Tried and tested: a number of schools who have experimented with tablets in “smart classrooms’’ report back on their experiences.

UK: what apps for the classroom?

Daniel Edwards, Director of Digital Strategy at the Stephen Perse Foundation schools, has tested a number of Apple applications for teaching. Among the new apps available, he chose what he considered to be the easiest to use and most effective:

  • A dedicated Twitter account for the class: observing that tools such as Twitter and Skype were widely used by students, Daniel Edwards recommends using them for staff and student collaboration.
  • Annotating and enhancing resources with applications such as neu.AnnotePDF, PDF pen, and Evernote skitch enables teachers, says Daniel Edwards, to enhance existing learning resources with minimal attention paid to the technology.
  • Cloud services for document sharing: Online platforms such as Google Drive (as shown in this tutorial) and other cloud-based collaborative services mean that teachers can create documents that can be shared with either the whole class or selected recipients.
  • Creating multimedia documents with special apps such as iBooks Author or iTunes U, to compile resources and set up a customised document base.

iPads in Quebec

With  5,000 students equipped with iPads in2012 and as many as 15,000 expected to have them for the 2013-2014 school year, tablets are being widely adopted at private schools in Quebec after an in-depth analysis of the possible benefits of the devices as learning tools. The results of the experiment show that:

  • Students enjoy having an iPad at school and claim they couldn’t do without it.
  • Teaching staff see iPads as a way to modernise their teaching methods.
  • Virtualising experiments for life sciences, for example, or annotating lessons offer new learning methods to engage students more.

However, the downside is:

  • Tablets can be a source of distraction
  • Teachers require training and support in order to get the most out of their tablets.

2.0 expression at a primary school in Switzerland

A primary school in Zurich, meanwhile, has been experimenting with tablets to allow children to express themselves by creating simple multimedia documents, videoing themselves, and creating blogs or digital portfolios.

Source: The Smart Way to Use iPads in the Classroom

Mind mapping as an evaluation method

Julie Higounet, an international teaching consultant, recommends using a mind-mapping app on tablets to enable students to represent visually their understanding of a subject by “organising and structuring the ideas discussed as concepts, ideas and associated information.”

According to Julie Higounet, the advantages of this method for teachers are a “fairer way of monitoring and evaluating” that covers a wide range of types of learning and memorising knowledge by association (images, videos, words).

Tablets and teaching: experiments in France

Eduscol, a French website created by the Ministry of Education, has compiled all the pilot programmes conducted in France between 2010 and 2013 for using tablets in schools (all ages, all types of schools).

The overall verdict is very positive in terms of the learning benefits the technology has to offer, but a few issues were raised concerning:

  • Interoperability with workspaces already used in the schools
  • The limited number of digital text books available
  • Teaching methods need to be changed in order to make the most of the possibilities of tablets.

Further reading