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Think tablets in the classroom means a loss of control? Think again

Think tablets in the classroom means a loss of control? Think again

Think tablets in the classroom means a loss of control? Think again

Technology is taking over the classroom – for good reason and with great results. Here’s how tablets can boost learning.

A 2014 study featured by the BBC looked at a representative sample of 671 state and independent schools in the UK and found that 68% of primary and 69% of secondary schools now use tablets in the classroom. According to the study, commissioned by education technology charity Tablets for Schools, 9% of the schools even provided each pupil with an individual tablet.

What does this tell us? “The type of device might change,” says Dr. Clarke, “but it’s not going to go away. It will almost seem ridiculous if some of [the schools] are not using technology.” Tablets have been around in classrooms for almost a decade now but the acceptance has been much more rapid in the last five years with both schools and parents increasingly looking for ways to use them in more interactive, collaborative, and learning-based activities.

One of the schools that rolled out a 1:1 initiative was Longfield Academy in Kent. At the end of the first year, students reported use of their devices in almost all subjects, with key areas being researching topics online, mind mapping and presentations. They also felt they were able to take advantage of features such as translation tools and educational games that they wouldn’t be able to without their devices.

With tablets, teachers need to think differently about the classroom experience and how they can guide it. Often, the introduction of tablets into classrooms shifts the learning style from teachers’ lecturing to project-based and group efforts. The challenge is to weave technology seamlessly into the classroom so that it aids the learning process. Tablets are one of the tools that allows students to digitally access homework assignments, class notes, and files distributed from the teacher, making collaboration smooth.

“Tablets can be used in two major ways in the classroom: as a tool to engage and as a tool to create.”

– Lee Parkinson, International CPD trainer

In terms of engagement, Parkinson seems to have hit the sweet spot with what he calls camouflaged learning. “The idea that children are learning by doing activities where they feel they are ‘playing’ is something I am always trying to promote,” he writes on his blog. “It is the perfect way to get disengaged/reluctant learners on board and almost trick them into writing/reading/solving problems.”

Even ostensibly simple – and hugely popular – smartphone games like Angry Birds and Temple Run can be used to build skills in problem-solving and role-playing.

“Angry Birds has a very complex subplot that can lend itself to so many potential literary focuses.”

– Lee Parkinson

“Are the birds right to take revenge? Is destroying the pigs the right method? … Temple Run has a story behind it but one we do not know. The game comes at the end of a story where he is escaping the temple, but why? … Why is he there? What is he running from?”

Creative writing is another area where tablets can make a big impact in the classroom. For example, Parkinson has been using Google Street View to inspire locational writing. Google Maps allows a person to land anywhere on the planet and get a sense of the place and the landscape. “The interactive approach from the panorama … helps the children become more immersed in the setting. They will be able to then describe what they can see, hear, smell and feel more easily as the illusion makes the children feel that they are actually there.”

Tablets are tools, the blackboards and chalk of today. Educators and parents alike are beginning to recognize that.

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