Brighton Grammar School in Victoria will soon replace textbooks with tablets in a move aimed at enhancing current learning and teaching capabilities.
Following the recent trend of schools adopting tablets, Andrew Baylis, deputy head of the all-boys school, told Computerworld Australia that Brighton Grammar decided to deploy the Acer Iconia Tab A500 to staff and students to provide a more interactive and collaborative way of learning and teaching.
“We were keen on the tablet platform in general because of the instant internet access, that option to capture the ‘what happens if’ moment,” he said.
“In class, you're in a discussion and you'd like to find something out, you can't just shoot off to the computer room, so it gives you that ability to do on the spot.
“It helps them engage, it helps them get organised, the teachers involved…[can use the tablet] to look something up quickly, find a YouTube clip or find something of interest and then bring it back to the class discussion.”
Baylis also said in a statement that the tablets are not to replace handwriting, physical activity or face-to-face discussion.
The Android-run tablet is for in-school use only and has already been deployed to staff from years 7-12 since the beginning of the term, with all year 12 students to receive the tablets tomorrow night and students in years nine to 11 will each be issued one at the start of 2012.
Brighton Grammar had also considered Apple’s iPad tablet, but chose to go with the Acer Iconia largely because it is Flash-enabled, lower in cost, and because of its reputation in the education sector.
“Lots of animations, interactive sites are still unfortunately working with Flash, and that was a deal breaker for the Apple platform,” Baylis said.
“But also they're cheaper, they have an SD card option so students can pre-load music, the USB option is nice.
“Acer also has that reputation in the education space, not just for tablets, but for their notebooks and PC's and so on, a well-known manufacturer.”
The tablets will connect students to the school’s internet via the wireless LAN network, which will undergo a makeover during the Christmas break to upgrade the bandwidth and add on more wireless access points around Brighton Grammar. It is expected to be completed by next term.
Speaking about potential misuse and security issues, Baylis said the Wi-Fi network gives the school slightly more control monitoring students’ internet surfing habits. However, he conceded that most of the boys already use 3G-enabled smartphones at school, which the school has no power over what students do.
In addition, Baylis said another means to minimise such risks is by educating students and parents about how to use the devices in a safer manner.
“We are swinging in some pretty extensive education evenings and resources for parents and students on cyber safety issues, the normal responsible use issues, ethical issues, rather than blocking everything and tying everything down,” he said.
“We wanted to use education on proper ways to use things, teach them to use the tool properly, and then [teach them] a lot of the concerns with privacy and taking pictures of people, et cetera.”
Off-the-shelf apps that students will be required to have on their Acer tablets include PDF Annotator, e-book readers, Google apps and language-based tools.
Last year, Brighton Grammar School overhauled its network security with WatchGuard despite not having an excessive number of connections failures, as the school wanted to be active about its network reliability and security.
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