WA Govt trials iPads in schools


news Some of the youngest of Western Australia’s nearly 262,000 students enrolled in 770 public schools will now use the latest in Apple tablet technology to learn about alphabets and numbers.

Premier Colin Barnett and Education Minister Elizabeth Constable made an announcement this week, stating that Year 1 and 2 students in 17 schools would participate in the Early Childhood iPad Initiative to develop their numeracy and literacy skills. They will be guided by two mentor schools that have already experienced this new form of education during a pilot project. Nine hundred iPads would be made available to the schools.

Barnett said Western Australia’s performance in the recently held National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests had earned the state additional funding for educational programs. The $1 million program is aimed at making learning more interesting by bringing mathematics and reading to life and helping children engage in their education more fully.

“Our new on-entry assessments of pre-primary students give teachers vital information about the skills our youngest students possess as they enter school, and we are delivering the tools teachers need to best connect with young students” said Barnett.

According to Constable, teachers piloting the program last year had found students responded very well to using iPad apps to develop their reading and maths skills “Students are very confident with the technology generally, and are excited to use iPads. This can only be good for their education” she said. Teachers across the state are already using electronic whiteboards in the classroom. “This technology is reinvigorating learning and iPads will similarly have an impact in the classroom” Constable said.

Schools and universities in Western Australia have been independently testing iPads and tablet devices in various educational programs for over a year. In September 2010, the chief information officer of the Department of Education and Training, Bevan Doyle had said, “The department does not have a policy on the use of iPads or Android-based technology at this stage; however some schools have bought tablet devices to trial in various settings.” He also stated that if educational institutions showed an interest in a ‘central buying arrangement for iPads’, official movements such as seeking optimal pricing would be made.

The WA department ensures that public schools receive technology funding to maintain a student-to-computer ratio of 1:5 for secondary schools and 1:10 for primary schools. “Schools are able to use the remaining funds for other technologies including iPads, and of course schools can supplement the funding from other sources” said Doyle.


  1. No statement from the WA Dept of Ed about how exactly iPads will help students learn anything? What it definitely will do is increase teachers’ workloads as its another tool to be mastered and managed. But then that’s OK because teachers do not work hard anyway, do they?

    • Oh and Maude, don’t worry, iPads are far far easier to learn, lock-down and manage than PCs, so replacing PCs with these much cheaper devices reduces the support load immensely. No viruses or other malware to worry about either.

      And with a battery life of an immense 10-11 hours of non-stop video playing for example, no worries about classrooms lacking power points either.

      • ^ someone who hasn’t managed a a quantity of apple devices.

        I say the real reason for this is the simple fact that apple don’t have decent enterprise management tools for their devices.

        “No viruses or other malware to worry about either.” Just keep telling yourself that, no different than a religious fanatic believing his faith alone will stop bullets. Good security practice applies no matter what platform you use. There are in the wild iOS viruses there are known un-patched exploits for macOS. Reason why windows was targeted and still is has less to do with how vulnerable the system is but more to do with the size of the deployment footprint.

        • Err, you don’t seem to realize that there are NO viruses or malware for non-jail broken iOS devices, unlike Android which had 720 malware apps and malicious exploits last year and in the last quarter was the target of 100% of all new mobile malware discovered according to McAfee.

          The fact of the matter is that with all apps securely sand-boxed and requiring signed code and approval through the App Store, no side-loading possible, hardware encryption built-in, remote locking, GPS location of missing devices, remote wipe and parental controls, iOS devices are like night and day compared to Android let alone the security Swiss cheese nightmare of Windows.

          Oh, and I’ve been involved in a number of enterprise-scale PC and Mac SOE and MOE environments over the few decades and know full-well how much of a revelation the iOS environment is for sysadmins and support.

          No religion required here, just cold hard facts that you seem incapable of seeing.

          • Sorry SMEMatt, that came out sounding harsher than I meant it to.

