I wrote a recent blog post on the tablet procurement Framework here in Scotland towards the end of last year, mainly about how it has been a positive move but also how we might consider improving it, particularly now that the review date for the contract is approaching. One of the points I raised was the lack of choice of tablets and how, despite a mechanism in the framework governance for responding to market developments, I felt that this had not been addressed by the current contract holder XMA. The pricing structure is not all that competitive either, with better prices available from other sources. Indeed, are schools able to access good independent advice and needs analysis before investing large amounts of money in tablet device purchasing? From individuals, colleagues or consultants who live and work in Scotland and know Scottish education well enough to help schools and LA’s make informed choices and are completely device agnostic as well as knowing where to go for the best prices on the chosen device? I don’t think this is happening enough.
There is now a further incentive (apart from increased range) for schools to consider widening their horizons and using alternative routes to the Framework when making purchases and it is that Microsoft have just announced a fantastic free training deal – that they will fund one days training for every twenty Windows devices purchased through their resellers, or three days for every fifty devices purchased. This training, delivered exclusively through Tablet Academy Scotland and Tablet Academy UK can be in the form of consultancy or from a selection of six courses tailored to Windows 8 devices in the classroom. For further information on contacting participating Windows Tablet suppliers across the UK, Contact Tablet Academy directly for information on this offer which is valid in all parts of the UK until March 31st 2014.
In Scotland, the hugely well-respected Pam Currie (who runs Tablet Academy Scotland) and her team have the experience and local knowledge to be able to offer this advice – check out this free advice service here.
Of course Apple also offer free training with volume tablet purchases and the APD courses are excellent for schools wishing to use ‘off the shelf’ training for their staff, however it is what you see on the box and these courses (which Tablet Academy also deliver) can only be customised by a maximum of twenty-five percent and must never the less still focus on the ‘core curriculum’ set out in the APD course specification, whereas the Tablet Academy Windows 8 courses can be much more flexible and even bespoke depending upon your own needs or circumstances, including using 3rd party Apps rather than Apple products, for example ‘Pinnacle Studio’ instead of iMovie and the new ‘Create Books’ Windows app (similar to the IOS ‘Book Creator’app) that is currently in beta testing, but was demonstrated in the BETT 2014 Interactive Classroom.
I think that more choice is a good thing. Windows and Android devices have come along way in a relatively short period of time and may now be ready to challenge Apple for market share. Whilst I love my iPad mini, I’ve grown to respect my Android and Windows devices too.
Samsung have just announced a ten year deal with Google. Windows 8 apps are getting better and more education-focussed as the months go by. This year might well be a very significant one for tablet market share shift, with both Windows 8 and Android tablets gaining ground on market leader Apple in both the hardware and apps stakes.
(This blog post should be read with my usual disclaimer in mind, etc etc etc. You’ll find this in the page Tabs above)
Filed under: capacity-building, change, CPD, teaching and learning Tagged: ADE, APD, Apple, iPad, Microsoft, Pam Currie, procurrement Framework, Tablet Academy Scotland, Tablet AcademyUK, Training, Windows 8, XMA
A recent post on All things D highlights how devices which have been somewhat off the radar in education have quietly gained kudos and market share. The Kindle Fire featured in this post is one such device. Interestingly, Amazon’s own app store is also gaining some traction.
The Fire is not currently included in the Scottish Government Tablet Device Procurement Framework for Education and neither is one of the other recent success stories in education, the Chromebook. I recently wrote about the Microsoft Surface tablet and how subsequent iterations (the Surface 2 is now out) will find their place in schools. The Surface is not in the framework either, and the new Toshiba Encore is a fantastic tablet running Windows 8.1 which certainly should be. This platform is a great fit with the Microsoft Office 365 on which the current iteration of GLOW is based, when schools eventually get it.
The procurement framework was one of the key planks of the Scottish Government ICT in education programme. It coincided with our work on the ICT Excellence group where access was one of our key concerns in the report accepted by the Cabinet Secretary back in February this year. I know the introduction of the framework was applauded at the time as a way of increasing access, or at least helping schools with purchasing tablets, even if the pricing structure was not incredibly competitive! The Framework document states…
The national framework has secured the following benefits:
Provides access to devices for the purposes of education in Scotland, enhancing learning and teaching, supporting digital inclusion across Scotland’s schools.
Provides a range of tablet devices with various operating systems, at market leading prices.
Provides a range of competitively priced upgraded devices and accessories.
Provides consistent national pricing, regardless of size or geographical location.
Provides an easy route to market for contracting organisations.
Provides organisations with one central point for ordering and contract management covering warranty, insurance and general supply enquiries
It is anticipated that the majority of requirements for tablet devices will be met through the National Framework.
