If your school is instituting a 1-to-1 iPad program that provides students with “personal” iPads or otherwise allows students to take the devices home with them, then one of your top priorities needs to be training the parents.
This is absolutely critical and was one of the things that is often overlooked by schools with these programs. Even though the students might be techno-savvy wunderkinds, many parents do not fully understand the capabilities of these devices. Proper training is key to help monitor and protect students while they are using your devices off of school grounds.
Parent training should be conducted as early as possible. If your school has “Welcome Back” meetings or parent nights at the start of the school year (or right before school starts), this would be a great time to relay a lot of this information. If at all possible, do not delay training until after the students receive the iPads. You want the parents prepared before the kids ever receive the devices.
The following is a list of items you will want to cover with parents as well as links to our blog posts on the topics and PDF copies of certain instructions that you might want to use as a template for documentation you provide to the parents (either at the meeting or via email):
- Setting Up an Email Account and AppleID: You might have students using iPads with school accounts, or you might have students utilizing their own emails and AppleIDs. If the latter, you need to walk parents through how to set up an email account and an AppleID for their child. Be sure to emphasize the importance of monitoring your child's email to ensure they are protected from online scams or unsavory contacts. We tell our parents to just link their child's account to mom's or dad's cell phone so they receive a copy of all the emails the child receives. (Use the prior link to visit our blog post or click here for a PDF walkthrough of these steps)
- Setting Up iCloud Backup: Many parents do not even understand the concept of the cloud, yet alone the importance of cloud storage or cloud backups. With iPads, using iCloud ensures that studetns don't lose their work if they ever have to migrate their account to a new device due to damage, etc. (Use the link provided to go to our blog post with instructions for setting up iCloud)
- Setting Up a Dropbox Account: We do not require a Dropbox account for our students, but we like offering it as a suggestion whenever parents worry about their children using up all their iCloud space or needing an easy way to get files from the computer (since we block iTunes syncing). This tutorial is probably not as important as some of these other suggestions, but might be worth mentioning once the school year gets going. (This prior link takes you to our advanced Dropbox blog post, but click here for a simple PDF walkthrough for setting up an account)
- Using Find My iPad: Students are going to lose or misplace their iPads and unless you want parents calling the school at all hours of the night asking for help in finding them, you need to show them how to do it themselves. It is also important to emphasize that this only works if the iPad is turned on and connected to the internet, so get in the habit of using sleep mode instead of fully powering down the devices. (Link goes to a PDF with instructions on notifications and Find My iPad)
- Setting Up Parental Restrictions: This one is key. A lot of parents do not realize that they can enact even tougher restrictions on their child's iPad than those implemented by the school. They can turn off a lot of the features that the school might have left on. All it takes is a few seconds and a PIN that the parents keep secret from the students.
- Locking Your Child Into One App (for homework, for example): One last cool thing that parents can do is lock their child into a single app. This way mom or dad can lock them into Keynote or Pages during homework time and not worry about consantly monitoring to ensure their child isn't secretly playing Minecraft. (Link goes to the relevant blog post with instructions)
It is strongly suggested that you look through our blog posts and PDF's and create your own documentation that you can provide to parents. It is important to give them actual paperwork or digital copies of the instructions, as many will not remember these steps just by listening to a teacher speak at an info night.
Other than those tutorials, there are seveal other key things you need to mention to parents. Be sure to emphasize the following:
- iPads are computers; almost anything you can do on a computer, you can do on an iPad. If you would not put a computer in your child's bedroom, then do not let them take the iPad into their bedroom.
- At school the students' internet usage will be filtered by the school, but when they take them home and log them onto your home WiFi they are no longer protected by the school filtering. Therefore, parents should investigate some home internet filtering services or just ensure their child is not browsing unattended.
- As mentioned before, retain access to your child's email address and check it daily until they are 18. Make sure you have the password and feel free to link it to your own accounts or smart devices. Do not let your underage children have an unmonitored email address!
- Do not link a credit card to your child's AppleID or they might end up spending their entire college savings on microtransactions. If you want to give them some spending cash, buy them an iTunes gift card instead.
- Make sure to have parents sign an acceptable use policy that clearly enumerates the school's, parent's, and student's responsibilities regarding the iPad. Make sure they know that if they lose it, they buy it.
- Tell parents to turn Location Services “Off” for the camera so student photos do not contain location-specific EXIF data.
- Remind parents that the school does have quite a lot of power to monitor students, but parents should be checking through their child's iPad frequently as well.
- Please remind your child to charge their iPad every night.
- Set up a routine in your household so your children know when they can use the iPad at home and for what. We had one parent offer the example of how his girls know that the second they get home they do homework and can only use the iPad for “fun” afterwards by asking permission. At 6:00pm the iPads are plugged in on the the kitchen counter and are not touched or moved until the next schoolday morning.
- Don't be afraid to ask the school for help if you don't know how to do something. Don't be embarrassed and end up letting your child run circles around you with this technology! Also remember: kids lie, so if they say they are doing homework alone up in their bedroom or don't even know how to download games (or anything else suspicious), then check!