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This article was written by the team at SwimDesk software www.greenedesk.com
If you are using pen and paper in your swim school to manage student assessments and attendance and you are considering going digital, please continue reading.
Swim schools often ask us what are the best tablets to get for assessing students in the pool or on the pool deck?
Choosing the right tablet is important because it can affect usability and speed of the software you are using. A fast and efficient software is critical in a swim school particularly when managing student assessments and attendance.
Before we explore the best tablets for your swim school lets explore the different ways tablets can be used to manage class lists, attendance, and assessments.
Over the past 5 years by working with hundreds of swim schools we have seen there are two predominant models for using tablets to manage classes
The deck supervisor model involves a deck supervisor (a more senior teacher or manager) who will spend their time on the pool deck assisting children and families and perhaps more importantly managing assessments.
By using a tablet, the deck supervisor can input assessment results at the point of lesson which makes the process efficient.
Employing a deck supervisor can be more costly however for a medium to large swim school the investment is well worth the return in improved customer retention.
Some larger centres will often have two deck supervisors during the one shift who will both have tablet devices.
One of the weaknesses of the deck supervisor model is that the teachers in the pool still need paper class sheets to track who is in their class and where they are up to in terms of their skill progression.
A new model that is emerging is teachers in the pool using a tablet. The benefit of this model is that it allows swim schools to eliminate paper class sheets.
Teachers can update attendance and student skill progression each lesson at the point of the class.
Classes are always changing which means using a paper system can lead to having to constantly re-print or update class sheets.
One downside of this model is the cost. If you have 10 teachers in the pool teaching at the one time then you will need to buy ten tablets.
The cost of tablets is decreasing which is making this approach more cost effective.
The important thing to consider here is the time savings of investing in tablets for the teachers. Many swim schools are paying teachers or back office staff for additional admin time to update paper records into digital. If you pay 10 staff an extra 30 minutes each day to do admin then this expense will quickly surpass the costs of investing in 10 tablets.
The deck supervisors’ model is the most common approach we see used within the aquatic industry, however a growing number of centres are now implementing tablets for their teachers.
You can also use a hybrid model with both teachers using tablets and deck supervisors who approve final assessments.
We predict over the next 2 years that over 75% of swim schools will move to the practice of teachers having tablets.
Now lets explore the best options for using tablet devices in your swim school
Our first advice is to avoid super cheap tablets. Resist the urge to save a few dollars.
You may be able to pick up a tablet for 100 dollars via an ALDI sale however these tablets are usually horrible when it comes to usage. They freeze, are slow and are not worth the effort.
The best advice is to stick to a well-known brand, BUT are all options equal?
For tablets, we recommend the iPads due to their superior WiFi hardware. This results in better speeds and connection on the pool deck.
If you have a large pool deck the signal will get weaker as you get further away from the modem. Therefore, it is important to have top quality WiFi hardware. A number of our clients use Samsung tablets which are also good however we have found the Apple devices to be the best bet.
You can get a full size ipad for around $400.
You may also wish to consider getting a cellular version as this provides a good back up to WiFi (You can always get 1 or 2 cellulars and the rest WiFi for example!
Perhaps more important than your tablet device is your WiFi. Pool decks are often large open spaces. If your modem is down one end of the pool deck in an office behind a brick wall, chances are you will get almost no signal at the other end of the pool.
If you are considering using tablets in your swim school its important to work with your IT team to ensure good WiFi coverage on pool deck. You do not need lightning fast speeds, its more about consistency. If the connection is dropping in and out you will have a nightmare trying to run a program like SwimDesk to manage assessments etc.
You may need to install a WiFi booster to amplify your signal across the pool deck.
It’s always best to test these things out before you invest in a number of tablets as nothing is more frustrating than false starts.
We also recommend having waterproof cover to protect your tablets. Both hard cases and soft waterproof cases are available.
Hard cases are good for pool deck use as they prevent damage from splashes and protection if you drop them.
For in pool use we have had good feedback about using a combination of hard and soft cases. (Hardcover covered with a soft case over the top) This seems to improve screen usability with water droplets.
The best hard cases are from Life proof/Griffin survivor and soft cases are from Sea to summit.
Some of the newer tablets are also water resistant so this may eliminate the need for covers in the new future however these devices tend to be more costly. At this stage its probably best to wait a little longer before trying out these devices.
Keeping your tablets charged is another important consideration. If several devices are flat you can be left in a tricky situation. If you are using several devices investing in a charging station can be a good solution.
There are several great options for charging stations that allow you to charge multiple devices at once.
For example- The ALOGIC Smartbox allows you to charge up to 10 devices at once. A number of our clients use charging stations and a very satisfied with the results.
So, we hope these recommendations prove to be helpful.