Focussing on tablets in the classroom

Tablets are increasingly making their way into primary schools, colleges and university classrooms across the globe. As an example of how publishers are meeting this new challenge, Rising Stars, an educational publisher based in the UK are developing publishing resources that work on tablets, alongside co-ordinating with switched-on educators to make this happen successfully.

Last week, Rising Stars held a “Digital Education Research Day” with a number of primary school teachers and leaders across the United Kingdom, with the aim of getting a clearer idea of how tablets are actually being used on the ground. These are some of our observations from the day:

 iPads over Android Tablets

Despite the competitions’ best attempts to lure schools into adopting their devices, the tablet of choice across the board was the iPad. Delegates cited that the sturdy device was by far the best for the rigorous environments associated with schools. The specific reasons behind this were varied, and founded on research from a number of head teachers.

For some, they just believe that students responded best to the idea of working on an iPad.

For others, the sheer intuitiveness of the iPad simply saved time in class, making it a logical choice. A popular app, iMovie is so simple to use on an iPad that learners could benefit from using video in class almost instantly. In subjects such as Physical Education, this immediate visible feedback is invaluable for students.

Classroom dynamics

Teaching methodologies often advocate the need for communication and collaboration in class. Tablets, to some extent, encourage the opposite. Learners tend to individually bury themselves in similarly individual screens, which don’t enhance the collaborative process. This can be tackled with a large screen, and teachers spoke about the tools they used to make this work.

Schools with larger budgets were satisfied with their Apple TVs, others were experimenting with using plasma screens, airserver and reflector to make sure that the class united together to share their work and show off their progress.

Desktops are still key

When young people start in the workplace they are likely to be given a desktop computer with keyboard and mouse. Teachers at the session were acutely aware of this and didn’t want to dismiss desktop devices entirely, owing to their immensely important workplace role. The overall consensus was that it was part of their role as educators to ensure real world skills were taught, in addition to making sure students were computer literate. Certain programs for coding are only really accessible on a desktop screen and the majority were keen to make sure students were picking up these skills.

Despite all of the positive advancements, allowing schools to roll out tablets across a number of year groups there are still barriers to entry and a number of questions raised. What about security? How do you facilitate in-app purchasing across multiple devices? What about measurement? The ability to measure actual results of tablet implementation didn’t seem to be readily available.

As an illustration of some of the limited engagement analytics teachers have available, resulted in questions such as: ‘How you know whether tablet teaching has improved literacy and numeracy rates?

Testing would involve running two classes, one with tablets and the other without. Or perhaps alternating the programme over a number of years. It’s also an area of fertile growth for more comprehensive analytics platforms to play a role. Analysis will be something on the agenda next time, we are sure. In the meantime schools today have a range of resources available for learning, creating and interacting which have never been so easily accessible, and it’s an exciting time for curious teachers everywhere.


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