Such is the pace of technological change that any new purchase looks decidedly retro almost before you get a chance to turn the thing on.
Tablet computers are not immune: new models are rapidly superseded by even newer models and software updates are frequently required. For schools used to PCs that last for many years (and in some cases seem indestructible), this can come as a nasty surprise. So how can you ensure that an investment in tablets is money well spent? The answer may be leasing.
Andrew Truby, headteacher of St Thomas of Canterbury School in Sheffield, opted to lease tablets for his pupils and says the decision has brought numerous benefits.
“The advantage of the lease is that we can spread the cost over a number of years,” he says. “At the end of the lease, we can give them back or buy them for a nominal fee.”
This means that if the technology hasn’t moved on or doesn’t look likely to, you can purchase the equipment. But if the landscape has changed, you won’t be left with a batch of out-of-date machines and no money for replacements.
Leasing may make some leaders feel a little uncomfortable – in our buy-it culture, renting a product is looked on as poor value for money – but Truby says it is the most effective way of handling the fast pace of technological change.
José Picardo, assistant principal (and leader of digital strategy) at Surbiton High School in London, agrees. The school has 500 iPads in use already and has just placed an order for another 1,000 for September. He says the lease option gives schools greater flexibility when the contract comes to an end.
“When the two-year lease is finished, the old devices are returned,” he explains. “When the new lease is agreed, the latest iPad or other mobile device can be ordered, which means we’re never stuck with a particular device for longer than two years.”
Despite these benefits, Picardo says he does not think enough schools consider leasing as a financially viable option, perhaps believing that a single purchase up front is more cost-effective. However, he warns that any purchase of tablets will invariably come with costs that schools may not have considered.
“In addition to being stuck with tablets that have spent two years in a demanding school environment, this generally comes with extra admin costs: who replaces broken or lost tablets? Who arranges the insurance? With a leasing package, all this tends to be covered by the deal.”
A lease is not the only option, of course, and many schools will still choose to go it alone and source their own insurance and management of devices. However, as these experiences show, the lease option could well prove to be the best way to take your tablets.
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