it out in the teaching room the day before.  Using apps you can work ok offline to a certain extent.  However, connectivity gives you much more options in the design of teaching and learning with these devices.

2. Wifi access for the devices - Manage carefully access to the wifi of each device.  I was able to connect to a network that, once logged in, would not log out for the rest of the day.  This jumped this hurdle effectively.  I also had backup temporary logins for the another network if this one dropped out.  The ipads have been used twice.  The first time both wifi networks were switched off as maintenance work was going on!  Not good.  Luckily, this session wasn't run by me and my colleague planned only minimal ipad use so this wasn't too disruptive.  For my first teaching session using the ipads workshop this week, it worked fine.

3. Itunes accounts - Each device needed its own itunes account.  Also, each itunes accounts needs to be associated with a different email address.  So I went through the laborious process of creating multiple emails accounts and multiple itunes accounts.  I established a format which had the same text  and a different number for each device.  I then used the same password and identical security information.   Each device was then labelled and setup with the appropriate itunes account and email.  This was, and is, fiddly - but its essential.  I did this before anything else.

4. Getting the right apps on each device - As described in the previous post Using ipads in teaching and learning - an introduction, I needed to put the same apps on each device.  This was simple enough.  I decided to put the ones for the session last week in their own page to make things easier for the participants.  Although my first session involved only free apps I played around with associating a payment card to each itunes account so that I'm prepared when I start buying apps.  You may be lucky and have a work credit/debit card, I don't.  So it's me paying and claiming back.  However, I discovered that apple doesn't like you using the same card for more than 5 itunes accounts.  Following consultation with a colleague, I discovered gifting apps.  This is a good solution.  I can now use my main itunes account to purchase apps, gift them and then redeem them within each device.  The moral issue with apps on multiple devices is that I think you can get away with buying something once and then downloading on more than one device.  This is wrong, don't do this.  However, I didn't think about this issue enough when I sought funding so I'm a bit short of money for apps.  I'll have to be creative.

5. Linking up to a projector - We have PCs in our teaching rooms so it's pretty simple.  We bought an Apple Dock Connector to VGA Adapter.  If we had macs in our teaching rooms I would have a host of apps to achieve the same thing which would be preferable because a lack of wires would free me up to wonder around the room.

6. Baby wipes - I used these to wipe down the ipads after use.  I intend to continue this practice.  

This is very different to normal teaching in an HE institution where you book a room, make sure you work the PC/projector and bring a memory stick.  A learning technologist lives and dies by logistical preparation.

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