Alexandra Mounier is EMEA business education development manager at eInstruction, a provider of interactive teaching and learning technology. Here, she explores how schools that are investing in hand-held technology can make the most of its potential.
Students today have opportunities like never before to experience interactive and engaging digital content, directly in the palm of their hands on portable, touch-screen hand-held devices. For education, touch technology, and recently hand-held touch technology, has great potential for transforming the educative process for the 21st century. It is of little surprise therefore that iPads and other devices are an increasingly popular addition to the classroom.
The impact on learning
Engagement in students at primary level is heightened by the interactivity and excitement interactive content on hand-held devices offers, resulting in an increased interest in learning. Being able to present concepts that need to be learned in a fun, interactive format such as a game, means that students enjoy taking part, while they simultaneously learn important educational concepts.
Access to handheld devices combines the three key learning styles - visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK learning). This combination helps engage all students, making learning a much more accessible and beneficial experience for all, regardless of ability or educational needs. Technology in many cases also allows students to learn at their own pace. Higher ability students can move on to more advanced ideas, while those that might be having a harder time understanding something can re-examine material until it is understood without delaying the class progress.
Careful consideration by schools
Whether schools have already invested in portable classroom technology or are considering doing so, the investment and how to make the most of it should be considered carefully. The cost implications can be high – just one class set of iPads for example can cost in the region of £12,000. It is crucial therefore to make sure that content works for the individual; hardware can easily be left in the cupboard to gather dust if the software or content does not match the user’s specific needs. Tablets such as the iPad or those running Android have access to millions of apps, but only a certain number will be suitable and relevant for the classroom. While more content is constantly being developed, research what content and provider best suits the requirements before investing a significant chunk of the school budget.
While most discussion is around the use for the technology for students, another important point to consider are the potential benefits for teachers; this can be key to getting the most out of classroom technology.
Making the most of technology
A whole new raft of applications and software are being developed directly for the educator. Devices can increasingly act like a mobile interactive whiteboard when designed, or with the right software installed, opening up a new world of content and options for teaching and learning. Here are some ideas of how it can help transform lessons:
• Controlling the lesson - With the right software, teachers can deliver lessons and annotate content from their hand-held device, allowing remote access of the computer from anywhere in the room. This gives the freedom to move around the room and monitor the work being done without having to constantly return to the front to move the lesson forward.
• Encouraging student input - When students are sitting at desks, encouraging children to come to the front can be potentially disruptive to learning and many will be shy to do so. Passing a device round the room allows all students to have input into the lesson easily and with confidence, saving time and maintaining the flow of the lesson. A smaller number of devices can be used for student group work to encourage collaborative learning skills in a smooth and organised way.
• Use in any classroom - Portable hand-held devices mean that teachers can move and use technology easily in any room of the school, cutting out the reliance on the slow rebooting of PCs and laptops. This can also be an advantage when budgets are tight; a fixed interactive whiteboard in each room for example could be too expensive, but a mobile interactive whiteboard or two could be shared between the rooms and teachers.
• Monitoring and assessment - With students progressing at different paces, some may struggle to understand. In this case, the teacher can sit with them, explaining it personally using the portable device or asking the student to demonstrate from their seat to get a better understanding of progress. The ability to store a record of this in notes can help when providing feedback.
If schools ensure that investments in portable classroom technology are financially sound and beneficial to the educative process for both staff and students, it can be a powerful tool for transforming education today.
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