Qld school iPad trial a strong success



news Queensland’s education department has published several extensive reports detailing recent trials of iPads within the classroom, with the documents overwhelmingly classing the Apple tablets as a success, including in their ability to help students improve their academic performance.

Shortly after the iPad was first released in Australia in mid-2010, schools and universities right around Australia jumped headfirst into trials of the hyped tablets as they rushed to discover exactly what their use would be in the educational field. Previously, many of the institutions had been focused on deploying netbooks to students, but the development of the iPad appeared to have re-focused many around the new tablet form factor. However since that point, relatively few have detailed the results of their trials publicly, with one exception being University of Melbourne residential college Trinity College, which published a report in March 2011 recommending a wider rollout of iPads after a trial involving students and staff.

It’s not clear when the reports were published, but the state’s Department of Education, Training and Employment has published a page on its website with several publicly available documents detailing its findings from its own trials.

The department’s reports note that it conducted iPad trials with two schools, 11 teachers, 116 students and 50 iPads, over a period stretching over six months. Its aim with the trials was to identify whether the iPad was an effective learning tool in schools; to assess the compatibility of the iPad with the department’s existing ICT infrastructure, and to inform policy regarding the use of iPads, in both corporate and school environments.

The two chosen trial schools were Kedron State School in Brisbane, where 24 iPads were shared between about 95 students in year 9. As the school’s Wi-Fi coverage was sufficient to support the devices, 32GB Wi-Fi iPads were purchased for the trial. At Kedron students used the iPads in specific classes (literacy and music) with set teachers, during their school day. They used the devices for specific tasks and assessments blended into their class work, and did not have access to the devices exclusively or for their entire school day.

Kedron has a vision of providing 1 to 1 ratios for student laptops, ensuring each student has a device, and was selected as it had some students indicated through trends as disengaging from the learning process.

The second school was Doomadgee State School, located in Queensland’s far north-west region. In this school, 21 iPads were assigned to 21 individual students in a combined year 8/9/10 class. The models used were 32GB, 3G iPads, connected to Telstra’s 3G network as there was limited Wi-Fi coverage in the area. Doomadgee students were identified as having limited exposure to any form of computing in the school, and the model which they were allocated iPads differed from Kedron in that the students had exclusive access to the iPads in a one to one usage model, although the iPads could not be taken home during the trial.

Doomadgee eventually cancelled the Telstra 3G SIM cards used on their iPads as Wi-Fi access was boosted at the school.

In general, the trial report found that the iPad was viewed unanimously by all participating teachers as a cross-curriculum device not constrained to a specific subject area. Students demonstrated improved academic performance when using the devices, including higher levels of engagement with the curriculum, and both models for supplying iPads were effective for learning.

The trial further found that an Internet connection was not essential at all times, and that no iPads were damaged during the trial, with students appearing self-motivated to care for the devices. Both teachers and students developed their understanding of the technology during the trial, and students re-engaged in their learning with different apps on the devices. Parents also became involved in the trial – testing out apps at home and recommending them to teachers in the trial.

From the point of view of compatibility of the iPads with the department’s existing infrastructure, there were a few challenges which arose, including difficulties setting up and managing multiple iTunes accounts, handling updates to iOS and the iPad apps, and the inability for the department to purchase multiple copies of apps.

In addition, the department highlighted the lack of support for browser plugins such as Flash, Silverlight and Java as an issue with the iPads; some rich text input fields on some websites were unusable, and synching and backups of the devices required a PC connection.

However, the department also noted that most of these problems were solved or on their way to being solved. “An extension of the trial is exploring Mobile Device Management (MDM) software that will make it much easier to update, backup, sync and set policies on multiple iPads,” the department wrote in its report. “In the United States, Apple have introduced an Education Volume Licencing program and a Business Volume Licencing program, which is expected to be introduced to Australia. These programs will make purchasing multiple copies of apps and ’gifting’ apps to particular iPads much easier.”

In addition, teachers participating in the trial generally found workarounds themselves to the issues.