            You are right, there are indeed some interesting twists and turns that Apple’s App store and general OS philosophy adds to the mass deployment scenario which various third party management and deployment tools can help with.

            However, the incredible ease of use (from 2 years old to 82) and almost imossiple to break nature of iOS means that the daily support burden of users is so much lower.

          • I don’t have a problem with apple products I have a problem with apple user who assume security is something that happens to someone else.

            There have been at least a couple of revisions of the iphone jailbreak that worked by clicking a web link. Hands up if you know someone who’s had a computer owned by clicking a link in a web browser, I think that would be everyone in the room. Even in apples app store with their code review there are still application that show up from time to time that are designed to steal your personnel information. There was an exploit in siri which exposed supposedly secure personal information in a recent iOS build (now patched). Heck apple used to blame OSx instability issue on the adobe flash run time which for OSx was developed in house by apple.

            BTW everything you listed is available for Android Wimo and BB in fact a number of those “iOS” features you listed where standard for BB before you could even have them as a option on “iOS” devices. Heck in the iPhone 3 days various email synch systems had to be made less secure to function with the phone.

            Apple have in the past and will in the future make decisions that reduce security in the interest of usability. Apple are also very quick to deny problem might exist with their problem product.

            If they belong in a teaching environment should be up to the teachers not someone who decides iPads are cool and can be used for a task. I just hope with large scale push into schools we will see apple finally add the support need for mass deployments of iOS devices.

  2. Our 3 year old daughter has been tracing numbers and letters, counting, learning the alphabet since before she was 2 years old thanks to the many fun educational apps available for the iPad (20,000 educational apps available).

    Moderation in everything is important, but if the iPad makes laborious times tables, flash cards of facts, spelling exercises and all the other old boring repetitive learning techniques fun and something the kids actually want to do, what’s not to like?

    Research has shown iPads raise exam scores by 24% and increase engagement dramatically particularly in those students who get left behind by the Education system. Student retention rates have improved from 50% to 90% in trials.

     iPads eliminate bags full of heavy expensive textbooks and with Apple iBook eTextbooks priced at $14.99 each, it makes it cheaper to buy an iPad + eTextbooks compared to between 1 or 2 years of paper textbooks in upper high and Uni. 

    All students should have them.

    C’mon guys, don’t be stuck back with the horse and buggy for something as important as our children’s education. The automobile is here.

  3. I thank all the comment writers but I think I may have given the wrong impression. I actually support 12 iPads in a small K-6 school. I lock them down using the iPhone Configuration Utility – we can’t justify the cost of some of the more sophisticated support tools. Updating them is a very time consuming process.
    They have a variety of apps on them, starting with extremely simple puzzles, through letter and number tracing apps, to more advanced apps.
    The problem is our teachers are busy – very busy.
    Incorporating iPad apps into a structured teaching sequence to address a particular education need is quite difficult because virtually none of the apps we have tried (and we have tried quite a few) is 100% educationally sound. Some are very close but not quite there. To give an example, the letter tracing app we use is very good, but the letter shape is not the official Foundation Font (we are in NSW). Consequently we must use the app with caution.
    Finally, there is no way of stopping the child from flicking from one app to the next, aside from sitting with them. They find this flicking very stimulating, but it is hardly educational. Working one-to-one is not very efficient – it adds to a teacher’s workload with insufficient benefit for the child.

    Keep in mind I am looking at this issue from a perspective of one working with quite young children. We love our iPads, but they remain as ‘enrichment’ rather than mainstream educational tools. So, I repeat, before the government rushes out and buys new iPads they should look at how exactly will they help the students learn new skills in a school setting. And how will the teacher incorporate it into an Individual Education Program and assess the outcome?

    • Thanks Maude for your perspective. That does shed a lot more light on the subject.

      In my case working in the tertiary sector we are faced with somewhat diffent circumstances, though academic overload is just as much an issue.

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