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‘Handheld computers’ have been around for many years in some shape or form. In 2008/2009 we ran a pilot at Wilbury Junior School where all year 6 children used PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants.) These were small computers, accessed via a stylus, running a version of Windows. Then the iPod, formally just an MP3 player, became the iPod Touch, capable of running ‘apps’ (small programs) downloadable from a single central source – the iTunes App Store. A number of schools started using iPod Touch devices as a portable computing device, capable of accessing the internet, taking photos, running apps and more. In 2010 the first Apple iPad was released. The larger screen size meant a wider range of activities could be carried out on the device, and its multi-functionality made it suitable for a wide range of applications. Since then, many other companies have released ‘tablet computers,’ and as prices have dropped and choice has increased they are now common place in the home and in schools.
It is estimated that 90% of teenagers own some sort of personal media device. This may be a tablet, MP3 player, smartphone, iPad etc. It is a technology that young people know and enjoy. They use them for entertainment, to communicate, to create and to share.
A mobile device often includes many of the peripherals which need to be connected to desktop computers, meaning less fiddling with wires and downloading files. For example, and iPad has a built in camera, microphone and speakers. This means a pupil can film and edit a movie all on one device, wherever they are, with no need to plug in a video camera, download video clips etc. The fact that most tablets boot up and are ready to use in a matter of seconds also makes them far more convenient to use in a classroom situation.
For many children, access to technology in school is limited to visits to an ICT suite, maybe once or twice a week. This means they do not have regular access when it may be helpful in all subject areas. By having mobile devices which can be easily and quickly accessed in any area of the school, or even outside and on outings and journeys, technology can be more effectively embedded across the curriculum. And the amazing range of exciting apps available can lead to really engaging, creative learning activities.
There are many things to consider before buying tablets, and price is only one of them. It would be easy to go out and buy the cheapest 'value' tablet out there and end up with something not suited to an educational environment. So the first thing to ask is, "What do we want to achieve through owning tablets?" It's important to remember tablets are not laptops, and are used in a different way. Then, before considering the device itself, we need to look at all the ‘wrap arounds’ that make the device the right one to use in a school.
So the things to consider when thinking about mobile devices are, for example:
If you are interested in finding out more about mobile learning, please contact: