It is estimated that around 2.8 million children have a SmartPhone, including almost one million eight to 12-year-olds (that’s 25 per cent), and it is a technology that young people have embraced and one that they find engaging.
A 2010 study by the National Literacy Trust found that children were more likely to own a mobile than a book. Out of the 17,000 school children aged seven to 16 surveyed, 85.5 per cent owned their own mobile phone. Two years on, the figure is likely to be even higher.
It is a situation that many cash-strapped schools are keen to capitalise on. In the digital age, having a mobile phone or tablet device at your disposal in the classroom can be beneficial. It allows teachers and students to tap into a wealth of information, and is great for promoting independent learning. Tablets and mobile devices are the perfect medium to support learning, no matter where you are.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), however, is a contentious issue with opinion sharply divided on whether iPads or SmartPhones should be let loose in the classroom.
The key considerations for any schools thinking about adopting this policy is what value it will add both financially and educationally, set against issues like security, theft etc. Schools need to weigh up the costs versus benefits to see whether introducing student-owned devices is the best option.
The less exciting but essential processing side needs very careful consideration too.
User roles and procedures need to be clearly laid down, Acceptable Use Policies need agreeing, network security needs looking at and there needs to be access to a wireless network so there is no confusion for staff or pupils.
To safeguard against any liability from damage or loss of these devices, some schools are choosing to use resellers which provide iPads for teachers and pupils and bundle insurance at a competitive price. This allows peace of mind for both schools and students.
It is important that teachers feel confident with the technology they are using. A day’s training for those teachers who are wary of ICT always goes down well. As does a small budget of say £10, which allows teachers to purchase and test out apps to get an indication of what is out there for students.
It is not just about the technology though, it is about meeting a need and taking learning forward. Teachers can set up “Show and Tell” forums on the learning platform where students can upload videos taken on their devices for everyone to see and discuss.
Staff can also set up wikis or communal blogs where they can post tips and students can share their knowledge, with the less confident dipping in to get some fresh ideas.
Mobile devices are fantastic for collaborative group work. It doesn’t have to be one pupil recording something just for their own use. Sometimes the best learning comes from sharing, refining, and peer-to-peer discussion. This is also great preparation for working life in the 21st century.
Schools already making the move
Some schools are already exploring possibilities. We have worked closely over a number of years with different schools, including Ninestiles, a large mixed comprehensive academy in Birmingham, which is moving to more mobile devices in the classroom.
Chris Silverton, their e-learning manager, explained that he wants “to replicate the experience that students have of using technology in the real world”.
The school has extensive provision of ICT with 400 laptops and 600 desktop machines for 1,400 students. Obviously one big issue is that equipment soon becomes out-of-date and obsolete.
Mr Silverton conducted a survey and found that 24 per cent of children already had iPads and 62 per cent had SmartPhones.
It makes sense if students have powerful mobile equipment such as iPads, a Blackberry or iPhones to tap into that technology to raise the bar. Also, with a growing trend toward students owning their own tablet devices, using the technology they are already familiar with makes sense too.
And the flexibility of this technology takes creativity to the next level as they can take pictures and videos and use them in PowerPoints, cartoons and comic strips and many other creative and innovative projects.
Gareth Davies is managing director of Frog, the learning platform provider.