The last sentence is very telling for me because I don’t think this is now true. Are schools blindly purchasing iPads without a thought for what their needs actually are? Are schools accessing good advice and help with needs evaluation before making tablet purchasing decisions? That any investment in tablet devices is based upon needs and not simply driven by ‘Magpie decision making’ (lets collect shiny things) or a herd mentality is crucial to a successful tablet roll out and schools cannot afford not to factor in Office 365 and GLOW, and therefore the full (rather than the somewhat restricted range of devices offered through the current framework) range of current devices into their decision making process. The current Framework covers purchases but not the advice and training which is a vital component of any tablet device deployment.
Some local authorities are geared up for this, particularly Edinburgh with its superb Digital learning Team and experienced practitioners like Mark Cunningham. Other sources of advice are available, including the Learning with Devices blog which is from Education Scotland, and truly independent consultants and organisations not tied to any one particular platform or reseller such as Tablet Academy Scotland which can provide specialist evaluation services covering all operating systems and devices. This can help schools weigh up the pro’s and con’s of all the different devices and platforms and assist them to arrive at the choice which meets their own particular needs.
If you are considering purchasing Tablets, first ask this; Has your Local Authority or Learning Community held a Tablet Evaluation Workshop day yet? Have you researched the web for information on different tablets? Do you need to use the procurement Framework or is your chosen device not featured, and can you get a better deal elsewhere?
Taking good advice and doing the research before making significant purchases is something which needs to be encouraged so that LA’s and schools don’t end up with yet more ‘White Elephant’ technologies on their storeroom shelves. Good advice taken directly from locally-based trainers who have worked with Curriculum for Excellence and appreciate how tablet devices enhance it’s delivery and practice is also crucial because its not just about the devices, its also about how you manage them within your current and future ICT Tech support set up. This is where good advice from the experts in actually using tablet devices in schools (and not just selling to education experience) is crucial to the success of your roll-out. Apple have certainly recognised the importance of this last point.
Another part of the Framework agreement is even more interesting…
“There is an on-going obligation on the successful supplier to identify new or potential improvements with a view to reducing costs and/or improving the quality and efficiency of the products and services”.
Has this happened with the current Framework arrangements? And is this something which needs to be examined more closely when the first year comes to an end and is reviewed in May 2014? There have been developments during the lifespan of the current framework which have been significant enough to have merited examination, yet I’m not aware of any changes made to the existing framework detail during its life to date. One example would be the Chromebook, which is even featured on the Learning with Devices blog yet remains absent from the framework and also the more recent Kindle offerings from Amazon and the previously mentioned Windows 8 devices.
That the Windows 8 platform does not feature prominently in the framework is one of many reasons why schools and LA’s might give serious consideration to bypassing it and making direct purchases. The up to date versions of the Office applications which come with Windows 8.1 are a great fit with the corresponding web apps within Office 365 and therefore, GLOW.
It seems to me that whilst the Framework has been a very good vehicle for making bulk purchases, it has also been a great opportunity lost (this is how a few disappointed LA IT folks have described it to me) and in particular is unadventurous when it comes to price and device range. In fact, when it can be said that the major benefit is not having to go down to Argos or PC World with a back pocket stuffed full of enough £50 notes to cover your purchase, then there needs to be a full review and evaluation of the Tablet procurement Framework at the Scottish Government before any extension or renewal takes place.
I wonder when review time rolls around might it be time for the Government to start talking to the manufacturers directly? Might this approach offer education the opportunity for some much more adventurous and innovative technology use with each manufacturer that wished to engage with Education offering special purchase schemes for schools and other institutions? This might also encourage targeted support for specific platforms.
The Tablet Device Framework was a first step in the right direction to widen access and manage the mobile device revolution in education but there now needs to be a serious conversation about widening access and this means re evaluating the current framework and perhaps changing tack. My own view is that schools considering tablet device purchases should examine all their available options both from inside and outside the current Framework…and get good independent advice before making decisions and then purchases.
(Please see the usual disclaimer which applies to all of my blog posts. Image from vancouversun.com ccl)
Filed under: capacity-building, change, future of education, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, teaching and learning Tagged: android, edtech, Framework, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICTEx, iPad, Kindle, Microsoft, mobile devices, Office 365, procurement, Scottish Government, Surface 2, Surface Pro, Tablets, Toshiba Encore, Windows 8, XMA
If, like me, you are an Apple fan who works with both Android and Windows 8 platforms as well, you often find yourself in the comparison game. Its not a good place to be. I’m a firm believer in making EdTech choices based on need (see my last blog post for more on this) and so I have no problem working across all three major mobile operating systems. I’ve worked with both Apple and Microsoft and I’m really impressed with what they both have to offer and with their commitment to education, be it through the Apple Professional Development programme or Microsoft’s Partners in learning and Excellent Educators. I’ve also done a bit or work with a fantastic Android device supplier and know that Android is catching up fast.
