Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology - InformationWeek
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Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology

Management software changes how students use mobile devices in school.

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Current and future K-12 students will spend less time turning pages and more time tapping screens as today's classrooms undergo a technological makeover. Mobile devices and computer programs will soon become integral to the learning process.

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."

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/26/2013 | 2:27:24 AM
re: Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology
Some country, maybe it's good for them. Nowadays, some like to play in class and don't want to concentrate in class. With iPad, it will become worst. It depends on students. If they are good, sure they can improve themselves using what ever things. The more modern, the better. If they are bad, giving them iPad is worst. They will misuse it.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/14/2013 | 2:32:34 PM
re: Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology
I am a student. I have a tablet. When I got my texts in electronic form, I eventually put them down and bought the paper versions instead. Why?

Well, if you are doing something like reading a linear book, like a novel, where skipping around is not really going to be necessary, the tablet works fine. But, if you are a serious student, you will be reading a paragraph, hit upon a word or concept that was covered a few pages earlier, and want to go back and figure out what that word meant again, within the new context. You will be preparing for an exam. You are required to skim the text. You need to quickly look up a word in the textbook glossary or index. Tablets, or even computer-based electronic editions, do no allow for you to do those things very easily or quickly.

Sure you have the ability to search on key words. But key-word searches can be very frustrating when you are working with subjects heavily based on another language (for example, Buddhism), or dealing with concepts. Also, key-word searches can be at times much slower than using a well-designed index in a hard-copy textbook.

What is worse, electronic textbook prices are nearly as high as the paper copies. That is outright profiteering.

This mass rush by schools to obtain expensive technology before checking out how the students can really use it, is simply mad. The only beneficiaries of this are the hardware manufacturers and the textbook companies.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
7/12/2013 | 5:39:05 PM
re: Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology
Using tablets as a substitute for textbooks makes sense, but schools also need to teach students how to program apps on these devices, a skill that will help students in the long run.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/12/2013 | 4:41:47 PM
re: Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology
One formula some school systems seem to be making work is a combination of paying for the device but then taking advantage of more open educational resources -- essentially, the open source equivalent of textbooks you can download for free and mashup with other curriculum. The volume of quality resources available is building.
User Rank: Strategist
7/12/2013 | 3:48:28 PM
re: Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology
You make a good point, Jay. I spoke about the topic with Gupta, who noted how surprised he was at how many tablets have been introduced in K-12 programs. He described how schools with tablets receive a great return on their investment - the devices are lighter than textbooks, can hold just about all learning material, and can be re-used over a few years.
I agree that the costs are also great, and many schools will have trouble covering the costs of tablet hardware, repairs, updates, virtual books and learning programs. Perhaps in the future we will see more grants, such as the one received by the Health Sciences Charter School, or a decrease in hardware and software prices.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/11/2013 | 10:20:17 PM
re: Textbooks To Tablets: The Progression Of Classroom Technology
The idea of substituting notebooks with tablets is a great
idea especially with the advantages that can be found using technology, but I
just donG«÷t see the popularity growing more than to a few select schools. One
big setback I see here is finances. We live in a country where teachers make
next to nothing, school districts are always fighting to get more money, and we
see a growing amount of schools closing down and teachers getting fired. I just
donG«÷t see where the schools will be getting the funds to pay for all these
tablets if most of them canG«÷t even afford textbooks.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
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