Demystifying 1:1 digital learning

A handy new website for teachers and school leaders has arrived, Techknowledge for Schools Director Mary Palmer explains all

Packed with in-depth research findings and case studies on the impact of mobile tech and the use of 1:1 devices in secondary and primary schools, arrives with the rebranding of the charity Tablets for Schools as Techknowledge for Schools.

The spectrum of interviews and findings cover 40 schools and 11,000 pupils and explores the impact of 1:1 use on pupil engagement and behaviour and on teacher training and support. There’s also plenty of candour on persistent barriers to progress, such as lack of Wi-fi, lack of coherent IT infrastructure, pupil distraction, addiction, e-safety, lack of parent understanding and lack of ongoing CPD for teachers. 

Such hurdles emerge from many hidden corners, but the charity’s work with a group of pioneering schools (whose use of mobile technology is an integral part of their pedagogy) serves to increase teacher confidence, dispel unhelpful myths and give practical guidance on how to get started. Through the charity, the schools offer countless examples of success and inspiration and share the routes they have found to clearing the hurdles.

Let’s not forget that six years ago you couldn’t buy a tablet. Now schoolchildren emerge facing a working world so removed from the generation before that their learning methods need a radical rethink, but it remains a daunting task even for the best-intentioned educators. The benefits of self-paced personalised learning are emerging in droves, but there’s still a wealth of as-yet-unshared practical experience and still a huge need for schools to spend time addressing the ‘why’ before the purchase of any devices of any kind.

The thinking is that curious but hesitant schools, as well as those already part-way along the journey, can use  and its research to get to the heart of why and how to employ 1:1 devices to best effect and support their own teachers and pupils. 

The charity’s regional workshops bring the best practice alive and run at least once a quarter. Its 40 partner schools typically use 1:1 devices in the classroom (they’re integral to how material is taught, not viewed as replacements for textbooks), with most children taking them home to continue projects and to share their work with their parents.

The track record is strong. The charity first commissioned research (as Tablets for Schools) back in 2011, in three pioneering secondary schools (Longfield Academy in Kent, Honywood in Essex and Wallace High School, Belfast ) in order to pinpoint the various benefits, challenges and the impact of 1:1 devices on learning and to establish ground rules and advice for teaching with them.  (An independent pedagogy group of academics and school leaders ‘peer-reviews’ every piece of research.)

The research programme led by Family, Kids & Youth is backed by head teachers, academics, industry and government. Brand new research just out this month – Transforming Learningdrills down into how 1:1 mobile devices are being used in 2015 (featuring new examples of flipped and challenge-based learning), and explores how the emerging changes to pedagogy can be sustained. 

And the momentum continues. The charity’s researchers are currently asking hundreds of teachers how they feel about using mobile technology to teach and what impact they think it has had on their pupils’ level of attainment, engagement, confidence,  their ability to work collaboratively and their sense of autonomy.  Watch this space for results in the Autumn.