Thursday 7 July 2011

'To buy or not to buy?'

Having submitted financial bids to my Principal earlier this year, I was initially pleased to be informed that extra funding was to be set aside to allow me to upgrade the Library Management System from ALICE to OLIVER; both with SoftlinkHowever I was recently informed that my additional bids for electronic mobile devices had also been approved and that I could go ahead with an order for the LRC.  This news however left me in a quandary - which devices did I want to purchase? Kindles, android tablets or Ipads?  Not a bad position to be in, but one which was forcing me to think of value for money in terms of curriculum use and teacher/student support in teaching and learning.  

Having had a Sony e-reader in the LRC for a year or so and had fairly indifferent responses from students and staff, I was reluctant to go down the route of Kindles.  Having a device which was largely restricted to reading e-books did not appeal to me as I prefer devices which allow users to swap between different applications depending on their individual needs.  Having spoken to staff and students about Kindles, the overwhelming response was either "we prefer reading proper books' or "you can do so much more with an Ipad"

This then left me with tablets or Ipads.  Luckily the PE department were already experimenting using Ipads in their teaching and so I borrowed their precious Ipad for the day and spent a fab few hours exploring its functions, downloading a few apps and generally finding out how it worked.  I viewed a recent thread on SLN which listed a wide range of apps which were being used by school Librarians/LRC Managers and downloaded a few of them so as to give me an idea of which ones may be usefully employed in the LRC.  Pacific Disaster Center proved to be a great example; free and immediately of interest to the Head of Geography who downloaded it onto his Iphone.  This app would link into research lessons on natural disasters, allowing students the opportunity to find out about natural disasters in the Pacific region happening right at a particular moment.  I also loved the Kindle app which satisfied my interest in exploring and introducing e-books to my students, but having it on the Ipad meant I wasn't limiting myself.

Having discovered I love the Ipad 2, I then went to talk to my IT Technical Support Team about what they thought.  Their immediate response was "it won't link to the college network and you can't get Microsoft Office" to which I was ready with "I don't want that - I have 24 PCs in the LRC which do that already".  They then asked why I wanted Ipads and again I had my primary reason ready; offer additional resources, i.e. apps, as part of research based LRC lessons, enhance information retrieval practices in the LRC as well as being a 'carrot' to staff and students alike, i.e. 'look how cool your LRC is?'

My next port of call was to the Head of Science who had already put in an order for Windows 7 tablets for use in the labs.  An especial lure for him however was their ability to access the college network, hence his decision to purchase tablets. He mentioned the range of apps which are available to download (I was already familar with this as I have a Blackberry myself), but I was keen to have the Apple guarantee as far as apps were concerned.  My final consideration took me to the Business Manager to explore purchase of apps.  I asked her if it would be possible to do this in a similar way whereby other schools are buying e-books with Amazon vouchers; a voucher for a certain amount is purchased which the Librarian/LRC Manager can then use to buy e-books.  In the same way we would be able to purchase vouchers from Apple which could be then used to buy apps. 

So what did I decide?  An order was placed for three Ipads, plus three specially sourced cases which appear to make the Ipad virtually indestructible and I am now eagerly awaiting their delivery.  More to come in the new school year on this subject I hope!

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