Pupils at Selkirk High School are the first in the region to be issued with new iPads as part of a near-£16m digital learning programme launched by Scottish Borders Council earlier this year.
The council’s Inspire Learning programme, one of the flagship policies in the council’s ruling administration’s 2019-20 budget, will see the local authority buy the Apple tablets for every pupil in years P6 to S6 pupil.
The devices will also be given to P1 to P5 pupils at a ratio of one for every five children.
Older students will be able to take their iPads home to use for homework, but those to be shared by children in years P1 to P5 will be kept at their schools.
The project will cost £15.7m over a 10-year contract with US technology giant Apple and Canadian firm CGI.
Selkirk High’s pupils being the first in the Borders to be given the chance to get to grips with the devices, the Hillside Terrace school opened its doors this week to show how they’re getting on.
In a science classroom, teachers demonstrated how the iPads can be used to deliver interactive lessons by asking pupils questions requiring answers via the tablets.
Teachers are also able to email pupils before lessons to let them know what they need to bring or what the main topics will be.
Discussing her experience with the new iPads, S5 pupil Hannah Richardson, 15, said: “We were only given them a few weeks ago, and it’s been a little bit different getting used to them, but it’s definitely been positive.
“For example, when writing things up for English, we used to have to book computers out, which were sometimes unavailable, but now we have iPads with us.
“A lot of what we use them for is writing, but we also use them to take pictures of revision material and slideshows if our writing is too slow to keep up, which allows us to come back to that material later.
“Our parents have had to go to a talk about the iPads, and although they haven’t been doing much on them, they are there for them to use if they’d like to.
“This is how the world is now. Going into a business or a jobs market, there is going to be technology like this that we need to be able to use.”
Millie Macdonald, a 12-year-old S1 pupil, said: “I think the iPads have made quite a big difference in people’s lives.
“Previously, I was taking all of my books and pens to school, which was a bit of a nuisance, but with the iPads it’s not something you’re likely to forget because it’s a piece of technology, whereas with notes and pens, people used to forget to bring them, sometimes on purpose.
“We have been using Microsoft OneNote and Whiteboard quite a lot, and Kahoot, an interactive quiz game which is fun and educational.
“We use OneNote as a filing system, where we add folders with our homework, filed under each subject such as French or biology.
“I don’t think my parents were very keen on the idea at the time, but now they’ve had a talk and heard my brothers and myself talking about it, they’ve come around to the iPads.”
All 522 high school teachers in the Borders were given iPads, along with induction training before the summer break, ahead of schedule, to enable them to familiarise themselves with the new technology before using it in classrooms.
The new iPads will be replaced every four years to ensure they stay up to date.
Over the course of the decade-long programme, 33,000 iPads will be handed out, with more than a third of that number being in circulation at any one time.
The digital learning programme is set to be rolled out to Kelso, Hawick and Earlston high schools by the end of this year, and Peebles, Galashiels and Eyemouth’s high schools are scheduled to follow suit during 2020’s winter term.
Berwickshire High at Duns will get its iPads during next year’s summer term 2020, and the forthcoming Jedburgh Grammar Campus will join the programme later in 2020.
Speaking after the demonstration lesson, council leader Shona Haslam said: “The rollout has gone so well.
“We’ve had such good engagement from the young people and parents at Selkirk High School, so it’s a real big thank-you to them for taking this on board, and what a difference it has made to learning.
“The cost of the Inspire Learning project needs put into context. The digital learning rollout is just 1% of the overall education budget per year for 10 years.
“It seems like a lot of money, but when you look at it in the wider context of the budget it’s actually quite affordable.
“Of course, teachers remain the most important part of our education system. This is just an additional tool that allows them to teach better and to do their jobs better.
“There are quite a lot of restrictions on the iPads in terms of sharing photos and videos from them.
“What they also allow the schools to do is look at the use of phones in school as well.
“Previously, kids would take photos of their homework on their phones, which they can now do on their iPads, so we can look more at how we engage kids with technology.”
Selkirk High headteacher Jamie Bryson added: “There has been great excitement across the school about Inspire Learning.
“Our teaching staff have fully embraced the technology, and students are already experiencing a more creative and collaborative learning experience.
“We have had great feedback already from parents as well as students, and all teachers are working together to maximise the benefits of this technology for the future.”