How to create a stimulating working environment with digital? What are the best practices for using tablets in the classroom?
On Friday 11 March 2016, at the Educatec-Educatice education & technology fair in Paris, Arnaud Lecuyer, history and geography teacher and IT director for La Salle de Lille school group, talked about his ambitions for his school: to supply each student with an iPad. Currently, 6 years after the project was launched, 1,500 tablets have already been rolled out for 2,500 pupils, from primary school to higher education. So what has he learned from the experience? Arnaud Lecuyer highlights five key points.
1/ DEFINE AND PLAN YOUR PROJECT
It may seem like stating the obvious, but in a school complex with over 2,000 students, a poorly-thought-out and planned deployment is doomed to failure, says Arnaud Lecuyer.
When the project started in 2010, it was a year-12 management sciences & technologies class who were chosen for the pilot project. It started off on a modest scale, with around thirty students and around twelve motivated teachers.
Once they’d chosen the equipment, they had to think about the content, as all the school text books had been replaced by tablets. The teachers involved in the pilot project had to create new content, which encouraged them to share inspiration and best practices:
“Tablets are all about sharing. The year they introduced them here was my best one as a teacher: I’ve never shared so much with my colleagues!”
The next year, 9 classes were supplied, and by the third year, the school was well on the way to reaching its target: it currently has 1,500 iPads for 2,500 students. At this stage, they needed the services of an integrator; but, warns Arnaud Lecuyer, you shouldn’t get overwhelmed by the technical side:
“Teaching and technology should be in perfect harmony”
2/ MAKE SURE THE TEACHING IS adaptED TO THE TOOLS
“Schoolchildren today aren’t the same as they were 10 or 20 years ago. The environment has changed, digital has revolutionised everything. Nowadays, instead of saying: “Don’t go on Wikipedia to do your presentation,” we guide them in their Internet use. Tablets let you adapt your teaching methods to today’s schoolchildren.”
That said, tablets aren’t the be all and end all of the teaching revolution: the key to the transformation is still the teacher. Teaching staff should change their position in the classroom and give students more autonomy in terms of organising their work.
3/ SUPPORT THE TEACHERS
“The project coordination team should have a major role in working with teachers.”
Whilst during the first year of the project the teachers involved were very innovative, as the tablets were rolled out more widely, less tech-savvy teachers became involved, some of whom were reluctant to use tablets. By the third year of the project, nearly 200 teachers were involved. It was therefore essential to set up training programmes and assistance tailored to each teacher’s capabilities.
4/ BREAK DOWN THE WALLS
This is undoubtedly one of the more difficult aspects of the project. Apart from training teachers and getting them to go beyond the traditional classroom environment they were previously used to, it’s the very organisation of the school that needs to be reviewed. Conventional timetables with specific times allocated for specific lessons leave little room for teachers to meet and exchange ideas. Arnaud Lecuyer explains it’s therefore important to organise occasional meetings between teachers during lunch hours or free periods.
5/ THINK ABOUT logistiCS
In addition to the above-mentioned points, there are a number of ancillary yet important matters such as network and server infrastructure, financing for the tablets, fleet management or drafting a users’ charter for students.
“If you don’t install a powerful Wi-Fi network, the whole project will be a waste of time!”
Another example: every year, the school group receives 400 new tablets to refresh the equipment. It’s usually in the summer when there aren’t many members of staff available. Storing so many tablets, ensuring security, labelling and tracking them are also matters to be considered to ensure that students and teachers can get the most out of the transformation in learning that digital can bring about.
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