Wednesday, 12 October 2011

To ipad or your tablet?

Which learning tool,  that is the question!

Here is the deal. Our College would like to integrate a 1:1 program, into the learning environment soon.  I believe this is a mighty fine step!  I am happy. I am excited. I am hoping it will the best tool for our students to learn with.  Implementing this plan will be gradual, perhaps for a grade or two, as a trial, middle school. (Still strongly believe Seniors need BYOD)  Ultimate decisions are made by the board and executive committee, however staff have been invited to trial some products.  The College feel a tablet is a positive move forward for our school.

At this stage, I am open to all options.  However, I am a bit of a research freak. I can drive a grand bargain on any household appliance as I research thoroughly before the purchase and know exactly what suits our needs and for how much. I need to know what we are planning to use the device for and therefore which is the most suitable option...

From what I can ascertain, the College are looking at devices that can be used as a textbook reader, have a USB and SD card slot and are relatively light. They would like students to use the tablet as a supplement to other learning methods (and computers at home.)  They seem keen on an Android operating system.

I work part time, educating students in the areas of Food Technology, Religious Education and Drama.
I have gone paperless with my Year 8's (they rock!)  I have used google docs, backchanneling, glogster, wordle, xtranormal, imovie, prezi, various smart phone apps with the other grades (Yrs 7-9 as I am part time).  Along with the many web 2.0 tools and web information readily available online.

In my view, we need:
  • a computing tool that travels with our pedagogy.  Discovery learning, researching, documenting, organising notes,  brainstorming, mindmapping, editing presentions and the ability to present work digitally and other.  
  • The tool should support our virtual classrooms and intranet (in our case scholaris).
  • reasonably cost effective however, still able to handle the demands of the modern kids learning style!
  • ability to organise notes AND files/documents into subject areas (computers MUCH better at this than a tablet!)
  • adaptability. Who knows what we may need in 6 months time.
  • a tool most educators can work with. Intuitive. Hardy. No fail.
  • mulitasking platform. Research window open, backchannel open, research notetaking/organising project.
  • Hardware that can be readily serviced or replaced.
  • Software that is tested, true to educational outcomes (not gimmicky), able to be accessed readily, adapted, deleted and added to.
  • ability to interact globally. 
  • useful for industry skills- what happens in the workplace? What are employers desiring?

I am still processing my thoughts on how I view a tablet to support my students learning. I have asked the students. They were very excited and engaged in these discussions. I had to keep them on topic as gaming portability was a number one priority. And true, gamification in education is the hot topic. They were not thinking of this :)  COD, Blur, Halo etc came up- imagine lunch time! One student chimed.   I work casually in a school which is totally focused on technology integration. At first, students did check facebook and play games at lunch but now I don't see it much at all. They get over it and like the break from technology at lunch.

My students responses:

  • something they can take home and use at home as often there is one computer at home, that Mum and Dad or older siblings use.
  • A tool they can carry with them to save time unlocking laptop trolleys, logging on, discovering issues, not having enough laptops to use as a class set etc
  • Note taking, organising notes.  Easier to read word processed notes over handwriting.
  • Researching.

As we know, there is another educational world they are yet to tap into!

Questions to schools out there:
  • Has your school implemented any computing tool (tablet, notebook, laptop) into your school?
  • If so, positives? improvements? why?
  • Textbook in PDF form or avail in app format?
  • With the ipad- does it matter it doesn't support Flash/ any difficulties to overcome and how?
  • With your devices, what else did you purchase? cases? charging docks etc?  Apps?
  • What questions should we be asking?
  • Which Functionalities are a must/need or just nice/want?

I would so dearly LOVE your opinion! Please spend a few moments to leave a comment. 
Forward onto to others you may know who can contribute...

