Tablet computers deployed in a 1-to-1 model (one device per child) is an increasingly popular strategy for UK schools. We asked three leading educators what it’s like at their schools and how they’re making it work:
Daniel Edwards, Stephen Perse Foundation (@syded06)
Jose Picardo, Surbiton High School (@josepicardoshs)
Adam Webster, Caterham School (@cagelessthink)
Q1 What are the advantages that you’ve seen for teaching?
Jose: There is a great deal of research highlighting what makes great teaching and learning. We know, for example, that clear explanations, good-quality feedback and fostering ‘learning to learn’ and self-regulation strategies among students have the greatest impact on outcomes. We use the technology that is available to us to support to support teaching and learning in this way routinely by, for example, using our tablets as visualiser to model good practice to the class, share interactive content at the opportune moment or delivering multimedia feedback that can be accessed and reviewed at any later time, as often as it may be required.
Dan: Instant-on technology and the ability to wirelessly mirror a display are often overlooked by teachers as a real advantage in the classroom. Taking five minutes to register a class because you’re waiting for the computer to login is no longer part of the lesson routine. Put simply, the teacher’s life is a little easier with the new technology.
Q2 What are the advantages that you’ve seen for learning?
Dan: One of our key principles is seamless access to content. This is for teachers and students alike and is made easier by the technology. Perhaps more important is the ability for the student to express their learning however the teacher or the student deems fit. The plethora of podcasts and movies serve to enhance the learning process alongside traditional methods.
Adam: I would hesitate to suggest that the device itself is a motivation in the long term, but there is certainly a ‘honeymoon period’. Beyond this though, one of the big advantages for students is that they can get better, more varied and quicker feedback, and just from the teacher, from their peers and from external forces, all of which add incentive to the student to produce a higher quality piece of work.
Q3 Why is it important that every pupil has their own device?
Adam: A scheme that did not allow each student to have their own device would undoubtedly fail, because as a teacher, you have to ask yourself if you would be comfortable excluding a child from a certain activity because they didn’t have the right tool. As such, you would be likely to default to the activities that did not require that tool, meaning the devices that you do have, become redundant.
Dan: A second key principle of ours is based on the ‘removal of barriers to learning’. Content is now available with two taps of a screen and this content can be changed by teachers and uploaded in real time to a student’s device. More importantly this is accessible for students who like to work at all hours of the day! Perhaps the best example of this is when a teacher uploads a screencast related to an upcoming examination paper and the students can access this at any time during their revision at home or in school.
Q4 Technology projects in education usually fail to have impact – what’s different about this?
Adam: the investment in training is paramount to the success of these projects. Too many schools believe that the technology solves a problem, but the truth is, without appropriate training (for staff and students) the technology will create a new problem. Time spent planning and training and helping staff to embed the technology early on, will pay off in the longer term. The school leader’s vision and support is crucial. Don’t waver from the aim of enhancing the learning process. If it’s not fit for learning don’t use it.
Jose: Technology is almost always a top down imposition on teachers accompanied by little support. This is a recipe for disaster. Much better if we encourage technology use at grassroots level, making sure that support remains available when required and requested and removing compulsion to use it. Counter-intuitively perhaps, teachers begin to experiment and adopt technology if they feel a combination of freedom and support.
Q5 Is this revolution or evolution?
Jose: Evolution mainly. Though the technology does matter, in that it allows us to sometimes do what wouldn’t have been possible without it, I feel that lasting adoption is morel likely to result if teachers can see a benefit to their current practice before they are able to move on to more challenging and transformational uses of technology.
Dan: My first instinct is to suggest it’s evolution. This is because, for the first couple of years, the technology enabled me to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. However, it now feels like there’s a revolution as the technology is challenging pedagogy and teachers. This is happening in two ways: Teachers and students now have access to tools in the classroom that challenge the status quo. Teachers are more connected than ever because of technology and challenge each other to improve on a scale outside school walls.
This piece first appeared on TechKnowledge for Schools’ site.