I have a love hate relationship with my tablet. I have a few apps that I think are genuinely useful and contribute to the smoother running of my life and a few that I keep around for reference purposes or information inflows (some of which haven’t been used in six months) and then there are some that I spend far more time on than I should and which basically fritter away more hours of my days than I have available to waste.
This is my prime concern with tablets in education. The tablet is basically a tool. It is neither good nor evil – it is how you use it and what you use it for that defines it’s worth. And that comes down to the apps that are on it.
For a much fuller overview of the issue of tablets in Education, OUP have just published a “white paper” called “Tablets and Apps in Your School” which is available as a free (registration required) pdf download.
Systematically running through things you’ll need to think about before you even start, how to prepare teaching staff to use the new technology and how you can actually use them in class – this is a comprehensive look at what tablets can be used for.
I think the problem at the moment is that tablets are still quite new and while the take up rate is increasing rapidly (not quite exponentially), it has not quite made the shift from desirable and luxurious into essential – in the same way that mobile phones have managed. Which is not to say that they won’t, but that the requirement for people to own tablets in order to pursue education goals is quite a costly one and represents a large imposition on schools or learners. While, in the state sector, it might be possible to centrally fund or to seek business funding for a tablet project, the private sector probably doesn’t possess the margins to go down this road. I have enough trouble maintaining the school’s stock of audio equipment (CD players & MP3 players) without having to worry about high cost tablets (which I suppose could eventually replace all the audio kit as well!).
What will be interesting over the next few years is to see which publishers start releasing app versions of their popular coursebooks as well as maintaining the print versions. Tablets could be incredibly efficient ways of delivering coursebook content and a quick search of the Android store shows that some publishers are already doing this:
- Oxford University Press ELT Apps
- Cambridge University Press ELT Apps
- Macmillan Education Apps
- Pearson Education Apps
- (Please note these are just simple Android store searches – not all apps may be by the relevant publishers)
It’s worth taking a look – some of these are free, some are free and “lite” versions of more expensive apps and some are full price.
For a good case study on how to implement tablets in a language school – International House Cordoba has been running a project for the last two years. Jennifer Dobson reports on it in the IH Journal here: “Learning through an Ipad” – or you can watch the IH Cordoba team’s one hour webinar at last year’s IH Online Conference: