Tablet technology; where’s the pedagogy?

We have all the edtech tools in place but do we know what we should actually be doing with them, says Promethean’s Ian Curtis

Whether it’s BYOD or school investment to support 1:1 learning, the use of tablets in classrooms is no longer a new concept. The technical challenges regarding compatibility of devices, ensuring teacher control and the reliability of an internet connection seem to have been ironed out to a certain extent, yet a question mark appears to still loom over the role tablet technology has to play in improving learning productivity, increasing student motivation and measuring individual progress.

In simple terms, we have the technology tools in place… but do we know what we should actually be doing with them?

Think about your own school. How many classrooms have interactive displays? How many students have access to tablets?

Now think about how these technologies are being used to support lesson delivery and assessment…in most schools the interactive display (whether that’s an interactive whiteboard or interactive panel) will be supporting a Knowledge Transfer modality of learning – with the teacher instructing students from the front of the class. In the same way, where tablets are available they will typically be used to support 1:1 learning opportunities.

But why should teaching and learning be constrained in this way when the technology can actually support the moving between modalities to create more stimulating and effective learning environments?

In reality, education actually happens in various contexts – whole class, small groups and independently. Which is why, when it comes to tablet technology, we need to think beyond 1:1 and more about the pedagogy potential that sits behind it…

–       1:1 – “highly personalised and working at own pace”
–       One to Many – “leaders or students able to direct resource or their contributions quickly and easily to in class or out of school groups”
–       Many to One – “listening to the whole class – not just one voice/channel”
–       Many to Many – “collaboration and learning to learn together” 

Once we reach this point, we then need to be able to effectively and accurately track student progress and ensure they are achieving their individual potential – however they are learning.

And therein lays the new challenge for schools. It’s one thing to get the technical aspect of tablet implementation right – but it can be a major pedagogical leap to start integrating the technology to support a range of learning contexts (especially within a single lesson) and measure progress in each scenario.

One way of making this transition a little easier is to use third party software solutions, such as ClassFlow for Schools, which essentially ‘connects the classroom’ for you. By connecting the tablet devices with the front of class solution it makes it much easier to move between instructional sessions, 1:1 learning and group collaboration. The nature of the technology also makes it much easier to gather evidence of learning whilst at the same time facilitating student-led learning and collaborative assignments.

However, as with any education technology – software is not the complete solution. It is an enabler. It gives teachers the tools to bring everything together and deliver lessons in a more holistic way – drawing on a range of learning contexts. But as a valuable by-product you then also have access to accurate data on student progression, departmental results and whole-school performance – ultimately making it quicker and easier to generate reports using accurate insights on student outcomes.

So as a school; whether you have a BYOD strategy in place, have invested in your own tablet technology or are still undecided as to which route to take… a guiding principle which has served our customers well over the years has always been ‘pedagogy before technology’… by following this you can be confident that whatever technology you choose, it will serve you well.

Ian Curtis is Head of Western Europe, Africa and ANZ, at Promethean.