Teachers Use Tablets Primarily to Aid Instruction

Tablets in Schools

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Schoolteachers use tablets more for classroom instruction than as replacements for textbooks or any other use, according to a recent Dell survey.

The survey reported that 37 percent of school administrators and IT managers who participated identified classroom instruction as the primary way tablets are used in their school districts.

Others said tablets were mainly used for delivering personalized learning, teaching special needs students, creating content and evaluating teachers.

Using tablets as a replacement for textbooks placed sixth in the survey at a mere seven percent — a surprising result given the heavy use of tablets as e-readers outside the classroom.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Dell, captured the insights of more than 100 K-12 school administrators who had major influence over decisions pertaining to the purchase of computer equipment.

An increasing number of teachers are turning to tablets, which offer a greater degree of mobility and adaptability in the classroom than laptops.

Students are apparently buying into the idea. More than 60 percent of high school seniors who participated in a separate survey conducted by the Pearson Foundation said tablets help students perform better in classes.

The interactive nature of tablets, coupled with the ability of content providers to post timely updates, made the devices particularly popular in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy — a time when science teachers were looking to integrate the historic weather event into their lesson plans.

Discovery Education, a leading provider of digital content to U.S. schools, updated its science lessons within weeks of the storm of making landfall. Students from grades six through high school traced the path of the storm using digital maps, compared the changes in barometric pressure with wind speed and proposed cleanup plans as government officials were doing the same.

Teachers are also using tablets to poll students, an approach that can break up lectures and assess whether a particular lesson is taking root.

Some school districts have deployed this technology using game-show-style clickers, but newer companies, such as Poll Everywhere, use smartphones and tablets to pose questions and gather responses.

Apps for tablets are replacing laptops and desktops as the hubs that control what appears on interactive whiteboards — projected displays that respond when touched by a finger or a stylus. Being able to use a tablet to conduct a lesson frees a teacher to roam the classroom.

But it’s only a matter of time before video-enabled tablets replace interactive whiteboards all together, said Keith Fowlkes, the chief information officer at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

The upshot, he said, will be less time trying to link computers with interactive whiteboards and more time learning.

Nick Clunn is an award-winning journalist who has worked for several websites and daily newspapers, including The Record in New Jersey. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at Montclair State University. Follow him @NickClunn.

Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn is a journalist covering the tech beat and an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. He lives in New Jersey, where he had worked as a staff writer for several leading daily newspapers and websites.
Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn
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