By Wayne Strydom
About four years ago, our school embarked on its journey with tablets in the classroom. Initially it was a bring your own device scenario, meaning that any tablet device was allowed onto the school property. We jumped through all the hoops, changing Wi-Fi in order to give the children access where they needed it.
The reason for going the tablet route is principally to decrease the weight of the children’s school bags: all textbooks were available on an app platform. The secondary reason was so that we could get our students ready for the digital age they find themselves in.
The students were of course thrilled with the idea. Most of them anyway. I say most, because the senior students still preferred the ability to quickly paper-flip to where they thought the chapter was in the book. Parents and some teachers disliked the devices because of the distractions that they provided. Prep parents also didn’t like the tablets when it came to studying with their children. They simply couldn’t navigate the pages.
The children love the idea of technology in any form, and the challenge was to keep them focused on the content provided and not the distractions that a tablet could give. Apart from initial teething problems on the part of the textbook service provider, we pushed through and now in our fifth year we are seeing more and more members of staff embracing the technology and starting to see educational benefits.
One of our go-to apps in the prep school for the past two years has been Seesaw. It’s an online Journalling app which has many benefits such as online safety and also the ability to very quickly communicate with the parents who are connected. The parents loved it because they could be participants in what their kids were doing in class.
What are the advantages of moving to tablets?
- Being able to engage children on a level which motivates them.
- The shy child can now record his speech at home and play it to the class without feeling intimidated.
- Being able to create content themselves has been a breakthrough for them, such as creating videos and presentations.
What have been the disadvantages of moving to tablets?
- The BYOD model where kids were able to bring any device. After two years we started standardizing with iPad devices due to their robustness and ease of use.
- The distraction factor. Staff are often fighting with kids to stop playing games.
- “Old school” parents and teachers.
- Teachers who just don’t know the gold which lies beneath this medium.
We have recently moved over to a centralized IT model and Office 365 we hope to be a revolution. We hope to use MSTeams with our students here at the school and move even further away from paper.
If only Eskom would give us some slack!
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