Keeping the dialogue alive,
Kind regards, @7mrsjames

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Day off today, have an eager Mr 4 so out to park now :)

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  1. I am not an expert in this area at all, but I will offer my two cents. I just got a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tab. I've had no issues with it at all. It plays Flash great with the Dolphin Browser. I can update it and transfer files to it from a computer using Samsung Kies. The WiFi is great, and I can tether it to my phone if there is no WiFi.
    I do not use Dropbox, but I use SpiderOak instead because I think it creates rooms and webpages for easier access. I find that I don't even store anything on it aside from the pictures I take with the tab so memory isn't an issue.
    I use Google Docs with it and Evernote for notetaking. I think it's a great tablet and the battery life has been fine. I know everyone loves the iPad, but I'm glad I have the Galaxy Tab.

  2. Hi Von,

    Thanks for your views! Much appreciated. My husband also likes the Samsung Galaxy 10.1. Are you in Australia? I like evernote as well. What is the approx cost of the galaxy? Glad it has honeycomb too. Thanks for giving detail on how you utilize the tool.

    I am trialling the Lenova thinkpad. So far, I like it. Impressive technology. I don't seem to be able to comment on my blog post though via the thinkpad- am sure there is a reason, however, I cannot see the word verification to type in the characters and therefore it will not let me proceed. So, I am back on the laptop :)

    Thanks again,
    Have a great week.
    Jeannette James

    Kind regards,
    Jeannette James

  3. Your best bet right is the soon to be released (Nov 15) Amazon Kindle Fire. It is Android platform, it cost $199 and has the best cloud storage, fast new browser and a USB port. It has a full color reader too!

    As far as apps for education and so on I just wrote a paper on how the Android app market is growing very fast and offers great Education apps. I can email it to you if you like, it is 4 pages long though!

  4. Yes please email! Would love a read. I like the dual core of the kindle fire, but not the screen size for creation of content?

  5. Hi Jeannette,

    What you have got to start with is what you want your students to be doing with the device? Do you just want them to cosume content or do you want them to create content as well? You will need to think of multiple devices if you are just thinking of content consumption?

    We have chosen a laptop so that it meets both creation and consumption. It also has the grunt ot run our CAD programs and other resource hungry software. Yep they can link to external drives and cloud based storage solutions such as dropbox.

    But as you would be aware the hardware landscape will continually change but the fundamental point will be how these devices best assist teaching and learning.

  6. Hi Troy,

    Firstly, thanks so much for adding your advice! Your time is appreciated.

    Basically, the choice of device for our students isn't my decision. I do believe students need 1:1 or even 2/3:1 as we move forward. I do hope for an operating system that is both user friendly not only for our students (who are adaptable and resilient) but the teaching staff as well...(who are at varying stages of technological integration/usage).

    My first thought was a laptop, as I feel content creation is the key to not only engagement but deeper understanding AND mastery of 21st century skills (as well as supporting other pedagogy and learning styles).

    The College feel an android tablet is the way forward as it is more portable, light and able to hold many of the student textbooks. (I have been told that Mac products can also store textbooks as PDF files- however, our school is PC....) There is also a thought that the device chosen is only meant to supplement a computer at home. I am still sorting out my thoughts on that one. I agree, hardware is such that it is old before it is new! So, focus on the "best" device becomes blurry. In terms of similar financial outlay though, if one can get a more robust, reliable device and OS for the same $ -why not? I am sure parents would appreciate a product that is more hardy, user friendly and capable of greater productivity in the long run.

    I also believe a small trial of 2-3 classes may be a better solution to trial a system. I believe the IT suport staff should be actively heard. They are the ones that deal with hardware issues on a daily basis.
    I believe time needs to be given to these important discussions in larger blocks. Schools can drag out decision making processes as time windows are so short. Therefore, is there continuity of the decision making process and adequate teasing out of ideas/solutions/resources available?

    I understand the reasoning of equality, however am feeling BYOD would give the students more ownership and responsibility. Especially for the seniors! Obviously, there would have to be some parameters around this in the junior school...

    I know my beliefs are evolving and what I feel now may change next week- which is why I truly believe a device should be chosen to reflect this. A device should be as flexible as possible to allow for these shifts in learning and pedagogy. I can only imagine amazing things my classes will be learning, discovering and creating in 2012. I hope that their learning can be supported by the device that is chosen for them. Ultimately, as educators though, we need to engage in positive deviance! And I am up for the challenge!