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iPad Teaching

Ready, set...deploy school iPads!

Top tips about one-to-one iPad deployment in schools from experienced Deputy Head Jose Picardo.

Students using iPads in the classroom
Catherine Jessey

Catherine Jessey

Catherine is a Science Teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator, and Sparkjar Teacher Champion.

José Picardo is a veteran of two whole-school iPad deployments, and has sound advice to help any schools about to embark on introducing devices 1:1.

He spoke to our Teacher Champion Catherine Jessey about his experiences at Surbiton High School (SHS) and his current work at Hampshire Collegiate School (HCS).

Thirty second summary:

  • Start with why making this change to teaching and learning is worthwhile.
  • Staff need time and trust: sound pedagogy comes first; how technology can facilitate it comes second.
  • Prioritise your context: every school is different, so you will need to adapt your deployment to meet what works for your stakeholders and your site.
  • Explain everything: even what might otherwise seem obvious. It’s best not to presume that others share your insight into how 1:1 will work in the classroom.
  • Enjoy it!

Start with why

How do you begin the planning of a 1:1 scheme? Are there any factors that regularly catch schools out?

Some 1:1 projects fail because too much emphasis is put on the ‘whizz bang’ nature of technology and too little emphasis is put on why the technology is being introduced. I’m also wary of the ‘21st century’ justification, as in: ‘21st century children expect this approach to learning’; ‘they’re digital natives’, or ‘they need 21st century skills’. You have to bear in mind that we’re now approaching a quarter of the way through the 21st century; does this argument really represent a sustainable reason for pursuing the use of technology in learning anymore?

In both deployments our focus was on sound pedagogy, on what good teaching and learning looks like, before looking at how using 1:1 iPads with students can help. In particular, I didn’t want staff to think that it was just another thing they had to do – they had to believe in it; they had to want to do it – so having a strong teaching and learning purpose behind the project was essential.

Staff need time and trust

How long do you give staff with devices before students get them too? How do you manage staff who are hesitant with using new technologies?

Staff will always need their devices for a period of time before students, not only to learn how to use the device but also to learn what good teaching and learning with technology actually looks like. In both rollouts this was at least two full terms, with a focus primarily on pedagogy – such as, “here’s what Dylan Wiliam says about feedback”, or “this is what cognitive psychology tells us about frequent, low stakes testing”.

Once you’ve gone through the benefits of these fundamental approaches you can add “oh, and by the way, when the kids have iPads you’ll be able to do X, Y and Z”. This provides space for staff to have that lightbulb moment where they realise the connection for their subject, and it takes away the mystery that might surround the use of technology for those who haven’t been part of a 1:1 environment before.

I feel it's far better to have great teaching without technology than to force its use on those who aren’t so inclined. One of the things that I say to our staff is “I will never make notes in a lesson observation that say ‘you should have used the iPad more'”. Instead I say, “if the iPad comes out for a reason and you think that’s ok, I’ll trust your professional judgement”. This has the effect of removing the fear of being rated poorly for those who are uncertain about iPad use. It also sometimes even increases the likelihood of them making use of technology in a lesson, rather than shying away from it. Ultimately, I will never expect the iPad to be used just because it’s there – we don’t want it shoehorned into a lesson for no reason.

Teachers with iPads 1


Prioritise your context

Did you phase your deployments in terms of different year groups or keystages? What have you found works best to ensure a successful transition?

The timing and rollout of a 1:1 project really depends on the context of the school. SHS has multiple sites, a large body of staff, 1800 students and was my first deployment, so we decided to put the brakes on and do it in stages. We rolled out iPads to Y7 and Y12 first, which allowed us to double check that the infrastructure was working – we didn’t want to roll out 1800 iPads and then find that there weren’t enough WiFi access points or bandwidth to support so many devices!

In comparison, HCS is a smaller context, with 450 students across reception to Y13. Classes are smaller and as I'd done a roll-out before there were fewer 'unknowns' to factor in. I was able to check a lot of possible issues off the list before we even started, which streamlined the whole thing and meant we were able to deploy all student devices at once without any issues arising. There isn’t a right or a wrong way, it all really depends on your school and what will work best for your staff and students.

Explain everything

Are there any negative aspects of introducing new tech that are unavoidable? How do you prepare for or deal with them as and when they occur?

What you or I might understand about the use of technology in a classroom can be hugely different, based on our experiences and context. It’s not enough to presume that the benefits of using technology in a classroom will be obvious, or that staff will know how to deal with behaviour issues relating to devices.

The perception of technology in the classroom can cloud both teacher and parent responses to behaviour issues, so that poor behaviour with a device is seen as something different to poor behaviour with a textbook or other piece of classroom equipment. A helpful way to reframe this is to clarify ‘is this an iPad problem or a behaviour problem?’

If a student does misbehave with an iPad, you deal with the behaviour in the same way you would any other issue, not with the device. Having specific ground rules and clear behaviour expectations can help to reduce many of the issues that worry teachers when faced with aclassroom of devices. For instance:

  1. The iPad is a piece of equipment. Students are expected to ensure it is charged overnight and brought to lessons, as per their pens, exercise books, etc.
  2. iPads are not removed from bags until the teacher asks for them to be used. They are put away after a task.
  3. When iPads are in use, they are placed on the desk ‘keyboard’ style (almost flat), so as not to create a barrier between student and teacher, and to prevent the possibility of misuse of the camera.

These rules may seem obvious but staff and studentsneed them to be made explicit from the beginning; it’s best not to presume that staff will come to this knowledge by themselves, especially as the majority are highly unlikely to have taught with 1:1 before.

Enjoy it!

What do you find most exciting/enjoy most about a new deployment? What would you miss most about education with 1:1 devices if you moved to a non-iPad school?

Running a deployment often involves a lot of hectic communication with suppliers, ensuring everything is ready: that the iPads have arrived, the cases have arrived, making sure everything's stored securely, and so on – basic things but stressful.

However, once the dust has settled, the most enjoyable bit is when, a few weeks in from deployment, the iPads just blend in with everything else. They become something else for students to use to learnmaths, to learn physics. People stop worrying about ‘the technology’, and it really becomes just another tool.

There's so much I would miss about using devices if I left this environment now. In a 1:1 classroom, if a lesson is going places quickly, I can easily produce or have access to all the resources I could possibly want. They’re also different kinds of resources to those I would have previously relied upon. The fact that we can do so many different things – the different activities you can now bring to a lesson, I would really miss that.


José has championed the roll-out of Sparkjar as a key element of Hampshire Collegiate School’s digital learning strategy.

Sparkjar enables:

  • Students and teachers to communicate, set assignments, submit digital work and share personalised feedback
  • Parents to track recent assignments and due dates for completion
  • SLT to have an overview of the workflow between teachers and students across the whole school

If you'd like to find out more about how Sparkjar works to reduce teacher workload and support student success please get in touch.

Contact Us

For more insights into how to get the best out of one-to-one iPad provision, you can take a look at Apple Professional Learning Specialist David Kirtlan's series of blog posts covering everything from initial roll out to what app works best for assessment.

  1.  It's about the teacher not the app
  2. Getting all staff engaged with iPad teaching
  3. Thinking about assessment
  4. Sustaining use and developing skills
  5. Live video lessons: an on-going role in education
  6. Why Sparkjar is so important for schools

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