Tablet computer plan for all Edinburgh pupils

Pupils at Forrester High School are using tablet computers to assist them with their studies.    Picture Ian Rutherford

Pupils at Forrester High School are using tablet computers to assist them with their studies. Picture Ian Rutherford

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EVERY schoolchild in the Capital would be provided with a tablet computer if a pilot project hailed as “the future of education in Scotland” is rolled out.

Trials of devices including Apple iPads in four of the city’s schools have proven so successful that there are now calls to extend the programme across all of the city’s schools.

The £37,000 pilot, jointly funded by the city council and participating schools, dished out iPads, netbooks or android tablets to students in a bid to introduce digital learning.

It is estimated it would cost council bosses around £6.5 million to extend the scheme to the Capital’s 44,000 school kids if devices were sold at a discounted rate of £150.

But it has been argued it would be money well spent after the research was given top marks in an initial report by teachers, parents and students, with insiders saying it “revolutionised learning”.

Melanie Main, Green Party education spokesperson, whose daughter has been involved at Sciennes Primary, backed calls for an iPad for every pupil.

She said: “It would be to the advantage of every child.

“My daughter has been involved and it has opened my eyes. She makes videos, solves maths puzzles, plays music. It is an incredible educational tool that can enhance learning.”

Pupils from Broomhouse Primary, Sciennes Primary, Gracemount and Forrester High have been given the equipment as part of the nine-month pilot in connection with Hull University.

Students have been using a variety of apps and tools to do work ranging from solving complex algebra puzzles, to building 3D pyramids and catacombs.

Mark Cunningham, head of computing at Forrester High, said the android tablets his pupils have been using have transformed education for both staff and students.

He said not exploring their potential use in schools would be “letting our children down.”

“This is fast becoming the way of the world and there are tools out there that we have a duty to explore,” he said.

“Our findings so far have been really positive. We’re just using them in one year at the moment but the information we have shows it would be beneficial to bring it into other year groups.”

The tablets, which cost about £200 per device on the high street, may be deemed costly by critics. But last week the Scottish Government announced a scheme for buying notebooks and tablets for use in education at market-leading prices.

And with the average secondary school spending £15,000 a year on photocopying and £5000 a year on printer ink, the gadgets are expected to save money in the long term.

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education convener, said findings of the report due in summer would determine if the council would consider rolling it out across the Capital’s schools.

He said: “We will have to put the costs together and see how deliverable it is as no-one doubts the potential. It’s something we would be keen to take forward.

“Preliminary reports from Hull University’s research indicate there has been a really positive response from pupils, parents and teachers across all schools, although we will need to wait until the full report is published in June to fully assess this.”

Keep taking the tablets . .

TABLETS can be used across all subjects and in a variety of creative ways by pupils with more than 20,000 educational apps at their disposal.

Students can make presentations or films, take notes or build mind-maps, play maths games or use a calculator, record themselves in music classes, read e-books or simply research a topic.

Studies show the devices have been beneficial to children who had previously struggled with their schoolwork, giving more choice and flexibility in how they solve a task.

Parents have commented on how their children have behaved more responsibly with the device. In one example in the initial findings, a Gracemount parent told how their son had adopted new working habits.

They said: “He has taken responsibility for his learning. It has re-iterated the importance of being prepared – he has to charge it each night to ensure it is fit for purpose. He also has to remember to take it to school each day and look after it.”

Class act moves with the times

SCHOOLS have changed almost beyond recognition compared with 50 years ago.

Writing technology back then consisted of an inkwell, a steel-tipped pen for fair copy and a lead pencil for drafts with pupils equipped with a copybook and a blotter. Teachers could give the belt and free milk was the norm.

Over time, technology has evolved and the classroom with it. Inkwells were replaced by pens, mental arithmetic by calculators, blackboards by interactive whiteboards and now tablet devices which can do all those tasks.