Dixons City Academy: preparing for tablets

Daniel Ibbitson, Technology Innovations Co-ordinator at Dixons City Academy, tells us how the school integrated Samsung tablets into teaching and learning, and their plans for rolling out their 1:1 scheme.

Implementation of a mobile device management system

With six months to prepare for the arrival of our tablets, the first point of call was seeking advice and quotes on our network infrastructure. The WiFi was upgraded to accommodate a much higher data usage, and the MDM (mobile device management) was set up so that all of the tablets could be managed. Such an MDM solution allows the school to block inappropriate content, measure usage, push out apps, etc.

Decisions on the Play Store accessibility for students also had to be made, as it is an ‘all or nothing’ type of access. We chose to allow access, but educated our students in acceptable and safe use. Clear rules and consequences were communicated, as well as the importance of e-safety and Digital Identity, so that our students know how to use them in a safe, constructive manner.

Team of Digital Leaders and Facilitators

A group of students were selected as the school’s ‘Digital Leaders’ (or ‘device champions’) to facilitate staff, pupil and parental training and support. They held dedicated lessons to developing technology assisted education in the form of support and training sessions; creating digital content; and developing dedicated solution-focused apps. These device champions also take part in running the school social media brand – another method of educating pupils to use technology in a safe manner, while relating school celebrations to pupils on their level (e.g. blogging about sports achievements on Twitter).

Parents’ support and participation

Parents were very keen to voice their opinions. Most were extremely positive about embedding this technological innovation into education, while others were somewhat sceptical. Through our initial roll out of 90 tablets to half of year 7, some parent/guardians believed we rushed them into a commitment without enough opportunities to plan how this would fit into their own family lives; insurance cover was also mentioned. So, we have addressed this for the 1:1 roll out and will introduce parents to the tablets, what they can do and to hear pupil experiences. The promotion of parental engagement in the scheme is essential, as is any engagement into pupils learning. To aid with this, parents/guardians will have an opportunity to speak to the device champions (monitored by trained staff) with any questions, concerns, ideas. This will be an informal method of parental voice, and help build a strong FAQ bank for a first point of call.

Once the 1:1 roll out is complete, the tablets will be a large part of the schools’ pedagogy, as well as its appeal to prospective parents. The device champions will attend open evenings, demonstrating first hand how these tablets help them learn. The same will be done with consultation evenings, where anything related can be discussed face to face with the device champions, or even training can be administered.

If the infrastructure is in place, misconceptions are preconceived, training is preplanned and catalysts primed to spark enthusiasm throughout all, there is no reason why a 1:1 tablet project cannot succeed”.

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