BETT and the digital education debate

This week sees the beginning of the British Educational Training and Technology Show (BETT) and with it, an unsurprising amount of discussion about the future of such concepts as the “digital classroom” and how schools and tertiary educational institutions can leverage technology to deliver better results.

On this theme, The Telegraph asks whether iPads can truly improve a child’s grades. In an interview with Derek Trimmer, the new Head of a previously failing school, a key advantage of a mobile device centered classroom is mentioned:

“You’d see children losing it 30 to 40 per cent of the lesson – the iPad offers the opportunity to stay engaged. But the thing that got us excited was the impact of taking work home and sharing it and engaging with parents.”

This flexibility that having a classroom based around mobile devices affords is becoming increasingly apparently to British schools. Every week news of new Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) adoption schemes are referenced in press releases and by the media and as the article mentions, that the devices and schemes have at least some merit seems to be a general consensus amongst teachers by this point.

But beyond the buzzwords and marketing-speak, the importance of such schemes is underlined more by the more strictly utilitarian advantages they deliver as opposed to grandiose claims about turning schools around. Things such as acting as a central repository for books, negating the expense on huge numbers of physical editions and allowing schools, publishers and digital vendors to tailor license agreements that suit their requirements.

The problem is that the “digital classroom experience” is frequently oversold by those with no direct experience of education or classrooms. Since the release of the iPad and the success of Amazon’s Kindle in the eBook space we’ve seen an increasing amount of discourse about leveraging mobile devices to improve grades on a national level, words like “revolution” are frequently used to describe what is ultimately an organic shift in learning methods to more efficient, cost-effective tools.

Bombastic claims of this kind are damaging to digital education initiatives in the long run, since they establish an unreachable standard. BYOD schemes should be welcomed for their efficiency gains, the time they save, the data-collection methods they allow and so on, but using a metric like grading, which is amenable to change from a hundred other variables, to chart their success is a dangerous standard to employ.

YUDU will be launching our educational solution at BETT 2014, Lesson Wizard. If you’d like to learn more come visit us at our stand F382 or email us for more information

Categories: Experts, Industry Research

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