This post is the second in a series detailing the way in which we implemented a 1:1 program using Android devices at Forrester High School in Edinburgh. The post focuses on the preparation phase. To read the previous post on planning, go here.
Purchasing student devices
Having made the decision to roll out with Android tablets, specifically the Toshiba AT-100, the next stage was to purchase the devices and any additional extras. The first thing that surprised and disappointed me here was Toshiba’s reluctance to shift on cost. The best price they were prepared to offer us was £244 ex VAT. This equates to just under £300 with the VAT included, and does not represent much of a discount on the Amazon price of just over £300 considering we were purchasing around 150 devices. These negotiations were carried out at a time when every 1:1 initiative around the globe seemed to be for iPads – it seemed to me that this was an opportunity for Toshiba to offer us a much more attractive price in order to give them a foothold in the Android education market. In the end, the best they could do was to negotiate a discount on our insurance premium.
This brings me to the “extras”. What else should be considered when purchasing devices for a 1:1 program? There are really three main factors at start-up: insurance; extended warranty; and cases.
Although the tablets are owned by the school, we expect students to have them with them at all times and this includes taking them home. We paid just over £30 to insure each device over a 3 year period, and although this added over £4500 to the overall project cost, we felt that for the first stage of our initiative this was a premium worth paying simply for the peace of mind that it offers. In fact since the project has started I have concerns about the build of the AT-100 tablet, and in particular the glass used for the screen (there will be more on this in a later post). Given this, I think that the insurance premium has been a worthwhile investment.
Many tablets come with a single year warranty, but Toshiba was shipping the AT-100 with a two year warranty cover. As we are planning for these devices to have a three year lifespan, and as we had already taken out insurance, there seemed little value in paying for an extended warranty for the final year. A large number of devices would need to fail in the third year of the program to make the extended warranty cost worthwhile.
The last thing that we had to consider purchasing was cases. We bought the standard faux-leather Toshiba cases for around £15 which at the time seemed decent enough. However, as I write this 5 months into the project I would definitely go back and look more closely at cases specifically designed to give better protection to tablets.
Purchasing staff devices
It was not part of the original strategy, but staff raised concerns that they would have difficulty supporting 1:1 without having their own device to work with. At that point (May 2012) Toshiba announced the launch of the AT-300 tablet (to replace the AT-100), so we provided each member of teaching staff with one of these tablets to use with their classes.
A number of in-house training sessions were organised between August and December, with sessions delivered by staff at the school and Edinburgh Council’s Digital Learning Team. As with most schools we have a wide range of IT expertise and ability, with some staff ready to run as soon as the tablets were distributed to students and others needing much greater support. We have found that offering training on a need-to-have basis is the most effective approach and this will continue into 2013.
Aside from training, it was important to make sure that all staff were aware of the short and long term aims of the project. In the short term we would look to replace existing paper resources with digital equivalents – this reduction in photocopying would help to finance the project. However the medium-long term goal would be to replace existing flat and static content with dynamic and interactive activities and resources. Furthermore, we would seek to use the technology to encourage creativity and build greater independent learning skills among our students.
I think that for a 1:1 program to be a success, students should have ownership of the device even if technically it still belongs to the school. This means that they take the device home with them, they can customise and add apps as they wish, and that they have a responsibility for ensuring that it is looked after and fully charged each day. Given this level of responsibility, it was important that we had in place a clear set of guidelines which we would agree with students and parents. We set out a three way agreement between the school, the student and the parent (thanks go to Steven Whyte from Gracemount High School who developed the original document for his 1:1 Netbook roll-out which we adapted to meet our needs). These guidelines were agreed by all parties taking part in the project at the start of the implementation phase, and before any tablets are distributed.
A copy of the guidelines can be downloaded here: FHS S1 Tablet Home School Agreement
More posts on our 1:1 Android roll-out
Part 5- Long Term Review