The report produced a number of recommendations, including:

  • Allowing teachers sufficient time to become confident with the devices before they are introduced to classrooms
  • Inviting parent involvement
  • Purchasing protective casing for the iPads and clearly labelling them
  • Consider total ROI (including MDM solutions) when deploying iPads
  • That the department should work with Apple to establish volume procurement of iPads
  • Create iOS guidelines for teachers and create generic software profiles for school iPads, including appropriate restrictions
  • Investigate iTunes volume pricing
  • Conduct more trial research

The overall conclusion of the report was: “The trial demonstrated the benefits of the iPad as an effective learning tool, noting compatibility issues with the department’s ICT infrastructure.” In addition, the department has produced a number of accompanying reports to go with its iPad trial report, including a secondary report on the use of iPads in Special Education, a schools guide for purchasing and using iDevices, a corporate guide for purchasing and using personal productivity devices, and more. All of these can be found on the department’s site, although several are earmarked for consumption by department staff only.

The news comes as educational institutions around Australia continue to deploy iPads to students and staff in increasing numbers. The University of Western Sydney, for example, several weeks ago revealed that it will deploy some 11,000 iPads to students and staff this year, in one of the largest rollouts of the Apple tablets known in Australia so far and a move that will see every first year student at the institution receiving one of the devices.

It hasn’t been all Apple, however. In December 2011, Acer revealed that students and staff of years 9–12 at Brighton Grammar School, Victoria would each be provided with an Acer Iconia Tab A500, running the Android operating system which is a rival to Apple’s iOS.

This report represents extremely good news for those who have been in favour of deploying iPads in educational settings. Its findings are almost universally good for the iPad, showing – as many teachers and parents have already experienced – increased engagement with the learning process through using the tablets – and even better academic results, representing the holy grail for educators. Concerns about the devices’ safety and durability in schools were assuaged, and manageability issues were largely also dealt with, or are anticipated to have been shortly dealt with.

I expect this kind of report to be widely circulated in educational institutions around Australia and used to justify further iPad rollouts.


  1. It’s pretty obvious that there would be benefits from widespread use of any computing device, so the results are hardly surprising.
    A better study would have been to compare value for money between the over-priced iPad and other tablet devices – especially as Android software would probably also be cheaper and confining schools to the Apple ecosystem is likely to be restricting.
    Academic administrators tend to take a simplistic view, spending other people’s tax dollars as they do, and cost-benefit analysis is probably of no interest to them.

    • “the over-priced iPad”?

      95% of Android tablets are the same price or more expensive, unless they’re on sale. The only tablets competing with the iPad on price right now are the Nexus 7 and 10, which only came out recently.

    • This is a very offensive comment that is not based in reality at all, it’s purely conjecture and helps paint a pretty bad image of the Systems Administrator role without evidences or apparent reason.

      As a syadmin at a K-12 school not a single dollar gets spent on the network without a selection process that is approved by the finance and exec teams. The I.T departments (if your school is lucky enough to even have one) around Australia could have deployed tablets and mobile devices years ago if we actually had better budget allocation!

      You’ll also find a majority of the admins who work in education (and in most environments) have a very high standard of ethnics and morality – for an idea of what this means please see the SAGE-AU Code of Ethics: https://www.sage-au.org.au/about-us

      Those of us who hold the keys to the systems people use on a daily basis do not have an agenda to just blindly spend tax payers money and waste everyones time, and I for one denounce this “Paleoflatus” opinion on the subject. Those other SAGE-AU or IIA members reading need to speak up to prevent this kind of attitude from prevailing.

    • “Android software would probably also be cheaper” ???

      The qualifying “probably” is a dead giveaway that even you admit you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      If you have evidence that Android apps are significantly cheaper than their iPad equivalents, please present it.

      The iTunes Store brought a revolution in app pricing compared to similar PC-based software. And there are countless free (and worthwhile) apps available in every category.

      • @Gwyntaglaw

        While in general I’d agree there’s no specific difference between one specific app’s pricing on Android compared to Apple’s App Store, it IS very true that many of Android’s apps have free or trial versions, which Apple’s often don’t. Thus, overall, apps are significantly cheaper.

