Tablets in Education: The Only Way is Up!
As of 2012, tablet PCs and touchscreens, as well as the apps they come with, have started to make more regular appearances in schools throughout both the UK and America. This sudden influx has seen a number of benefits to the education system, some more obvious than others. Various studies conducted in schools, mostly throughout Wales and Scotland, combined with the observations of the students and teachers themselves are all painting the same clear picture. Tablet technology is motivating, interesting and yielding better results than ever thought possible.
A study conducted by the University of Hull as recently as July 2012 has also demonstrated that schoolchildren with access to tablets of some form enjoyed an overall boost to their performance and attendance. Pupils in eight schools across Scottish Local Authorities were observed over a six month period. One of the primary findings involved students being able to take the tablets home to complete assignments and email the results directly to their teachers, leading to a much higher rate of homework completion. Student overship of a tablet greatly increases motivation and engagement. Perhaps suprisingly, the interactive devices saw family members and friends also becoming more involved in child’s education, so more support became available from different avenues. Teachers were also able to find new and creative ways to incorporate the devices into their lesson plans, such as using the video and picture functions to aid more visual learners. The British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) has stated that 82% of teachers asked from a survey of 500 schools showed a strong interest in incorporating tablet PCs into their learning environments.
One school that is already reaping the benefits of tablet use is Honywood in Essex. Despite recent issues over the cost effectiveness of giving a tablet to every student, Headteacher Simon Mason responded by saying the investment represented only 2.3 per cent of the school’s overall budget, and as a result the school itself has seen higher exam results than at any other point in it’s 48 year history, as well as increased attendance and the lowest rate of fixed exclusions. In other words, money very well spent. On the other side of the Atlantic in the USA similar schemes are also being implemented. A department head of Florida’s Orlando Science Schools has said of a recent tablet based programme; “I would say a touchscreen will one day be the same as a book bag or a ruler or a pencil,” becoming indispensinble to American pupils.
UK based bodies such as ‘Tablets for Schools’ and ‘The E-Learning Foundation’ believe every child should have access to tablets and apps in their learning environment and aim to improve education through use of technology. These no-profit organisations conduct studies to help teachers and educators make informed decisions about the use of tablets and apps in educations and help them provide the right infrastructures, aptitude and attitude to make the most out of the innovations available to them. Tablets for Schools in particular say their findings back the assertions made earlier about students finding learning more engaging and motivating with tablets involved. Even more usually disruptive children are taken in by the immersive nature of the technology and are less problematic as a result. Pupils feels in closer contact with their teachers, more able to discuss problems, more confident and social media is also more readily available. Parents also noticed the increase in the motivation and creativity of their children. Although initially concerns were raised, primarily about the cost of such schemes and safety issues, trials across Scotland and Wales have consistently allayed these fears due to the amount of concrete benefits and the lack of reported incidents.
To recap, then, the findings of these various studies, children overwhelmingly welcomed tablet technology into their spheres of education; not only have exam results seen a rise, pupil-teacher communication and classroom involvement also have seen benefits as a result of schemes such as this. Teachers are quick to adapt available technology into creative and immersive lesson plans, and the technology has seen the child’s immediate family take a greater interest in their school life as an added bonus. Initial concerns by parents and educators about cost and safety have largely proved ill-founded.
The influx of tablet technology in to schools seems set to increase rapidly over the coming years, and those mentioned above are just a few reasons to welcome these innovations. Few developments in education of recent years have captured the imaginations of both students, teachers and their families in quite this way. As technology develops this trend is set to continue, bringing the education system truly into the modern age.
-by Adam Bannister – Independent specialist in Educational Apps-