Are we skeptical about the use of tablets in schools?

Image | Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography

The use of tablets in classrooms is getting a push from several fronts. National governments purchase hundreds of thousands of tablets to distribute in public schools. One such case is Mexico, which recently distributed 700,000 tablets to 665,000 students and 45,000 elementary school teachers at a cost of 110 million dollars, within its Digital Inclusion and Literacy Program. Regional governments are making similar efforts, such as in Andalucia, Spain, where in the 2014-15 school year they bought more than 27 thousand tablets for 6th grade students in public schools.

On the other hand, the Plataforma Proyecta, from the Spanish foundations Amancio Ortega and Santiago Rey, seek to “provide resources to facilitate the day to day work of teachers in the classroom” with the use of information technology. On their website, this initiative explains the usefulness of the tablet in primary education.

In the USA, where education is decentralized, school districts are advocating for this device. According to an article from The Washington Post, it is estimated that during 2014 schools will have acquired 3.5 million tablets, and it describes in some detail the impact generated among students, but also the challenges generated for an educational model that is trying to update itself.

Are we skeptical about the use of tablets in schools?

Image | U.S. Army CERDEC

Students want tablets

Presumably the efforts to incorporate tablets into schoolchildren´s lives is not only based on the wishes of governments, foundations, teachers or schools but also on the protagonist of the story: the student. We also must ask the other important actor, the parents – do they want tablets?

To answer this question, the educational company Pearson revealed the results of a study conducted in the United States to students in elementary, middle and high school about the use of mobile devices in school, including the tablet.

The majority of students (71% elementary, 67% middle and 56% high school) want to use their mobile devices in classrooms more frequently than today. Concerning the use of the tablet, the results are the following:
66% of elementary students said they regularly use the tablet, a 55% increase compared to the previous year (2013). This figure even surpasses the use of the laptop (65%).
– Among middle school students, 58% reported using the tablet, this figure being 43% higher than the previous year.
– Tablet use is less popular among high school students as only 42% of them reported using it frequently. However, this figure is 33% higher than the last year. These students prefer to use the smartphone (75%).

Other interesting data is that 90% of students agree that the tablet will change the way that students will learn in the future. 89% said that tablets make learning more fun, 81% said that this way of learning is best for them at 79% said that it allows them to perform better in class. The tablet size also matters because they are the first who use a smaller tablet size (see chart below).

Are we skeptical about the use of tablets in schools?

Image | Pearson

Parents also support the tablet use in schools

They say the adoption of good habits and manners begins at home with parents. Well, this principle also applies to the case of mobile devices. The study Living and Learning with Mobile Devices also done in the USA delves into the parent-child-mobile devices relationship. The results of the study lay in the fact that the attitude of parents vary according to the age and sex of the child, while the majority consider that these devices represent an opportunity to learn more.

One conclusion of the study, which also includes recommendations for teachers and developers, is that between parents there is a great desire that mobile devices will be considered further in the educational processes.

But one thing is a wish and the other reality. In many countries, the household income is too low to acquire a tablet and the educational systems can barely cover the basic maintenance costs of the school infrastructure. But the fact is that slowly, but in a sustained way, this type of device influences more and more students´ development. In comparison to the higher costs of textbooks that you have to buy every year, similar to how the ebook is replacing the traditional paper book, will it take many years to adopt tablets in the classroom?

The mSchools programme is a multi-faceted mEducation initiative by Mobile World Capital Barcelona, in collaboration with The Generalitat of Catalonia, Barcelona City Hall and GSMA.

Launched in 2013, mSchools supports students and teachers effectively integrating mobile technologies into the classroom. Mobile enables access to up-to-date materials, improves collaboration and strengthens learner engagement, opening up new ways of teaching and learning that improve achievement and employability.

The mSchools programme brings together private and public institutions to help students build important new skills and prepare them for today’s digital world.

MWCapital offers an open platform and exhibition showroom where citizens can understand and experience how mobile is enhancing our lives: The Mobile World Centre, located in the heart of Barcelona on Plaza Catalunya.

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