A recent article in The Economist shed some light on why now is the time for a boost in classroom technology. With quick and cheap data processing, high-speed mobile networks, inexpensive tablets, refined gaming technology and adaptive-learning software, technology is ready for classroom use. As stated by Bill Gates, now is "a special moment" for education.
Technology has proven beneficial in boosting test scores and engaging students, yet its implementation can be tricky. Today's students are often more tech savvy than their instructors. One fear is that devices will be used for games and social media instead of schoolwork. These concerns are valid, but new technology might prevent Internet distractions.
Nick Aures, systems engineer for Tri-Delta Resources, described a project he did as the contract engineer for the Health Sciences Charter School (HSCS) in Buffalo, N.Y. The school initially offered netbooks for students but soon wanted to expand its resources. Through a grant from Verizon, they were given 75 Samsung Galaxy Android tablets with 7.7-inch screens, the model SCH-I815. Aures oversaw their implementation, which was done prior to the 2012-2013 school year.
[ Classroom technology needs to serve a purpose. Read iPads In The Classroom: Worth Doing Right. ]
There were problems at first. "Management was more of a challenge than initially planned," Aures said in an interview. The school wanted to ensure that students would use the devices for educational purposes. He found that the best solution was to implement mobile device management (MDM) software on the school network.
Aures chose Amtel, a company that provides mobile and app management, as well as mobile expanse management. Pankaj Gupta, CEO and founder of Amtel, discussed his support of mobile devices in K-12 programs during a recent interview. "I think that it's a big area for growth and the vendors have realized that as well," Gupta said. As tablets grow in popularity, more schools require MDM software.
Great security measures are taken when managing mobile devices for K-12 students. Amtel's software provides control over students' use of tech tools. "Faculty can push policies on the iPads and disable certain features so that they're more like education centers," Gupta explained. If students use personal devices, schools can implement geo-fencing programs, which restrict certain activities within school boundaries. Students can access whatever they like at home, but once tablets are on school property they are subject to restrictions.
Aures was successful in managing the school's devices with Amtel software. He noted that it was easy to understand and navigate. Students benefited from using the devices to conduct research, assemble projects and experiment with technological innovations such as QR coding. In the future, Aures plans to address problems such as dividing up the laptops and keeping them continuously charged throughout the day.
"I thought there was going to be more push-back from teachers," Aures said about the initial implementation of mobile devices. "But last I heard, we were trying to go through with another grant, and I think we're going to be getting more of them. More tablets are better, and the teachers are asking for them."