“Keep Taking the Tablets”: The E-Learning London Conference 2013

1-KeepTakingtheTabletsThis week we attended E-Learning Foundation’s event in London.  It brought together Education Technology Company leaders, Teachers, Head Teachers and Education Consultants for a day of knowledge and insight-sharing about the use of tablets in schools.

The presentations detailed the successes and failures about the implementation of tablets in schools. No stone was left unturned  in an attempt to discover how to use tablets to enhance educational outcomes in children.

Student Driven Content and Student Driven Learning

To put things into perspective, one of the best quotes of the day was that “Our young people have more information in their pocket than in the classroom” (Debbie Forster from Apps for Good). This refers to the power of the mobile phone. Students can have access to all the works ever written on any subject, and lessons from other teachers and professors in universities. If harnessed correctly, thhe scope for information and knowledge is almost bewildering. Furthermore,  it puts forward an argument in favour of  the usage of students’ personal mobile devices in the classroom (also known as BYOD).

Acknowledging the power of apps and mobile learning tools means that we can better prepare students to collaborate in the classroom and co-create on projects. All the presenters introduced the common idea that students can now create their own content. Students can learn in their own time (homework) and the activities for collaboration and learning from each other can be done in the classroom. Kevin Burden (Director of Postgraduate Teaching at the University of Hull) explained how students’ educational attainment vastly improved with the usage of tablets due to the fact that students would be learning from each other.

Bash that Mobile Learning Device. Take it home and Use It Like a Pen.

Some of the most interesting conversations came from the schools which had already implemented the usage of mobile technologies into the classroom. Mark Everett, (Headteacher at Writhlington Business and Enterprise Specialist School), spoke about using tablets and mobile devices as if they are a pen. They are just another tool in the content creation repertoire. In their experience, encouraging pupils to take the devices home and to use them with their parents instilled a sense of ownership and commitment to looking after the mobile devices. Similarly, Frank Green (CEO at Leigh Academies Trust) spoke about the effectiveness of using tablets in the classroom and pupil peer to peer learning.  This was a sentiment corroborated by Stephen Lea (Director of Digital Strategy at the Williamson Trust). The common theme was that technology is not the solution to end all problems of pupil engagement and motivation. It is still teachers’ jobs to inspire.

Mark McCourt (Chairman at the Teacher Development Trust and CEO of Beluga Learning) provided a very insightful piece of information; Out of 1600 apps that he and his team tested, only 3 actually made an impact into the learning outcomes of children.  Apps that bring together best-in-class education, design and technology are quite rare because these teams seldom get together to create apps.

In Conclusion

Good app design, good educators, educators that inspire and smart technology instigate peer-to-peer learning.  This brings about the idea that Education can be akin to Marketing Communications whereby the most effective engagement  is organic.

Now, if we think about the potential of things going viral in marketing, imagine the potential of virality in education and mobile learning.

From our own perspective, technology can help capture  pupils’ hearts and minds so that they succeed because they want to. Not because someone else has told them that they must do so. 

This is also why, at the Educational App Store, we created the EAS Rating. So that Teachers and Parents may identify what works in terms of practical learning outcomes and also what is engaging and inspiring to take pupils further into learning.

Click on the video below for an example of pupils creating their own content:

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