Friday, 29 January 2016

Classroom tablets

On occasion you come across an article or report that states something so blindingly obvious that you have to consciously restrain yourself from making a comment along the maturity and eloquence level of: "Well, duh."

Today, that moment came to me courtesy of an article entitled "Tablets: the correct prescription?" by Steve Wheeler which I read primarily because the title suggested the same conflict I feel about the value a class set of tablets provide. And what did I find?
Clearly tablets and mobile devices were designed to be used as personal tools, and as such can be best used for personalised learning
Well, clearly.

Then I took ten seconds to reflect on it.

Tablets and mobile devices have been causing me headaches in a classroom context for years. I think absolutely they are a fabulous learning tool. They are critically important for swift research, for individual thoughts and expression, and for a variety of points along the learning journey there's an app to support that!

But teachers worry about controlling a class full of teenagers with the internet at their fingertips. How do we maintain order? How do you ensure students stay on task? What if the devices are stolen or broken?

What if...? What then...? And why...?

I've been on this for a while now and looking around our classrooms I've seen success implementing personal devices for activities, I've seen failure, I've seen mediocrity. What I have never seen is an absolute, definite sign that this is the future of education and that "well, duh" moment showed me why.

The best and most valuable part of classroom time is interaction with the teacher. Some digital activities can be driven by the teacher using tools such as Socrative or BlendSpace, but many are independent activities. That's great for Directed Study time, or homework, or online learning or any one of a million varieties of learning *when not in the physical presence of your teacher*.

So what is the point of gathering thirty young people together to do individual activities? Why can't they stay at home?

Is the classroom really the best place for tablets?

On the flip side, I want there to be digital textbooks and for digital handouts and reference materials to become the norm. That isn't possible without tablets, and to access those materials in the classroom, the tablets need to be there too.

We need tablets to be a utility in the classroom, but maybe they are not the medium for a whole lesson teaching that people have been enthusing about. Maybe they can just be passive lumps that students occasionally glance at while the teacher drives things along. Maybe when the student is alone and struggling, then the active stuff begins.

I'd love to have thoughts on this topic because, as you can see, I am teetering to both sides whilst remaining firmly on the fence here.


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