If I’m honest though, my iPad mini is the best piece of tech I’ve ever actually owned. For me personally, it does everything I need a mobile device to do. Thats not to say that other devices don’t have their own places or niches. There are some great Android functions and apps and Windows 8 devices have this interoperability with desktop machines that is a real advantage for those who are a bit less tech savvy than others – its the simplicity and familiarity factors coming into play.
But in education, the Apple IOS offering is still ahead of the game when it comes to apps. The killer three really set the iPad apart from the competition. BookCreator, iMovie and GarageBand are the killer three when it comes to schools. The creativity goes through the roof when kids are set free to work on these apps and its a wonderful thing to see. My good friends at Apple in the UK have introduced me to some incredible individuals and schools who are making fantastic use of these three apps.
Android and Windows 8 are pushing Apple all the way for market share in education tablet device use. To me,what they really need to work on are the killer apps. Where are the Android and Windows ‘killer’ three to take on the Apple triumvirate? get this one cracked and we could see the battle for market share really hotting up
Filed under: capacity-building, change, future of education, ICT, Leadership, teaching and learning Tagged: android, Apple, apps, edtech, iPad, iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPads, Microsoft, Samsung, Toshiba, Windows, Windows 8
Formed by the highly respected and influential educational technologist Professor Steve Molyneux, Tablet Academy has established itself as one of the UK’s leading training providers for mobile device use. Steve is a well known and respected independent consultant in the use of learning technologies to support education and training both across the UK and internationally. I’ve been doing some initial groundwork with Steve in Scotland and I’m pleased to say that Tablet Academy Scotland is now up and running, headed up by new CEO, the wonderful and equally well respected Pam Currie.
It is certainly an interesting and busy time for Tablet Academy as the business grows around the world. Tablet Academy UK is growing in Europe, and also Tablet Academy Africa is already up and running across Africa and the Middle East. This growth is in no small part due to the product on offer; tablet training and consultancy across all the three main operating systems. Apart from a well established portfolio of completely flexible and client-centred iPad training courses (ideal for organisations wishing to have their training completely personalised to suit their own specific needs) Tablet Academy has Apple Distinguished Educators who can deliver the full catalogue of Apple professional Development courses. This is significant for those taking advantage of the training on offer through the Scottish Government Tablet procurement Framework after purchasing iPads.
You can contact Tablet Academy here for some great deals on all of these course portfolios not available elsewhere.
Tablet Academy was also the first training consultancy to design courses for those education organisations choosing devices running Windows 8. Full details of these courses can be found here. Included is an introduction to using Office 365 which might be of particular interest in Scotland where the national schools intranet has started moving across to its new home based in office 365 and SharePoint. I’ve spent a lot of time recently writing training guides for Office 365 in Education and with huge growth worldwide in its use in schools, colleges and universities, I can certainly see Windows 8 tablets challenging the iPad for market sector dominance in many countries around the world. The new Microsoft Surface 2 is a lovely machine..
Android courses are already up and running through Tablet Academy Africa and will also be offered to the UK and Europe very soon. With Google introducing the new Play Store for Education and working with tablet manufacturers (including Asus and HP) to pre-install Google Apps for Education, there is more significant investment into the Android platform. The devices are usually less expensive than iPads and so appeal to those with tighter or more limited budgets. In most cases, this in no way diminishes their value in the classroom and for learning.
So if you are a school, college, or university, browse the new website, and get in touch with Tablet Academy to discuss your training needs. Local Education Authorities, districts and provinces can take advantage of even better pricing by becoming Tablet Academy regional training centres and accessing a whole range of benefits including software and cloud service discounts and free training places on all courses they run, MediaCore being just one of these. All the trainers are teachers with expertise in using mobile devices in learning and teaching. They are usually all local and so in Scotland for example, they will have direct experience of working with A Curriculum for Excellence across all sectors and subjects. It is this local capacity which perhaps sets them apart from other training businesses offering their services to education establishments.
And if you’re interested in working for Tablet Academy anywhere in the world, they are always on the look out for experienced educators with classroom experience of using mobile devices to enhance learning and teaching so have a look at the website and get in touch…
(as with all the posts on this blog, readers are advised to note the contents of my standard disclaimer)
Filed under: capacity-building, change, CPD, GLOW, GlowPlus, ICT, teaching and learning Tagged: ADE, android, APD, Apple, Google, Google Apps for Education, Google Play Store, iPads, Microsoft, mobile devices, Office 365, Pam Currie, Sharepoint., Steve Molyneux, Surface 2, Surface Pro 2, Tablet Academy Africa, Tablet Academy Scotland, Tablet AcademyUK, Tablets, Windows 8, XMA