If you are over 40, then you will remember that when you were at school the teacher relied on a chalkboard or whiteboard at the front of the classroom to give lessons. Then, with the advent of improvements in technology, Interactive White Boards (or IWB’s) replaced these static forms of communicating with the class. This allowed the teacher to create compelling content for the classroom.
Tablets in EducationWell, as time marches on, so does technology in our schools today. And as an IT Manager for an independent Prep-School in the UK, I am all too aware of how this is beginning to impact day-to-day life in a school.
Recently, I attended a one-day seminar for the private education sector. One of the guest speakers was from Microsoft, and he pointed out that the IWB was “the biggest white elephant in the classroom”. And I can understand why. IWB’s only allow the teacher, and possibly one student, to interact together, whilst all the other students must sit and watch.
So if IWB’s are seen as a mistake in the classroom, what should the teacher and pupils use? You won’t be surprised when I say tablet devices.
TabletsThe proliferation of these types of devices in our lives over the last 5 years only adds weight to the argument that they should be used in schools. Add into the equation that children are becoming used to using such devices, this then makes perfect sense. Consider how many parents with children under 5 give their Android or Apple tablet to their toddler to play games on. The next generation of children will go to school already knowing how to pinch and zoom, to draw using their finger, and to tap on the screen. Applications on these tablet devices have vibrant colours and sounds, and can encourage interaction.
This video shows a child trying to pinch and zoom a normal magazine!
Tablets in the SchoolBut things are beginning to change with regards to using tablet devices in the school. Aimed at the education sector, Apple released iBooks2, and along with this, iBooks Author which allows teachers and schools to create their own textbooks for the pupils. This means the days of an out-of-date textbook cease to exist if using iBooks. In addition, these e-textbooks can contain video as well as allowing the student to make notes within the textbook. Of course, this also means a school has the ability to author a textbook suited to their needs. Schools can potentially bring in some extra revenue by selling on these textbooks in the App Store to other schools. With this in mind, it’s only a matter of time before the other manufacturers of tablet devices start launching similar products to ensure their devices are prevalent in schools.
Whilst all this is very interesting, there remain some challenges for schools. The cost of a tablet could prove out of reach for some parents, especially if you have more than one child. From a school’s perspective (and that of the IT Manager also), how do you control what is on the tablet if the child brings in their own tablet from home. Where do the legal responsibilities lay if a child accesses content which is deemed inappropriate, or if it is already on the device not owned by the school? The “BYO” (Bring Your Own) model needs careful regulation and policing on the part of both the school and the parent.
Other schools may decide to go down the route of purchasing their own tablet devices to conduct lessons. However, this is also expensive, and significant outlay of funds is needed – something many schools are also unable to afford. And even then, there is still the issue of managing these devices.
I am of the opinion that all the major players in this arena (Apple, Google and Microsoft) need to start thinking of ways to facilitate IT Departments in managing tablets when within the confines of the school. Only then will schools feel more at ease with deploying tablet devices on a wider basis.
Tech SavvyFrom an IT perspective, I am all for using tablet devices in the classroom, and believe we are on the verge of this becoming commonplace in many of our educational institutions. Children of today are so much more “tech savvy”, and to facilitate their learning using tablet devices is just a natural progression of using technology. Throw in some great educational apps, and hook the tablet up to the cloud, and the possibilities become very exciting. It is also a much more efficient way of allowing school children to collaborate together both inside and outside of school. And because all material would be stored in the cloud, it means the risk of losing data is reduced, even if the tablet is broken or damaged.
In ten years from now, I think we will look back on IWB’s in classrooms and think they are as outdated as the chalk/white boards of my era at school (mid 1970’s). By then, using a tablet on a daily basis will be commonplace not only in schools, but in the workplace and in life generally. But it needs a concerted push from all tablet manufacturers to help schools use these devices in a productive way, and allow feature rich learning.
Author: Dave Parker is an IT Manager in Surrey, UK, and is the creator of the Technology and Gadget blog WaveyUK waveyuk.com.
When not working, Dave likes to watch Formula 1, being an avid Jenson Button fan. But working in the IT industry, you can normally find Dave with his nose buried in the news about technology and what new gadgets are about to hit the market.
Main image from modmyi.com
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