Educational institutions at all levels face constant pressures to incorporate the latest technology into their offerings for students and teachers. Tablet PCs can be life-changing devices for students and teacher, but a successful tablet deployment is not easy or fast.
Education institution are using tablets since early 2000s but little evaluation of the impact of teaching with tablets has been done – and best practices have not been developed or shared. Educational use of tablets rises in 2002 with the launch of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and the availability of a great number of brand new, pen-based devices. Since then the greatest part of tablet devices used in education is Windows-based devices. Non-Windows devices in Education appear in early 2010s, after Apple iPad launch: they have been used mainly because of their low price (in 2010 the average Windows Tablet PC’s price was 1500+ USD; the first-generation Apple iPad was just 499 USD). Android tablet are used in a very limited way and mainly in Samsung-sponsored projects or low-quality projects that use tablets for Internet surfing and PDF reading.
In general terms, Windows-based devices (Tablet Personal Computers) are the best choice for education, since they are productivity-oriented and because the main education-oriented software is developed for Windows. Since they are normal PCs, Windows-based tablets don’t need a particular technical environment and they are compatible with all existing peripherals and accessories.
As we said, best practices for tablet use inside the classroom are not been fully developed, but here you can find few tips for a successful educational-oriented tablet deployment:
Take your time: a good project take at least two years of work.
Using tablets in a classroom is not a one-day activity. Educational institutions face a great pressure to use tablets, but a quick deployment is mainly a futile waste of money and time. You have to understand and analyze your needs, chose one or more devices, start a small pilot deployment, analyze the pilot deployment, modify your project, train the teachers and personnel, and start the real project. This is a very long road – but gives a very high chance of success, even if first results will come after two years.
Understand and analyze your needs
Try to understand why you want to deploy tablets in your classrooms. Tablet PCs are not toys and they are not just digital textbooks, but quite expensive high-tech companions for the teacher and the student that offer a brand new way to teach and learn.
Using a tablet simply to give children the opportunity to read digital books is a waste of money – tablets cost much more than the paper, even in the medium-to-long term. Use them to make just the lesson “more interactive” through use of the Internet and the media does not have any particular advantages and often only serves to mask a lack of classroom management skills of some teachers – and instead of tablets, it would be better to invest in education and supervision of the teaching staff. A Tablet PC is a tool that changes the structure of the lesson, allowing a different teacher-student relationship that goes beyond normal school hours (thanks to the almost automatic creation of multimedia content for students) – and only in this light it makes sense to place the tablet in the classroom.
Analyzing the needs is essentials to choose the right device: every single educational institution has different educational goals and needs different devices (slate or convertible, pen-based or touch-based, high-connected or WiFi only, rugged or thin-and-light, …) to finalize them.
Don’t trust the vendors; think about software, training and infrastructure.
Ask to competent people who do not sell products, chose a device and then contact a reseller: tablet vendors (Apple, Samsung, Acer, ASUS, HP, Fujitsu, Microsoft, etc.) are not really interested in giving you the right device to fit your institution needs, but the Apple/Samsung/Acer/ASUS/HP/Fujitsu/Microsoft/etc product that best fit your needs. You have to buy the best product for you, not for the sales of someone else.
Please remember that the physical device is just a part of your project: you have to spend a very considerable part of your budget for software (OneNote, DyKnow, Camtasia, etc.), training (teachers and students must know how to use the device and the software), digital contents (created by the teacher or external) and infrastructure (projectors, high-speed WiFi, power outlets, NSFW filters, etc.).
Try it first, with a pilot deployment.
A pilot deployment will help you to understand if your project is good and if it worth the time and money. Just start, the first year, with few classes and then analyze the results of the project.
The chosen device is good? The infrastructure needs some expansion? There is some (statistically significant) improvement of student performance in the Tablet PC classes compared to standard non-Tablet PC classes? It makes sense to invest heavily only after answering these questions, finding a solution to potential problems.
Analyze and evolve upon time, spread the word
After the full deployment, analyze every semester the feedback from students and teachers, modify the project using new technologies, features, software and devices – and share your experience on your website or with some papers or poster to help, and gain help from, other educational institutions.
Article by Tablet PC Street