As an EdTech specialist, one of the most common questions I’m asked is how to implement mobile devices – tablets – successfully into the classroom. Naturally, every school and classroom is different, but there are a number of steps that senior leaders can take and the implementing coordinator can do to ensure smooth introduction.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 edition of the UKEdChat Magazine – Click here to view
Firstly, your school needs to have a clear understanding of how tablets can augment to existing curriculum. Many schools expect a revolution in learning when they invest in mobile devices for students and want to redesign their schemes of work and planning accordingly. However, revolutions are rare, and while using any technology can be transformative, you still need to continue to improve all the other things you do alongside using technology. Pedagogy and the learning should always be your first consideration. It is too easy to lose focus and make the app the learning objective.
Limited resources are often timetabled within schools, and teachers are sometimes allotted class sets of tablets during a particular session. This has the advantage that they are guaranteed for a lesson, but timetabling means that teachers often use these is an artificial way, or worse still, the devices are not used by anyone. Schools may like to consider a notional timetable where a particular teacher gets first refusal, but other teachers can book them if the named teacher isn’t planning to use them.
When purchasing a device, school leaders need to think carefully about which to buy. Schools often opt for a monoculture of devices of one particular brand and model. However, this does not reflect the rich ecosystem of devices which your pupils will use outside of school, plus this can reduce the overall number of devices a school can purchase with limited funds. The majority of things you can do on a £500 tablet you can also do on a £100 tablet, so adding some cheaper devices into the mix means that schools can have a greater pupil to device ratio. Most school based activities rarely utilise the full power of a device, and a much greater bottleneck is inadequate wifi.
If ukedchat.com/ictmagic does not yield the perfect app for your lesson, Your staff, and perhaps the wider school community, may have some expertise and suggestions for useful ways to use the tablets and interesting apps for your lessons. A growing number of staffrooms have an app wall where anyone can add a post-it with the name of an interesting app to try. But it is important to encourage sharers to give the context in which an app was use so others can evaluate whether the app will be useful for them.
Administrators may wish to lock the device down – don’t! Nothing kills enthusiasm more than waiting for an app to be added by a busy technician. Teachers need to be able to add items to try them out and experiment. Adding a password or pin to prevent pupils from doing the same should be enough. If you are worried about apps cluttering up the storage on shared devices, you can hold an app ‘un-auction’, where once a term/year you get together to decide what to keep. “Does anyone want to keep X? Going once, going twice, delete!”
Schools pay tens of thousands of pounds to buy new devices, but do not allocate any release time to learn how to use them well. The most important thing you can do to ensure your tablet implementation is successful is to give your teachers the time to explore the possibilities and share ideas for how to use them within their lessons. Providing the digital tools is only the first step. To make technology have a transformative impact teachers need the skills to use it.