        That’s not to say they’re better, or not. Just Android’s charging model is different due to in app advertising.

        That said, education apps are unlikely to be in this category.

        • Yeah, and Android on tablets has very few actual tablet apps, whilst the iPad has over 300,000 iPad apps.

  2. I still maintain that the results were hardly surprising.
    I’m unaware of the time-line, so was unaware of the absence of any alternative to the iPad, including simple computers, dumb terminals etc. An up-to-date comparison might still be interesting.
    I still have no evidence what results the same money might have produced if allocated otherwise to teaching the kids.
    I have relatives and good friends in the teaching profession and have taught at university level myself, so well appreciate the problems of academic administration and would certainly not criticise their ethnics (sic) and morality. Although many are not well acquainted with business administration, those I have met are generally well motivated.
    Please don’t take offence – there’s no need to be that sensitive. I comment only based on the evidence presented and our comments have added light to the subject, which is a good thing.

    • My, some of us really are touchy!
      By the way, it’s “people who…”, not “people that…”.
      We see a lot of angst skirting around, but still ignoring my main point. It’s not an earth-shattering discovery that more money spent will produce better educational results. I’m all for that.
      My point is that I’d really be interested in a cost-benefit study comparing various ways of spending the same money. This might include the use of a number of different implementations of computer technology, as well as better teacher training, student-teacher ratios, personal coaching, better conventional teaching equipment, class sizes, session lengths, homework and a whole lot of such factors with which I’m not familiar.
      I think mine is a fair comment and I don’t think that noting variations in the quality of financial management and administrative expertise among well-intentioned people who are expert in other fields is in any way an insult. You have only to note the relationship between the job descriptions and the qualifications of our politicians!

      • Politicians don’t carry out such studies. It’s public servants who do that. I’m one of them (not in education, but in another human services field).

        What you are describing is policy la-la land. It’s an ideal, unrealistic model of how policy is developed and evaluated in the real world – the one with tight budget constraints, lobby groups, peak bodies and every other interest group getting their stick in.

        Teachers, administrators and bureaucrats do the best they can. Most of them do, at any rate. I could hardly expect anyone to believe that all such people are selfless, dedicated and free of biases. But they do try to do what is best for the kids. They work within limited, not unlimited parameters and resources. They are drawn to the immediate and achievable rather than the far-off ideal of perfection. They are human.

        And in this case, a workable product is right at hand – the iPad. Yes it’s “new”, popular and crowd-pleasing. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially very useful. The number of educational apps available is staggering. Yes, some are crap – but the laws of competition in a fairly free market (imagine that!) has brought into being at least a small number of outstanding apps. They are worth trying, in classrooms and with real students.

        That seems fair enough, to me. And yes, if a product comes along in a few years that is even better, then I’m sure that will get a thorough airing and looking-at. What a terrific outcome!

    • @Paleoflatus

      I still have no evidence what results the same money might have produced if allocated otherwise to teaching the kids.

      Let’s analyse that shall we:

      A 32GB WiFi Only iPad 4 costs $599 from Apple (or $549 from Online retailers).

      That school had 24 iPads- that’s a bit over $14K.

      In comparison that is:

      2x Decent DLP projectors
      2x Decent Electronic whiteboards
      3x Average cost Field Trips
      14x New computers
      A teacher for approx. 1 term of 4
      Several thousand boxes of chalk or boxes of whiteboard markers….

      Can you show me how any of those things would’ve done a significantly better job of allowing the students to interact, have fun, learn AND use technology ALL at the same time? WHILE increasing their academic performance?

  3. @paleoflatus,

    Your comments are typical of people that have no idea what they are talking about. I worked for about 10 years as an IT Manager in a school. We were always extremely careful about what money we spent and how it was spent, we had to, there was very little money available for infrastructure or new devices. What i did find however was that there was little interest in examining other devices by teachers. there are plenty examples of successful Android and ipad deployments in schools but it seems strange that only ipads were offered for use in the trial.

