Piloting iPads for Additional Support Needs in a College

As a result of a conversation at the Tablet Tools seminar in November, BRITE linked up with Motherwell College to run a pilot iPad loan scheme for students with Additional Support Needs.  Fil McIntyre, one of BRITE’s Assistive Technologists, will be consulting with staff from Motherwell College to set up and roll out the iPads and gather feedback from students and staff.

Fil will be documenting the process, his report from the set-up day is below:

I should start by apologising to the Motherwell college staff for my enthusiasm when so many problems arose during this set-up session.  I was eagerly noting down (on my iPad of course) any issues which we came across so that others may not have to experience them.  The Motherwell team were good-natured though and didn’t kick me out the door.  Stephen from IT Support should also be thanked for his willingness to assist.

The goal was to setup six iPads so that staff could spend a few weeks familiarising themselves with the device prior to the student loans starting in 2012.

Tip no.1:  Check you can Install iTunes.

3 of the 6 iPads arrived with iOS5 (the operating system), the others needed updating using iTunes.  One of the chief advantages of iOS5 is that the iPad does not need to be synchronised to iTunes for setup and future iOS updates.  This is a big bonus in a loan situation as you do not then need to sync all your iPads – everything can happen in the iPad.

However, we had 3 to update and the PC we were using did not have iTunes installed so the first call to IT support was needed, Stephen logged on and enabled the download.

Tip no.2:  Logical iPad names and logical email addresses.

The Motherwell staff had set up a hotmail address for each iPad.  An email address is required to register.  The addresses were setup in a logical order with logical (but secure) passwords.  The email addresses were based on the name of the iPad so in future it will be easy to relate the two.  Most institutions will security label their kit so ensure that the name of the iPad relates to the label so you don’t have to go into Settings every time you need to know which iPad you have picked up.

Tip no. 3:  Check you can register with iTunes.

The college’s content filter did not allow staff to create an Apple ID so call number two was put in to IT Support who came down to assist.  We tried setting up an Apple ID online and then logging on through iTunes but the content filter didn’t like that either.  Stephen logged on again to bypass the filter.

Tip no.4: Downloading the update.

iOS5 can take a while to download and thinking all the problems were solved (the download had started) Stephen had gone away.  Shortly afterwards we had to call him for a third time as the content filter caught up with us again.  This time we pulled him up a chair and he agreed he would “just stay until you’re finished”.  Thankfully the download only took about 10-15 minutes for each iPad.

Tip no.5:  You don’t need to register your credit card.

As all this was going on the iPads which already had iOS5 were being set-up.  It had been decided that one account would be registered for app purchases and apps gifted to the other accounts.  It can seem that you need to register a card with the App Store to download anything, even free apps.  However there is a way round this:  Try to download a free app and you will be prompted to register with the App Store.  During this process you will be asked to select a payment method.  In the drop-down you will see an option for “None”.  n.b. you do not get this when doing the standard setup.

Tip no.6: Decide how you’re going to set up the iPads

After some discussion it was felt that if the iPad was too restricted it would be unlikely to prove its worth as a device.  I feel the value of the iPad in a college setting is it can replace a lot of the stuff students have to carry around, but also increase productivity e.g. if a student can check their college emails on it during the day rather than having to find a PC.  We decided to do the following for the pilot and will review how these settings work in practice:

1.  We didn’t sign up for iCloud.  Any backups may involve data private to the student borrowing the iPad which could then be accessed by the next user.  Much simpler to set each student up with a DropBox account.  The DropBox account is unlinked before the iPad is loaned out again.

2.  In Settings> General> Restrictions we set a passcode and turned off iTunes, Installing Apps, Deleting Apps and In-App Purchases.

3.  Students would be encouraged to set up their email on the device which again would be unlinked when it was returned.

4.  Any accessibility options which were required e.g. Large Text/White on Black/Zoom would be discussed with the student at the time of issue of the iPad.

I’ll update here as the pilot progresses into the roll out stage.

7 thoughts on “Piloting iPads for Additional Support Needs in a College

  1. Pingback: Seen at BETT – Hardware « The BRITE Blog

  2. This is really interesting – great to have the practicalities and management logistics highlighted because they can often become too difficult to overcome and wonderful opportunities are lost.
    If you want a paid app on all 6 iPads are you purchasing it 6 times? Like the idea of a DropBox account per student which then can be unlinked.
    There is a small, new group been set up on Glow to look at the use of iPads and other mainstream devices for ASN pupils. Please let me know if you want to be added to the group. I’ll link your blog.
    Good luck!

    • Hello Shirley,

      The “install on up to 5 devices” clause in the Apple T+Cs is the subject of much discussion. I take it to mean 5 devices used by one individual. Therefore to be on the safe side we purchase paid apps once for each iPad.
      DropBox should work well for backup and mean students have access to their files from anywhere.
      It would be great to be added to the Glow group – as long as I can remember my Glow log-in!

  3. Pardon me for interrupting. I am trying to find a blog with someone who would be able to help us (my student and I) pair the Apex Braillenote and JAWS. We have gotten to the point at which she is able to read documents from the PC on her Apex Braille display but cannot get to the point where she can write. Is it that we have the incorrect version of JAWS? We have 13.0. I don’t know if you are able to help or not but thought I’d try. Thanks so much for listening. Maybe you can send me in the right direction?

  4. Hello, very interested in how Motherwell College have set about using iPads. I wonder if I could ask for some help? I’d like to use PuppetPhoto with some groups of primary school children I teach and have looked at Morris Cooke’s website but my app doesn’t do what his video shows some of the time.
    Is anyone familiar with this app who could walk me through it a bit? Would be really appreciated. I can do the basic wizard on but the puppets I add go straight to the background with out first giving the chance of cut them up in them editing “room.”

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