The latest episode of Jamf Breakfast Club, our source for accessible and fun information on education trends and best practices, tackled the issue of how to make sure that students use Apple technology safely and effectively when not present in the classroom. Host Craig Smith, Jamf senior education sales manager for the United Kingdom and Ireland, spoke with Richard Anderton, digital transformation lead at the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership. Their conversation touched on questions concerning how to best partner with parents and make sure that school-issued devices promote equity and better learning outcomes without becoming a distraction or a threat to students.
The Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP) is a trust comprising 20 schools in England, spread among the locales of Birmingham, Coventry, North Warwickshire and Staffordshire. ATLP is currently in the midst of implementing the Learning Futures program, in which each student, teacher and support staff member will receive a school-issued iPad. This program is designed to battle inequality by giving lower-income students the same opportunities as their peers to engage in learning activities beyond the classroom.
The pandemic as an accelerator of technological change
In this episode, Anderton reported that ATLP has rolled out 1:1 iPads to three schools and will tackle five more in January. The trust began this initiative largely based upon positive evidence produced by other schools implementing similar programs, but he acknowledged that the pandemic was a major catalyst. As the digital divide began to have an even larger negative impact on lower-income students, it became obvious that administrators needed to take action in order to promote equity among students in their member schools.
For decisionmakers at ATLP, there was never a serious option other than iPad for issuing technology to learners; they were particularly swayed by the devices’ power, ease of use and well-integrated apps. Providing teachers with iPad Pro helped to ensure that they could perform their jobs effectively and efficiently, without wasting time to boot up a computer.
Anderton acknowledged that 1:1 device programs are somewhat contentious in the United Kingdom, and particularly in England, whereas Scotland and some countries outside the UK have taken greater steps to adopt new technology in schools. He also mentioned that some stakeholders are looking to return to the “old ways” of pre-pandemic education. All of this accentuates the importance of careful planning and implementation for the Learning Futures program, envisioning in advance exactly how the technology will contribute to positive learning outcomes.
Five key strategies for the digital classroom
Anderton went on to outline five key strategies that ATLP has used in their pursuit of digital transformation of the classroom:
- Enhancing modeling and explanation with tools like Apple TV and AirPlay
- Supporting behavior management (including with Apple Classroom and Jamf Teacher)
- Supporting needs of all pupils with accessibility features
- Enhancing assessment capabilities
- Supporting teachers’ workflows and increasing efficiencies in the classroom (such as by reducing printing)
These objectives are served by offering multiple training opportunities for educators, starting with the Apple Teacher course to familiarize them with iPad and the apps developed by Apple. ATLP also takes advantage of Apple’s Regional Training Centres and provides training webinars for teachers’ ongoing education. The conversation also touched on the Jamf Educator program, which allows educators to get acquainted with the Jamf Teacher app (which serves as a complement to Apple Classroom) in a virtual environment.
Partnering with parents and protecting students
Preparing devices to go home with students can make school administrators nervous, and ensuring that they are ready with the appropriate settings is where Jamf School proves especially valuable to ATLP. The trust views the Apple devices as strictly educational tools, not really for personal use and certainly not to be employed for engaging with social media. They accordingly configure the devices to restrict these unwanted functions and prohibit students from downloading just any apps onto their devices.
Parents who want to introduce further rules and restrictions, either generally or at certain times of day, are empowered to do so using the Jamf Parent app, which is currently being used in a pilot program at three ATLP schools. Jamf Parent works on more than just Apple devices, which supports the mission of equity by supporting whatever technology families have available.
Making Apple devices practical and safe to use beyond the classroom is critical for ensuring that the school receives the maximum return on investment (ROI) for the technology. If a child is absent from school, having the device at home means that any learning loss can be mitigated. Having iPads available at home and on the go effectively expands the amount of time that students have available for learning, since they can pursue projects past dismissal time. This is an advantage that children of more well-off families have historically enjoyed, but the 1:1 iPad program promotes equity by opening us the same opportunities to students across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Keeping students safe also involves applying a stringent internet safety policy built into the curriculum and providing students with the knowledge to self-regulate so they naturally make good decisions. And using Jamf Parent is valuable because it allows parents and caretakers to oversee at-home device use and gain insight into their children’s studies; it brings parents further into the education conversation and encourages them to acquire the skills to take an active role.
Striking a balance between security and usability
One of the challenges faced by any school system implementing security solutions is to avoid detracting from the ease and pleasure of using the device. Anderton argued that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that can work on this front; each school system must identify their priorities and find their own ideal balance point. He said that safeguards should prevent students from encountering content that will upset or disturb them, but at the same time they should feel like they have the freedom to find the information they need. Sometimes administrators encounter unexpected uses of the technology, as when a group of ATLP students was using a shared space in a whiteboarding app as an unofficial messaging/social media forum.
ATLP currently tends to apply uniform device policies across the board, but Anderton explained that admins plan to differentiate based on age groups in the future. The News app sometimes features stories that are unsuitable for younger children, but it can provide useful information to older students; there are a few apps like this that will probably be removed for younger grades and restored later. Anderton also mentioned that ATLP admins are looking at some fun activities on the iPad that could be used as a reward for good behavior or excellent performance, even though they do not have a strictly educational function.
Want to hear more?
Access the session to watch the entire conversation with Richard Anderton.
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