A few months into the OTPC initiative

schoolovision One Tablet per Child project (OTPC) was launched as a pilot project in January 2014. This was a learning curve for all the teachers and students involved. The journey presented a number of experiences but it was characterised by one common principle, that is, ‘The tablet is a means not an end or that pedagogy drives the technology and not the other way round.’

The main aim of the OTPC is much more than teaching students how to use the tablet for its own sake or learning how to use a particular app. The tablet is an educational tool that helps students to go into deeper learning in Literacy, Digital Literacy, Numeracy, Science and other areas. However, students can go even further than that because the tablet facilitates collaboration, communication, creativity, character education, digital citizenship, critical thinking and computational thinking; what we like to call the 7Cs. Students have the opportunity to be innovators and effective communicators who share ideas with others and respond positively to change. The tablet offers our learner the chance to not just consume knowledge but also the possibility to create it.

After just four months of using the tablets in year 4 classes, it is still too early to quantify the total benefits reaped from the use of the tablets by educators and learners as a tool for teaching and learning. The tablet has now been introduced into the classroom and whether one likes it or not it has invaded the traditional classroom. Teachers have been thoroughly trained and prepared for this tool but nevertheless, training and support are never enough and will continue throughout the project and beyond. Whether teachers or parents see this device as a distraction or a new interactive way to learn depends a lot on the way this tool is used and the perceptions one may have about any new digital device.

In terms of education, the tablet can be seen as a mighty computer that enriches teaching and learning anytime and anywhere through the use of simple interfaces. Although the advantages of using electronic devices in learning are now common knowledge, not many teachers appreciate the full benefit of this device as a tool that can support personalised learning. On the other hand, although we do not have empirical data to quantify the number of educators who are moving towards differentiated learning, the first step before personalisation, a quick look at the mobile device management software shows that some tablets are being grouped in the same class. This shows that some teachers are using the tablets for group work. The quality and type of different work assigned to groups has still to be seen.

Some educators and parents have been concerned with the tablet being a major distraction. We encountered this issue during the pilot project, however, we met this challenge head on by giving total control to the teacher over what can be done by the learner. The teacher presently assigns lessons, which apps the learner can use, and the teacher, for now, controls most of the assets like the camera and microphone, through the ClassConnect software. Some parents criticised the tablet by saying that their kids cannot install anything on it and that their children prefer to play on their own tablet. Well, that is one objective that we tried to achieve for the first few years. We wanted to send the message that this tablet is a learning tool that can revolutionise the modern classroom and not a sophisticated toy. There will come a time, I am sure when parents, educators and learners will look at games in a different light, but for the time being, these have been limited to very specialised particular apps.

One very important aspect that our support team is witnessing in schools is the amount of collaboration happening among teachers on how, what and when to use the tablets. This is unprecedented and was not observed with the introduction of other digital media such as the interactive whiteboard, the virtual learning environment or the reusable learning objects. The tablet has offered teachers and learners: the chance to connect the major stakeholders, the possibility for a live knowledge base, differentiated/ individualised and eventually personalised learning, improved computer skills and quicker reporting as has been seen during outings.

(Thanks to Mr Grazio Grixti EO for co-authoring)

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