More tablets for schools

15th March 2013 at 00:00
New contract means devices should come at a better price, but concerns abound

The latest digital technology will become more attainable for Scottish schools and colleges after a contract was awarded for a supplier to provide tablets to the public sector.

The news that digital devices should now come at a better price has been widely welcomed - but there are some concerns about hidden costs and the workload implications for ICT support staff.

The Scottish government has taken on ICT specialist XMA to supply tablets to schools and other public services; devices will include Apple and Samsung products.

"It's very encouraging to see that a selection of the best digital devices available is now on offer to the Scottish public sector," said Charlie Love, an Aberdeen computing teacher and member of the national ICT in Education Reference Group.

Mr Love, the driving force behind the "Glew" project to make the schools online community Glow more user-friendly, added: "We have to change the culture of learning with technologies from a `bolt-on' to something which is deeply embedded in a learner's daily experience."

David Gilmour, a learning technology specialist at East Lothian Council, said: "This is an interesting piece of the jigsaw. It enables the schools to get good deals on some fairly popular tablet devices, but ignores the main issue where costs will be incurred, which is in managing the devices."

Mr Gilmour queried the omission of the Google Chromebook, which East Lothian's Preston Lodge High has used successfully, since it is "self- maintaining, with all updates coming direct from Google".

Computing At School Scotland co-chair Kate Farrell urged local authorities to bear in mind the hardware demands of subjects such as computing.

"Handheld devices are wonderful for increasing pupils' digital literacy and creativity skills, but small devices are generally not suitable for graphics and processor-intensive tasks such as games development, graphics design, 3D modelling, computer-aided design and programming," she said.

CAS Scotland hopes that the availability of cheaper devices through XMA will help create opportunities for more pupils to program their own mobile apps using freely available tools such as AppInventor and LiveCode.

Informed sources have raised another concern - that ICT support staff, already dwindling in numbers, will struggle to provide the necessary support as a range of new devices hits classrooms.

Some teachers remain to be convinced that pupils and staff will be able to take full advantage of mobile devices, believing that local authorities are likely to restrict access to apps and, therefore, deny the ability to personalise that makes them so appealing. In other words, they fear that teachers attracted by the prospect of discovering an app at home one night and using it in class the next morning, may not be able to do so in practice.

A government spokesman said that, working within Glow, greater access to mobile devices should increase collaboration among students, produce a greater desire to learn, and allow parents to become involved.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

WHAT'S COMING

Devices to be provided to schools, colleges and universities:

  • iPad mini
  • iPad
  • Asus Nexus 7
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
  • Acer TravelMate Notebook
  • Dell Latitude 10.
    • Photo credit: Alamy

      Original headline: Cost of tablets for schools becomes easier to swallow

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