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Implementing tablet technology

Why use tablet technology?

Tablet devices allow students to have access to 'anywhere, anytime learning'. The idea of mobile learning has taken off in education systems around the world. Mobile learning allows students to access the Internet and email, use organisational tools and engage with learning resources as never before.

Teachers can facilitate a change in student learning through the multi-media capabilities of tablet devices. Through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, teachers and students can access thousands of apps designed specifically for educational purposes.

The use of apps as part of a well-planned learning and teaching program allow students to: 

  • express and develop ideas
  • create digital texts
  • facilitate teamwork and communication
  • demonstrate thinking and creativity
  • record themselves to engage in self-assessment practices
  • review and build on skills and knowledge learnt during the day
  • gain instant feedback
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How does the use of tablet technology align with the Western Australian Curriculum?

The Western Australian Curriculum states that students develop ICT capability as they learn to use ICT effectively and appropriately to access, create and communicate information and ideas, solve problems and work collaboratively in all learning areas at school, and in their lives beyond school. The capability involves students in learning to make the most of the digital technologies available to them, adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve and limiting the risks to themselves and others in a digital environment.

Incorporating tablet technology across learning areas gives students opportunites to develop and apply ICT capabilities while adding depth and richness to learning and teaching programs.

Further information about ICT capabilities can be found in the Western Australian Curriculum.

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One-to-one or shared use?

Tablet computers are designed to be personal devices. Unlike desktop computers, tablet devices do not normally allow multiple users to log in. This can create issues in a school environment if many students are using the same device. For example, a student may save work to a device only to have that file deleted by the next student.

A key decision for the school is therefore: Will our students share devices or will there be a one-to-one model for tablet use?

The advantage of a shared model is largely financial. A shared model can provide students with regular access to devices without the cost of purchasing a device for every student while also providing funding for the traditional classroom resources necessary to ensure a balanced curriculum.

A one-to-one model, on the other hand, can have a transformative effect on teaching and learning. When teachers and students no longer need to schedule their access to technology, their use of technology becomes more authentic, being naturally integrated into learning experiences every day. Teachers often find that the impact of the device itself is secondary to the impact of changes in pedagogy and class culture that emerge in a one-to-one environment. 

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How do I fund a one-to-one model?

Many schools choose to partner with their parent community to help fund a program where every student has access to their own tablet device. Often this takes the form of parents funding the cost of devices for their children, with the school funding additional costs of the program. Items covered by the school might include teacher professional learning, support for families in financial hardship, infrastructure costs and/or the cost of apps.

Every school community is unique and, to be successful, the school needs to consult extensively with its community before implementing a program of this sort. Parent-funded one-to-one programs are most likely to be successful if the parent community has been genuinely involved in establishing the goals of the program, selecting the device, choosing vendors and planning timelines. Enlisting parents as partners in the educational process will have positive impacts that extend well beyond the parents’ financial contributions.

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How do I manage devices in a shared model?

If a school is operating a shared model, it is essential that students use the same device each time. This can be achieved easily by numbering each device and maintaining a register (ideally kept with the devices in a clipboard folder). In this way, students can save their work at the end of a lesson and know where to find it.

This register, combined with a timetable for using the devices, means that it is possible to identify which student has been using each tablet at any particular point in the day. This is important for accountability in the event that a student accidentally or intentionally uses a device in an inappropriate manner.

In a shared model, schools will also need a method of students wirelessly sending their finished work to the teacher for assessment. There are many methods for doing this, such as the Department’s Connect Classes, Apple’s Airdrop function, or the Showbie app. These tools can also be used to free up space on iPads and backup important student work.

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Purchasing apps for tablet devices

The Application Evaluation Rubric is designed to assist schools to select applications for educational purposes.

Teachers are advised to collaborate to trial different applications to determine their effectiveness to support students to in literacy and numeracy.

The Apple App Store includes a Volume Purchase Program (VPP) for Education that allows schools to purchase apps licences in bulk. Many app developers also provide discounts for education. Schools may also purchase digital books through the VPP.

The Google Play Store allows users to select 'Education' from the categories of apps for Android devices. Both stores offer a combination of free and paid apps.

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Are tablet devices compatible with Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents?

There are a range of apps that work like a suite of office tools such as Pages, Keynote, Numbers and Smart Office that can open, create and save Microsoft Office documents. Although there are a few minor limitations, the apps overcome these by substituting fonts and formatting. Microsoft has also released its own Office apps. Access to all of the Microsoft apps features requires payment of a monthly subscription fee.

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Tablet technology and wireless Internet

Tablet devices cannot be plugged into the network like a desktop or laptop computer and cannot access your school network folders. They rely on a wireless connection to share and download content over the internet.

If Schools require a wireless network to be established call the Customer Relationship Managers (CRMs) for more information. Do not buy home-use wireless routers to use at school.

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How can I connect with other schools that are also implementing tablet technology?

Collaboration between teachers and between schools is one of the most powerful strategies for improving the effectiveness of a tablet technology program. Whether conducted face-to-face or online, effective collaboration has the potential to:

  • share best practice
  • generate new ideas
  • access solutions to common problems and
  • reduce costs.

Connect Communities

To facilitate collaboration within Western Australian public schools, the Department of Education has established Connect. There are many communities in Connect dealing with a range of topics. For example the ‘Statewide Services iPads in Education’ community is home to dozens of educators using iPad technology with their students. 

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Ensuring student safety

Teaching students about the safe use of digital technologies is an important part of the Western Australian Curriculum. Given that most children regularly use the Internet, it is essential that every school teaches them the protective behaviours needed to stay safe online. There are many resource available in the Department of Education's Connect resources for example, Cybersmart created by the Australian Communications and Media Authority provides a range of resources for different age groups.

Every school has a responsibility to put in place measures to keep students safe online when using school networks. These are outlined in the Department of Education’s Students Online policy.

Implementing tablet technology

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