Tablets in the classroom – a practical digital teaching aid or just a digital toy for pastime?
Tablets make our lives easier and have become an integral part of our everyday lives. In various shapes, colors and sizes, the digital all-rounders are now available and fulfill different purposes. The e-book has also successfully established itself in the market, smartphones with an oversized display as well.
To simplify the work on tablets, there are attachable keyboards in the appropriate size. The reverse is just as good: Many manufacturers of laptops and notebooks have in recent years developed flexible models with a removable display, which then serves as a tablet with touch function alone.
Often we already see toddlers with a smartphone or tablet in their hands. Mostly it is a device of the parents or older siblings. However, many children already have their own digital toys. So it is not surprising that the question has been in the room for some time whether tablets are not suitable for school lessons.
Opinions about tablets are shared
In Germany, a few schools started trying to work with tablets. In other countries, however, tablets have long been part of the classroom. Sweden, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Thailand, Turkey and the USA are already many steps ahead with tablet usage in schools. The fact is: Germany is lagging behind in terms of digital media usage in the classroom. Nobody knows exactly why this is so.
The use of tablets brings many advantages. Students would be spared the heavy hauling of books and other school materials. Worksheets, exercises, homework are in a central location on the school server, and every student and teacher has access to it from anywhere. Even the classic excuses – “I forgot my homework at home” or “My dog has eaten the task sheet” – then no longer pull.
An additional bonus is the multimedia features of the tablets. Students can photograph chalkboard images in math, film exciting laboratory experiments, and listen to international podcasts to improve their language skills. Not to mention, students can share all of this with the class. The constant work with tablet and Internet also improves the media and research skills of the learners. She also prepares a bit for the digital and online working world.
Since many students already come in contact with digital devices in or before elementary school, dealing with it in the classroom is no longer a hurdle. Many of the kids master the common operating standards and know exactly how to get to the Youtube app. However, it looks different with many teachers, especially those who have been working in the profession for a long time.
The prerequisite for instruction at the digital level to be meaningful and fun is to be well prepared and introduced into the use of tablets. In some places, teachers receive training or attend training courses. But with a teacher who does not know how to do it right, nothing productive comes out. Except frustration, even with the students.
Motivation in learning, but without clear results
Also on the measurable success of the use of tablets in classes, one is not unanimous. Really meaningful results for a noticeably better and longer-term learning success than in classical forms of instruction are not yet. However, in a study on the subject, the University of London demonstrated that tablets in the classroom increase student motivation and willingness to learn.
Many of the students encounter the devices from the beginning with a positive feeling, unlike what they would do with textbooks. Tablets are connected with fun and the latest technology. Students are up to date at home and usually have access to these digital media. Why should not that be the same at school?
It is clear that rules must be introduced in advance for use: at home and at school. This includes the prohibition of distracting sites like Facebook, Youtube and gaming portals, at least in school. Even at home, parents should make sure that their children have a neat and healthy use of the new media. As long as the parents can afford to make such an expensive device for their child financially. The cost is worrying many mothers and fathers. However, in schools that work with tablets, there are also devices for borrowing in case a student does not have one at hand.
The list of disadvantages and risks of using tablets in the classroom can be continued. Unfortunately, the situation in Germany is such that not every school has a well-developed infrastructure and a stable internet connection. Teachers and students are thus permanently dependent on an always functioning technology and software.
If the tablets fail in class, it falls flat
If the technology fails on the tablets, the lesson planned with the tablets falls into the water. The software on the devices is not always 100% reliable. The memory could be broken and thus lost important data. The classic work materials should therefore not immediately be transported into the bin as soon as a tablet is in the house.
It was also recently researched that writing by hand is easier to memorize than typing notes on a laptop. With intensive cramming the tablet is so quiet times in the drawer.
Nonetheless, for Germany, what other nations have long been fooling about: Making students familiar and competent in dealing with digital media and the omnipresent technology. That’s what the digital future looks like.