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Going for 1:1

Mary Palmer from research charity Tablets for Schools answers some common questions about 1:1 tablet schemes

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | March 18, 2015 | Technology

What would you say are the three biggest benefits of implementing 1:1 tablets schemes in schools?

Our research shows us that that the introduction of one-to-one tablets increases pupil motivation and engagement almost immediately. Sixty-nine percent of the students we surveyed said that, once iPads were introduced, they were “more motivated to work” and 72 percent said that their work had improved. In one school, engagement improved to such an extent that behavioral units were shut down as disaffected students began to enjoy learning.

From the teachers’ perspective, 75 percent of those surveyed observed positive changes in motivation. In addition, they saw collaborative learning as one of the greatest benefits of introducing one-to-one tablets.

The portability of tablets and the ever-growing number of educational apps mean that children can learn using a variety of methods, anywhere they want. Take a look at flipped learning to see this flexibility in action: students watch lectures at home and then problem-solve in the classroom.

With the right apps, teachers can create resources that allow differentiation between different learning styles and abilities. These alternative learning methods have been found to be particularly beneficial for SEN students, who struggle with traditional ways of accessing and presenting knowledge (e.g. textbooks). Our research found that 88 percent of students agree that tablets allow them to work at their own pace, even if their peers are working slower or faster. One SEN coordinator emphasized the empowering aspect of IT “when you’re laboriously doing things by hand and especially if your handwriting is messy, which is true of many dyspraxics … and many children with ADHD”.

In our research, half of the teachers questioned welcomed the flexibility and improved access to technology, as well as the larger range of learning content than that provided by textbooks. This content encompasses not only the internet, but also apps, either multi-functional (such as those for mindmapping) or subject-specific (for example, for French or maths).

Tablets also make it easier for teachers to create and share their own content, using resources such as iTunes U, iBooks, Google Classroom, Edmodo and Showbie.

And what are the three main drawbacks?

Online safety can be a serious concern. Our recent e-safety survey found that 48 percent of secondary school students, and 28 percent of primary students have communicated with strangers on social media. Also 29 percent of secondary school students and 27 percent of primary school students have experienced something online that concerned or upset them. However, our research also shows that students are aware of stranger-danger and the importance of setting privacy controls, and are keen to provide advice to other students about staying safe online. This same research has also found that tablet use at school increases the likelihood that students would tell somebody about seeing something online that has concerned or upset them.

Distraction was seen to be a potential drawback when our research schools first rolled out tablets. In a survey of students at one school, 24 percent said that they got distracted in class “because I'm often sent messages or games by my friends”. However, in most cases the novelty wears off and schools continue to work with students to develop appropriate ways of using technology in the classroom’

Lack of connectivity in certain parts of the country can be a problem. We surveyed 21 research schools and found that 53 percent felt that they required external help with wifi. Twenty-seven percent found obtaining this external help to be difficult. Forty-five percent had to install additional broadband. Support for teacher training and ongoing CPD is another consideration. It takes, on average, 11 months to implement a tablet scheme; most schools, however, took one to two years. The majority of the schools we surveyed had found it necessary to offer professional development for teaching staff for that time period. Participants in our research emphasised the importance of not viewing training on tablets as merely an extension of other training such as learning how to use apps: “These devices fundamentally change learning in the classroom and therefore to train staff in traditional ways is inappropriate,” said one headteacher.

When choosing the tablet model, are schools considering all the options available to them or are they simply opting for the most popular? Do you think there is enough variety?

Schools tend to opt for the most popular, but increasingly there is more variety coming onto the market and schools are better able to research their needs for different year groups. Our case studies provide a good snapshot of the types of tablets used by our research schools. The devices included Nexus, iPads (both regular and mini) and Samsung.

It’s also worth noting that choosing a device is not just about the physical device and its technical specs (though these are key considerations), but also the learning ecosystem that comes with the device. The learning ecosystem is the virtual learning environment (VLE) which supports the use of the device in schools. Powered by cloud computing, the VLE could comprise a specific set of apps (as with Google Apps) or tailored training for educators.

Security/e-safety has been a cause for concern in the past, what steps have been taken to reduce risk?

Our recent research with 7,443 students showed that schools using tablets are doing a great job of teaching their students about online safety. Ninety percent of primary and secondary school pupils say their school talks to them about being safe online. However, half of secondary pupils and over a quarter of primary students have communicated with strangers when using social media and 30 percent of secondary pupils and over a quarter of primary pupils have experienced something online that concerned or upset them.

It’s true that security and e-safety has been a concern, and it is still a primary concern with parents. However, recent research shows that kids are much more savvy in this regard than we think. Also, through publishing our research and making it widely available, we aim to enable students and teachers to learn from each other and reduce the risk to young people. Peer-to-peer advice is extremely powerful, as can be seen by the popularity of our internet safety poster based on advice from more than 5,000 students.

Can every school realistically implement 1:1 tablet schemes? And do you think they will become a permanent fixture in our schools?

Given that mobile technology is rapidly becoming part of the workplace, the integration of mobile technology into teaching and learning is inevitable. There is no reason that tablet schemes couldn’t become a permanent fixture in schools, much like PC suites were for a very long time. However, we can expect rapid evolution in the area of mobile technology and the key to keeping up is to implement and sustain the technology, while being flexible and open to new options. Our regional workshops are all about learning how to do this properly and in a sustainable way. We will be hosting a workshop at Essa Academy in Bolton on 29 April 2015. Essa was the first school in the UK to use 1:1 mobile devices and their experience will be invaluable in helping other schools roll out their schemes.

However, there is no one way to implement a 1:1 mobile technology scheme. Our case studies show that schools take a variety of routes to implementation. Some introduce 1:1 across all years, while others start with one year and scale up. Still others decide on a mixed ecosystem of 1:1 and BYOD. Our 2014 Research Overview Booklet contains 10 golden rules when using tablets in schools. These include: 

• strong leadership and clear guidelines
• a clear strategy
• seeking advice on practical issues
• professional development and the appointment of device “champions”
• time to “play” with the device before introduction
• regular and collaborative exchange of ideas about use, regulation and content, which includes sharing ideas with other schools that have implemented tablets.

W: tabletsforschools.org.uk 

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