This is the question schools typically ask when they are considering investing in tablet devices for their schools. However, all too often this is not the right question to start with. A recent report (PDF) commissioned by the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) and compiled by H2 Learning recommends that schools consider why they need to buy such devices. Schools need to have a clear rationale for investing in such technology and ultimately it should be tied to a vision of learning that is appropriate for the 21st century.
There is a great deal of ‘hype’ around the use of digital technology in schools and tablets are the latest in a long line of technologies that includes the desktop PC, the IWB, the laptop to arrive in school. All these devices, when used appropriately, have the potential to transform teaching, learning and assessment. However, all too often they are not utilised to their full potential and schools are often disappointed with the impact they make. It is worth recalling Larry Cuban’s book “Oversold and Underused”.
In this report we found that many ACCS schools are considering the use of digital technology and specifically tablet devices. They see that these devices can play a role in successfully implementing the new Junior Cycle. Yet achieving this will take considerable planning and will entail the design and rollout of CPD for their teachers. Key to this will be the sharing of professional practice within schools and between schools. We visited three schools are found they are still in the early stages of transforming their practice. They are predominantly substituting the tablets for older technologies, such as books. We found that the tablets were in the main used as e-book readers and that this has had a positive impact on staff and on student learning and has addressed the issue of heavy school bags. Now schools are looking to the next step so they can further enhance and transform learning in their schools.
The report consists of three sections: a literature review, a review of practice within ACCS schools and guidelines for implementing a tablet programme. The report was presented recently at the ACCS Principals and Deputy Principals conference in Sligo where it was well received. It is clear that tablet devices have great potential in education but we need more research around their effective use. This report is a welcome first step on that road and hopefully other schools will share their practice as generously as the ACCS schools did, so that schools will learn from the experiences of others. We hope you find the report useful in assisting your school to plan and implement a successful 1:1 programme in your school.