    In all of the cases I have seen, its been Apples marketing arm that has come in, swamped the target with support and a sales pitch, and then as soon as the sale has been made, they are never to be seen again.

    The support after the sale is usually extremely poor ($2000 to replace a macbook Pro with a damaged case that was originally purchased for $1100).

    • Schools don’t always have IT managers, and IT managers don’t always make every spending decision related to these kinds of things.

      For example, at my son’s school, the principal arranged funds for every class to have two ipads. It didn’t come from the IT budget, and it wasn’t a particulalry well researched decision.

      Last year that school budgetted for an IT support person, who was frankly a moron. He was also a die hard apple fan, who believed that the ipads were the only good thing that the school had ever done. He has since been replaced by someone competent, who is actually addressing the numerous server and network issues left behind.

      The story is the same in businesses as well as schools. Regardless of having a competent and careful IT area, there is nothing to stop some business manager from deciding arbitrarily that they need to purchase iToys.

      When it comes to my son’s schooling I would like to know that these decisions are made more carefully.

  4. ampre a10 for ~$170

    quad core 1.5ghz
    1gb ram
    16gb of space
    USB port

    these things can run ARM linux coupled with a keyboard, they become a media creation device, not just a media consumption advice.

    the choice of apple was most likely pushed from upper management as an attempt to stay ‘current’.

  5. iPads also offer a single environment, instead of an IT department potentially having to support multiple devices with different specs and versions of software/OS. I don’t necessarily like Apples approach, but it does make admin easier when everyone has the same device.

  6. A few corrections to some of these comments:
    Ipads were probably chosen due to the largest ecosystem of educational apps. Plus they are much more secure to manage in an enterprise than the random and diverse implementations of android (current exception of Samsung SAFE). Although the report suggests that are not currently managed with an MDM in any case.
    Paleoflatus, before making disparaging comments, might be an idea to school yourself on the topic at hand. Tablet devices have carved out their own niche in educational benefits for kids. My kids were proficient on ipads at 3yrs. Once I loaded some kiddie apps and showed them how to get onboard – they were off. Teach a child to login into a internet connected tablet and you educate them for life… I’ll caveat that with the need for a balanced upbringing not always spent in front of a screen.
    iOS is also more user friendly than other mobile platforms. My rule of thumb with my kids was ipads can be used by a 3 yr old, need to be 4-5 to use an android tablet and I wasn’t willing to let them try the win8 tablet.
    Will be interesting to see what the mobile platform market does over the next 18 months.

  7. There is no way for an enterprise to manage these devices (same with android).

    There is no volume licensing for apps on the appstore, if a teacher wants an app for 30ipads they have to install it individually on each device.

    Whereas if something like the ampre a10 was chosen a standardised linux image could’ve been created with the appropriate apps.

    These are useful for people on the go, not students.

    Plus dont all high school students now have a laptop (with 3g) paid for by the department? This is a more appropriate approach. Ipads are just toys to school children.

  8. Renai, announcing this as a success is really pretty meaningless unless they had a real scientifically based test structure in place. There’s no metric except what they knew could be met and no possible way of analysing how it could have been done better or worse.
    It’s success by press release.

    Ben Goldacre of Bad Science fame and a group from the British Public Service actually published a paper which would form a far superior model for creating and accurately testing ideas like this.

    Please check it out as a self-stated fan of evidence based work:


  9. Volume licensing was introduced late last year, but the department has no agreement with them. The goes for enterprise management, sure software solutions exist but tjey are not implemented.

    To call this trial a success is a complete joke. Ipads caused havoc for the IT department.

    Just because a report was released doesnt mean there is value or even truth to it. If you have ever worked in a govt department you’ll know this to be true.

  10. commentator
    Go and have a look at some of the schools where amazing things are happening with ipads in classrooms. It’s not about the IT department. It’s about engaging the kids in learning, and ipads certainly do that in the right hands. Any tool is only as good as the teacher who uses it.

    • It’s not about the teachers either. It’s about everyone working together to educate our kids. Selecting devices without proper trials is stupid. More often than not devices are selected because of school politics and then people get left to clean up the mess

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