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Tablets in the Classroom: Good or Bad?

November 29, 2018

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Nowadays, many kids are basically born with a tablet or phone in their hands. Not only are these devices extremely appealing to their young minds, but they also come in handy when parents need a break. And while the effects of these technologies on children are still being explored and debated, many are making strides to implement them in a productive way.

Given how mesmerizing tablets can be to younger audiences, it’s no wonder that they are now being used in many classrooms to make learning more dynamic and exciting. You’re probably considering implementing tech-enhanced education into your own organization. But is it a good idea? Keep reading to find out.

The Good

Creating a “search-and-learn” environment: internet-connected tablets have the advantage of providing instant answers to any questions students might have. This allows them to search online for things that they might feel uncomfortable asking about in class. They can also search for any unfamiliar terms the teacher might use without being embarrassed that they don’t know it.

Access to videos: while projectors still have their use in the classroom, they need to be set up and obviously require a dark room to work. On tablets, however, students can easily access video materials instantly and watch at their own pace. This way, teachers don’t have to fiddle with cables and blinds anymore, and students can adjust the sound to their liking and pause the video if they need to take a break. 

Access to free eBooks: initiatives such as Project Gutenberg give students access to thousands of free books, right on their tablets. This way, they can more easily get ahold of curriculum materials or enjoy classic reads outside of class. It also allows them to find eBooks at a lower price than regular ones. 

Digitizing support materials and teaching-related processes: this goes hand in hand with the previous point, but digital devices bring a lot of convenience to the classroom. Teachers can give and grade tests digitally and deliver the results via email, to both the student and their parents. Also, using digital handouts in class saves paper and ensures that students can’t lose the materials they receive. Same goes for homework: excuses like “the dog ate my assignment” or “I handed it in, so you must have lost it” don’t hold water anymore if tasks are managed digitally. 

More interactive activities for lessons: not only are teachers expected to deliver lessons clearly, but they also have to be creative—and that can’t always be accomplished in a practical manner, at least not without the right technology. Tablets allow teachers to completely revamp their lessons with tools like digital handouts, online quizzes, and personalized exercises. For example, instead of talking about a famous event in history, they can just play a video on the tablets. This helps them keep students engaged and make them more enthusiastic about learning. 

Better accessibility: with a tablet, special needs students can customize the output to suit their needs. Digital devices allow them to enable text to speech or, on the contrary, add subtitles

The Bad

More screen time: people of all ages have become addicted to technology. In fact, a recent study found that Americans check their phones 80 times a day. Taking that into account, maybe bringing tablets into the classroom isn’t such a great idea. You should probably survey students’ parents and tutors to get an idea of how much time they already spend looking at screens at home. This way, you can figure out whether a tablet would actually benefit your students or just reinforce unhealthy habits.

Security risks: putting devices into the hands of adult employees is risky enough, so it’s not hard to imagine that giving tablets with internet access to children and teenagers might turn into a disaster—unless managed well. If you decide to go ahead with this initiative, you should make sure that parental controls are enabled on all the devices and that your network and endpoint security is tight.

Costs: unless you’re implementing a BYOD policy (which is a bad idea for security reasons anyway), that means that you have to invest enough money to put a tablet in each student and teacher’s hand. Based on the size of your organization, that can amount to many thousands of dollars. Add device maintenance costs (which will most likely be above average since children are handling the devices), as well as infrastructure expenses (you need a solid internet connection to allow entire classes to stream video at the same time) and you’re looking at a significant investment. Whether it’s worth it depends on your budget and the teaching methods used in your school.

All in all, technology has its place in the classroom—but whether it should take the form of individual tablets isn’t always clear. However, the pros and cons mentioned above should give you an idea of what you should expect if you decide to take the plunge. What’s certain is that if you have the budget and resources for them, and if your teachers use them to their full extent, tablets have the potential to revolutionize your teaching process and help your students become truly passionate about learning.