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Tablet use in primary schools: the benefits and downsides

by Kelly Smith

June 14 2014

Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers and works as a freelance writer.


Many educators have pointed out that computer skills are becoming increasingly important in today's reality and, consequently, that children should be encouraged to enter this kind of learning environment as early as possible – preferably in the primary schools.

Indeed, lots of schools have recognized the potential of tablets in education, and have begun incorporating these technologies into their classroom curricula.

The truth is, that just as with every other technology, there are both benefits and downsides to complementing a traditional education with tablet-based exercises and activities. Here's a comprehensive list of pros and cons that teachers and administrators should take into account when deciding to whether to introduce these popular technological devices into the classroom.

Pros:

• Allows children to access an interactive and stimulating environment, in which teachers can use a combination of different learning modalities (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic).
• Better engagement – every teacher recognizes the value of engagement and its vital role in enhancing knowledge retention, increasing stimulation and improving learning abilities.
• The touch interface is user-friendly to both pupils and teachers – this is especially relevant in the case of older teachers, who might find this kind of technology challenging. Contrasted with laptops, tablets are much more intuitive to use.
• Tablets are mobile, a feature that encourages pupils to be more active in the classroom, enhancing kinaesthetic learning to make the lesson content more memorable.
• Tablets simply make learning fun – children love to interact with technological devices and thanks to specialized apps that focus on different aspects of learning (simple math exercises, listening to stories, learning the alphabet) they can benefit during play, too.
• Tablets offer audio-visual tools (camera, voice and video recording), which can be used creatively in the classroom with the help of various apps.
• Tablets promote creativity – there's a myriad of creative apps out there to help children acquire skills like drawing, composition and video editing. All of these make children active creators, instead of passive consumers of knowledge.
• Tablets can help in learning to read. By featuring e-books with text markers, children will be able to read without the constant aid of the teacher.

(More about tablets in education at TabTimes.com/education)

Cons:

• Technical limitations – tablets are not well adapted to multitasking, so opening several files or windows might pose a problem and disrupt the lesson pace.
• Battery – all technological devices rely on their batteries, so if one or more tablets run out of charge, this could interfere with the lesson plan.
• Cost – even though tablets are increasingly more accessible, they're still expensive and will require a substantial investment from the school.
• Training –  many teachers may not be acquainted with this kind of technological device, and so will need to be supported with training. Teaching methodologies will need to be changed and adapted to make the most of tablets in the classroom, which will generate additional costs and may become time-consuming.
• There's also the question of the limited number of textbooks available for tablets – this issue will need future improvement.

In deciding whether to incorporate tablets into a classroom curriculum, we should never forget that technology doesn't teach – teachers do – and technology can only assist them in doing so more efficiently. The real potential of tablets in education ultimately lies in their adaptation and use by teachers during their lessons.

(Sign up for TabTimes' free monthly Tablets for Education newsletter)

Kelly Smith works at <a href="http://www.coursefinder.com.au/interest/communications/">CourseFinder</a>, an Australian online education resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers and works as a freelance writer.
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